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Tag "mobile"

Traditionally Geographic Information System (GIS) have been exclusively run on the Windows platform. Only very few applications run on either cross platform or exclusively on the Mac. This is part two of a review and introduction to Cartographica, a Mac based GIS software. Find part one with a general introduction HERE and the working with section HERE. This third part is looking at the mobile version for your iPhone or the iPad.

The GIS software are generally quite heavy software packages and with all them functions packed in use a fair bit of processing power. A mobile client is not quite the first choice as a platform for such an app. However, the field is where you get your data from, check on changes or record problems. Having a powerful GIS bases system right there to record the information and look up details makes your life so much easier and quite a bit more fun.

With the new quite powerful handheld devices running iOS this has become a reality and both iPad and iPhone rund GIS packages. Cartographica is offering a Cartographica Mobile app, currently at version 1.1 available now from the itunes app store.

With it you can take data with you out into the field. This is as simple as dropping files into your itunes. It will natively read shape files for example. Each file can be accessed from the mobile app, including layers.

Testing this HERE is a download link for Boris Bike station locations in London from the Guardian Datastore. The data can then be droppend into itunes and opened on the iPad.

Image by urbanTick / Accessing the data on your iPad. Here showing the Boris Bike station location around London. As a background OSM is used by default.

You can then zoom in and get to the details that are stored with each data point. This is flexible and can be adjusted to the need even out in the field. As done here an field for photo is added and for each location an Photograph can be recorded and linked in directly form the iPad.

Image by urbanTick / Accessing the data on your iPad. Here showing the Boris Bike station location around London. The details can be accessed individually.

Beside looking at the data and access it new data points can be created. There is a plus button at the bottom of the screen or by keeping your finger on the screen also will bring up a zoom functions with witch a point can be manually located. Alternatively the GPS can be used to add a point at the current location.

Image by urbanTick / Adding data directly on your iPad. The cross zoom helps definitely place a new data point.

Image by urbanTick / Adding data directly on your iPad. The pop up dialoge lets you fill in the preset fields. Those can be manipulated on the go and new ones can be added or old ones deleted.

Image by urbanTick / Adding data directly on your iPad. Using the iPad camera to add photographs of the location, or anything else.

What can’t be done on the go is any processing. The station platform of Cartographica offers a range of tools to analyse and visualise the data (see previous post HERE.) The mobile verson as of now does not include any of this. As such the mobile app goes as an addon rather than a replacement. It is intended to take the data with you check, extend or create and bring it back for analysis and further processing.

Nevertheless, Cartographica Mobile does integrate with a network and multiple users including live updating. This opens up possibility for collaborative work on the move and in the field. This is very need and helpful in many cases.

The Cartographica Mobile version is available from the itunes app store at a price of £54.99 or the equivalent of your currrency. It is available world wide. The Cartographica workstation software is available form the web store at a price of $495 and as an academic student license for only $99 for one year. This is tremendously good offer, especially if compared to some of the other packages prices.

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The rise of location information brought us knowledge of where we are ad beyond. Today you’re not only told were you are but also what is around you, how it looks like, how far it is and in which direction. Almost assuming that you are not actually there. This is usually also the selling point. If you can’t find it for example or your still too far away this will give you guidance. However it also demands in-depth engagement of the end user. This is probably the point where all these services have trouble penetrating the everyday.
However, it is still fascinating and if you are into mapping and interested in what happens around you sooner or later aspects of time will start bothering you. Most of the apps feeding your ‘location awareness’ are actually static. They relate to one point in time or assume a permanence.
This is now being addressed with a number of emerging apps, including augmented reality like layar. But also in the area of the actual map information there is a rising wealth of information regarding past location information as in the form of old aerial photos or historic maps. Google has introduced the timeline feature in Google Earth earlier this year with the version 5.0, where you have the ability to access old aerial photos used since the launch of the Google Earth service in 2005. Now it has also swapped to the mobile market and apps for the iPhone are available. On this blog earlier featured the great app Historic Earth which has a huge database of old digital maps from the mother company Historic Map Works. Now the Edinburgh College of Art has developed a new web based mapping service called ‘Walking Through Time’ that is also available for mobile gadgets, such as the android and the iPhone. It looks really promising, with the developers saying: “…our user group is interested in walking through real space whilst following a map from 200 years ago (for example) and being able to tag and attach links to the map that offer historical and contextual information”. Tagging and linking? that is something we are interested, sounds great!
See teaser below.

found via digitalUrban

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A review of yesterdays conference on health mapping will give you some insight on the current state of mapping practice in health research and related areas. The day overall was interesting and my poster presentation went well, there were some interesting discussions. The city migration behavior of individuals seemed interesting for health researchers. However the day was packed with talks and that was the main bit.

The first speaker will be Dr Russell Stothard from the Natural History Museum. He is talking about the use of GPS. His talk has the title ‘Using GPS/GIS for Schistosomiasis research – building a better picture of exposure to water contact sites’.
First he is pointing out that actually it is possible to geotag an image. Well this is a start. He introduces us to handheld devices available to time and location stamp data such as images. This probably sets the context of the conference. It is a different field than we are used to. He goes on about the GPS system on how global positioning works. He is working in Africa and this might give a different setting. However somehow I get the feeling that there is still a mystical aura to the continent, you could maybe still get lost down there. He moves on to talk us through the Garmin devices available and there he mentions a nice expression for the back tracking setting, Bread-crumbing. How cool is this. This might lend a new title to the urbanDiary project as we are bread-crumbing across the city.
The fact that there is not a GPS camera at current is presented as very sad, but actually there might be software solutions for this?
Interestingly he then starts talking about the location as such and the following slide is titled ‘so precisely knowing where things are has never been easier’. Furthermore he points out that actually the location might not be the actual site of where something is, so to say location is not location.
He show some of the examples he is working on. It is about a disease in Africa that is using a snail as a host. He is working on the East coast of South Africa. Snail species are quite difficult to tell apart, and the disease is picky, living only in one type of snails. So they have to go out and collect the snails take them back to the laboratory to determine what species it is. The location information therefore is important to reconnect the sample with the area of collection. It is a lot about mapping the source (snails) and the impact of the disease. Part of their conclusion then is that the spatial distance from the water source, where the snail hosts live, results in a higher possibility of having the infection. Largely the research is about the lifecycle of the disease.
He also shows a nice device iGotU. This device was used to track 20 people of a village. They are tracking the people to determine the amount of risk they are exposed to. There are also time aspects as there are only certain times of the day where the snails shed to release the larvae to infect people. He shows a timelapse of the peoples movement over a two day period. This tracking determined quite clearly the contact these people have with the water. It is a very nice example for the use of GPS. However the standard questions remain what does that actually say. Is this just a scientific There are the strong cycles these people follow, but somehow these aspects have not yet penetrated the research. If the nail has a cycle and the people have a cycle you can mach these up? There might be a chance to change the peoples habits to prevent them from getting infected. This might not be as simple as they mostly rely on fishing and this in turn requires a naturally determined schedule in order to get a good catch.

Next speaker is David Aanensen from the Imperial College London talking about ‘www.spatialepidemiology.net – tools for mapping infectious disease epidemiology’. Introducing us to Google Maps use in health research. He also points out there are other services including OSM. So Mash-Ups are the hot key word. He introduces a series of mashups that he has worked on mapping gene sequences, if I have understood him right. He is talking rather casually. The live demo of his websites makes him rather nervous, surprisingly. But it worked well and he was able to demonstrate how it works comparing a set of genes across different countries, by a manual selection done in the mashup.
The big question with thee mash-ups probably really is the accessibility for further research. It is mainly a visualisations the public world wide web, but what now. How can other researcher collaborate or use the provided data? It looks nice but the usability is not yet clear. Do the for example offer an API, for other people to access the data and mash it up? He then shows an other example that to some extend partially answers the question. A platform that can be accessed to produce maps. It is based on a copy past eel data input field to import data and map it.
He moves on to demonstrate a mobile device application he has developed. Especially for the android. The app does allow to input data, adding GPS location and sync is with a web server. Also directly mapping it on a map. It additionally allows for pulling data from the server to see the new records in context or deciding on where to collect more data. He summarizes the limitations of the technologies. The big problem is the battery live, but also the network coverage and the costs, both for the handset and the contract.
He mentions in the end that they have actually just release an iPhone app – lets check EpiCollect on the app store. Haven’t been able to find it so far.

It follows Dr Mat Fisher again from Imperial College London. His talk is entitled ‘Using Google Earth to identify populations and invasions in emerging fungal infections’.
He uses the mapping to predict and an link it to analysis, pattern and process. He stresses that the mapping does not tell us anything unless we have a clear design of the research of what to get out. He shows a clear example of spatial spread of a disease in southern middle America over time. Spreading from 1987 from Costa Rica to Panama City in 2008. So he then uses global mapping based on Google Maps to ma the other occurrence of the disease on this scale. This makes a lot of sense if you can combine it with other environmental data available globally, such as whether and climate data.
Identifying potentially vulnerable locations is very important as the disease is highly spreadable and deadly for amphibians. He provides an example of the extinction of the ‘Spring from that happened this year after the introduction of the disease in March 2009, and by now he frog is belied to be extinct. The protection of these identified areas with similar condition is key.
He shows an example of his work hunting frogs across Europe. For the data storage he is in fact using Google docs. He is even using the KML function provided by the Google Docs. Even though it is limited to some four hundred examples.
The output is clearly spatial. However this could have been expected as for one he is collecting spatial data and for two animal habitat are spatial determined by conditions. To verify the spatial data he is using the barcode technique. They go ahead and determine the gene of the infection and can show that they are locally connected and individually introduced.
So the result shows that the infection is related to UVB, min. temperature and longitude.
In an additional example he shows time based location data of samples from the UK and visualises the spread of a virus in amphibians across the UK from 2001 to 2008.

After the coffee brake speaks Dr Marianne Sinka and Mr Will Temperley, University of Oxford about ‘Mapping the geographical distribution of the Anopheles vectors’.
What are the aspect of mapping malaria data are producing predictable global distribution together with a summary of bionomics, as well as compare the data. She explains how the initial database of vector transitory animals is generated form existing publication sources. Basically she has subscribed to any malaria related publication source by email and gets news to put directly into the data base if related to animal species samples and locations of those. Additionally they add spatial information to the database. Together with a group of experts with detailed knowledge of the locations they have produced area coverage maps.
In terms of technology they are using PostgreSQL data base, combining excel and shape files. Accessing the database is via Python. For the web based stuff they are using Django and Python, but are now developing a Java an Google tool kit based version because of the demand on dynamic content.
Together with spatial, physical data I suppose, and climate data they can model potential areas where a certain species can be found, As a result they are aiming at publishing papers this year on the first set of maps.

Talk by Dr Richard Myers, Health Protection Agency Centre for Infections with the title ‘ Web based GIS mapping of molecular / epidemiological database. They are working on Swine Flu, TB an so on. He runs us through the functional diagram of his functional database. Data Input – Data Storage- User Interface – Data Retrieval and Data Analysis.
For his talk he identified a set of three areas that are important to be looked at to produce a good web based mapping application. The most important aspect he stresses is the why and what you want to get out of the mapping exercise, as the web based formation has its limitations. The two other ones are data and sampling also in terms of the reliability of the data. Interestingly he points out the identification problem with small scale data. They are working with postcode level data. On this level individuals can not be identified , but the zoom factor is important, as they don’t want to have individuals identified in a location.
For the website application they are using flash for the visualisation. It looks nice but he points out some downsides to it. It is slow and currently low resolution as well as limited capacity to show multiple data sets.
So he moves on to show examples of Google Maps. His list o pros and cons of using Google Maps for the mapping is rather long on the other hand. The surprising result is the slowness of it that he points out.
What cannot be displayed on web enable databases. He concludes with a list containing, confidentiality data, dynamic data, local out brakes, detailed analysis and so on. And the list of what is possible is as long, most technological based here though.

Navigation through London comes after lunch presentation it is Tim Fendley, Applied Information Group from Legible London – a way finding system for London. He starts with an introduction to navigating London with some hilarious examples of guidance through the city. He continuous with the examples of psychogeography and the urban islands.
It is for a change a really refreshing talk with a lot of energy and joke. It points out how dry and dull the rest of the day was.
He then runs us through how they have developed and introduces the new navigation elements. The structure for the new navigation system is all based on the naming of locations. There is also a very detailed process to actually develop the maps and navigation aids. Defining the named areas is tricky and a statement of position. The whole system appears very much connected to the tube stations, as it seems to mainly address the tourists and visitors. It is true that the tube is a simple way to navigate London and building on this is one way of tackling the problem. But I think it still has to proof its use for local people. However as they focus at the moment on central London most people going around there are in fact visitors. It will be interesting if this gets rolled out over London and how people learn to navigate their neighborhood.

Chris Phillips of MapAction is talking about, would you guess it, ‘Maps in Action’. Subtitle ‘Disaster mapping at the front lines’. They are working with a rapid responds mapping team. They get deployed within hours of a disaster to the location. They claims to be local within 24 hours. From the equipment box: laptop, GIS, Google Maps/Earth, printer, GPS and camera. There is actually an UN respond team, but it takes them about 4 to five days to get their container shipped into the area.
They are working all over the world and the work is obviously very much appreciated by locals suffering from the event. Usually afterwards they are hired to train locals for continuing the job and to prepare for an similar event. He points out the importance of spatial information in struck areas beside all the equipment. And he mainly draws o the visual aspect of the information and these implicitly to understand the information as compared to text information. The title is interesting – ‘everything happens somewhere’ – as a justification of his work, but it might be also his philosophy. He draws on the aspect of solving the chaos. He also points to some volunteer mapping project like john the map cartographer – mapping towns on his bicycle. Actually this was a promotion talk for mapping, concluding with everyone can map and everyone should map actually.

Peter Yang & Tian-Wei Sheu, National Taichung University, Taiwan with ‘An Effective Use of Social Network Analysis for the Study of Taiwanese Employees’ Mental Health at Work’.
He is focusing on the social network analysis and the aspects of health. The term social capital seems relevant, but hard to define. His use of the analysis is rather focused on networks. He identified five types. Dispersion, Durability, homogeneity, intensity and reciprocity. To get the data he used questionnaires. For the analysis he is using the UCINET 5 for Windows. However the important finding here is probably that location information is not only about maps, but also about networks and connections, crossing points and so on.

The last presentation for the conference is given by Dr Mikaela Keller, Harvard Medical School, USA on ‘Mapping the influenza A H1N1 outbreak’. Unfortunately my macBook run out of battery and I had a chance to follow her talk in more detail. To take it up front she also showed a iPhone application for the project she is working on. It is available on iTunes and simply called heathMap. This is at the same time the project in short, mapping news of diseases. They have invented a internet crawler that works on the basis of text and sentence structure recognition to spot any news in the text, grabbing location and disease transferring it into the database and producing Google Maps mashup with the data. This information is then accessible to the general public. However this is where the critique on the system pulls in. What is the benefit of the information to the general public. And who exactly is this ‘general public’. It goes a step further, as the presented iPhone application actually allows the ‘general public’ to directly submit a ‘case’, including disease (from a suggestive pull down menu that tells you up front it must be swine flu) and location of course. You can even include an photograph of the sick person if you’d like to make a point! I find this very doggy even though the project as a whole has some very interesting aspects. For example the idea of looking at the world as a whole and visualising everyone on the planet as part of the whole.

Somehow I have a creeping feeling that some of this research somehow still has a colonial aspect to it. It is interesting to look into problems of distant locations as some sort of export, but not as working together.
Also all this spatial mapping is pointing towards the time-space problem and the issue with location information. It is in fact tied to the idea of the globe (as in the globe on your desk as a rotating ball on a axis that represents an abstraction of the world) and if this view is outdate the visualisations are too. So what to do? Is the mapping guild in a crisis because everyone is mapping? All this here seems to be riding on the open source mapping wave.

This question is urgent and regarding the take I went to in the evening at the Tate Britain by Doreen Massey a debate around these subjects is ongoing and the question of place and identity are up for challenge, but have to be redefined in the globalised world. I strongly agree with her view on the importance of boundaries for the structuring of places and especially with the argument regarding the human body as the first place it seems obvious to have a definition of the self and the other. And if it is something, it is not something else and this makes the distinction between the two. The main aspect is the way boundaries are set up and maintained in terms of the political dimension.

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As promised with the last post on Google’s Latitude, I spend some more time on other options. And actually it can be said up front; Latitude is boring whereas other applications can be very exciting.
Sorry, I had to mention this.As discussed in a comment last week Latitude is probably not meant to be cool. I now understand it more as an additional data service Google provides. A service that especially targets a new market of location based information. I assume Google plans to get people to use it, but then to involve third party companies to “use” the location data to target them specifically. This will most probably include Google itself, for ad placements forexample.
Any way this is only speculation and others might be more of experts in this field. There is a huge discussion on this topic, including some horrific stories about privacy and stuff.
But this was about other options for location based interaction. From the iPhone based tracking, the step towards a web based tracking is not far and the set of additional options is enormous. Only starting from a simple message or chat tool right up to location based tags and content such as photographs. The limitations of gadget based tracking are obvious, it is as if you are talking to your self, a rather introverted and singular recording of spatial movement. The web based option on the other hand offers instant updated and interaction.
I have been testing Brightkite and MapMe the last few days and I am just blown away. Not necessarily with the interface, the options or the features, but more by what a location based social networking tool could be. Facebook is so 1957 compared to this. The exciting thing is probably that you can take it with you and that where you are actually influences what you see, on the little screen of course. On the other end the information you ad to the network has this same dimension too. So you get actually quite easily in touch with new people, if used on a mobile device, because you constantly come across in real space other peoples digital junk (positive).

Image by UrbanTick – Screenshot history page with timeline on the top

But to start from the beginning, how does it work, what can you do on how does it feel? First we look at the MapMe application. It is developed by John McKerrell. It is a place to store your location and share it with friends. Like Latitude it has a main page on which it shows your location on a map. This map is based on Open Street Map data. A big awful yellow marker has written on it “I am here”. Maybe “ME” would do it as the service is called mapME? The big problem is the colour full approach of the open street map. It makes it really hard, if not impossible to actually see the location dots other than the big yellow box. Have a try on the image above, can you spot the greenish-brown dots? At least in London this is the case, because it is so dense. Somehow the colours on MapMe appear brighter than on the original OSM page.
A number of sources can be used to feed the location into the application. Through email with FireEagle, Twitter, Latitude, RSS feed or InstaMapper. This variety is great, although some seem rather crude. Like email, but then you think, there might be some devices that update positions via SMS or email, if they are not based on the rather new concept of free unlimited data access, so yes, great option.
The second cool add-on here is the timeline, hidden in the history tab. It makes the past locations accessible in a timeline. It is based on the Smile timeline code on Google Code. It is an interface based on horizontal bands that each are based on time units. One is the year, then the month and then the day, even the hour can be added. By pulling the bands one can navigate in time. The location points are then displayed on both, the band (as dots or lines) and on the map. The two stay in sync while moving through time. Brilliant feature. This is probably the first feature you will miss on Latitude!

Image by UrbanTick – Screenshot MapMe

That’s about it on MapMe. Unfortunately I have not been able to find any of my friends on this network, as it only allows you to search by username and if you don’t know, you don’t know. So if you are on MapMe please ad me as a contact! Was just looking for a direct link to my profile, but could not find anything so search for UrbanTick.
The link page is actually the history page. So here is my link then – UrbanTick.
It is really not so much of a socializing tool as a personal recorder, for witch it works brilliantly. It actually offers and developer API to add to the existing application and also lets you access the recorded data. Information about this is on the mapme blog.

If we move over to Brightkite this is completely different. It is a fully grown social networking tool. It is like facebook having attached a different design. Surprisingly there is no map! Not that facebook would have one, but if the service is location based the first thing to think about probably is a map. In the discussion board, what a surprise, there is a tread about this and the reply by Martin May one year ago was “That’s coming…the map is kinda clunky right now. We have great plans for it, but it will take us some time to get everything in…it’s beta, after all.” So there is still no map and it is still Beta, but it is still cool. You know maybe not having a map makes it more interesting. On the iPhone I have to say, there is the option to click on things and it would open the location in the maps application. There is actually the same button for the webtool. A map can be accessed through an individual post or location. It even embeds Google Street View to give you an image of the location beside the post.
Having said that there is one really cool feature that almost makes up for the missing map. It is possible to export the posted contents as a kml file to Google Earth or link it as a RSS feed. An it includes not only your stuff, but your friend’s posts as well, great. Guess you could simply put that feed into the yahoo pipes and have it on a map.
The really big thing here is it the location based information that you can access contend through. You can literally run into a comment or an image! The information filter is not only based on your friend network but also on the location, close 920m), block (200m), neighborhood (2km), area (4km), city (10km), metro (50km), region (100km).

Image by UrbanTick – Screenshot Brightkite web app distance filter

This becomes really interesting if we take the aspect of time into account. I thought about this when I posted a random picture of something I simply had in front of my lens, a construction site on the road. Now I am able to look at images other people have posted in the same location from before the construction started and people will pas by this location in the future and see my image of the building site even though the construction has long finished. Meaning that it builds op an immensely rich database of location based everyday information over location and time. A similar thing is the mobile flickr “around me” service. If you use flickr on a mobile device it will give you the option to filter contend based on your location, it is cool, but does not offer the control of Brightkite.
A specification of this is the save a location tool, where you can mark a location as special. It is a place mark and can be used to tag a restaurant for example. If you write a review or only leave a note how the meal was others can pick it up.
The iPhone app can be downloaded for free and is a must have. It is simple but offers a lot of features. There seems to be an issue with the bottom line links. On my phone the first instance shows two icons on top of each other but only one can be accessed. The “request“ button is somehow behind the ”I am …“ button after I clicked on the ”more” tab.
So again if you are on Brightkite give me a shout!

Image by UrbanTick – Brightkite for iPhone application screen shorts

The only problem with these tools, applications and software really is the real space experience. I found myself in the last few days sunken into my iPhone and being kind of absent from the environment around me. Although I was in a way deeply involved in the here and now, the past and other users experience of the same place I would have sensed. My experience was not too different as looking at Google Street View from a remote location. A rather dull and emotion less consumption of something that is being sold to me as a real location while being a bunch of pixels.
It has a lot of qualities and interesting aspects hat are not yet explored to the limit, but there is a down side to it as that the mobile use takes you out of the real world into the pixel world and vie versa while the benefit is not quite clear.

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At ETH Zuerich a mobile version of pedestrian detection was developed. It is demonstrated in a clip that featured in a blog post over at technology review. It is stunning how accurate the software is able to distinguish between individuals in these rather crowded scenes. Plus, all is mobile, the camera is mounted in a car and presumably the software runs the analysis live, including these nice little trails the pedestrians leave behind.
Technology was developed by researches from the Computer Vision Laboratory at ETH Zuerich in a collaboration with Toyota.

stills taken from http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid1460879066?bctid=22789618001

Two papers related to the project above are available online:
Coupled Object Detection and Tracking from Static Cameras and Moving Vehicles, by Bastian Leibe, Konrad Schindler, Nico Cornelis, and Luc Van Gool
A Mobile Vision System for Robust Multi-Person Tracking, by Andreas Ess1 Bastian Leibe Konrad Schindler Luc Van Gool1, ETH Zurich, Switzerland 2KU Leuven, Belgium

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