State Of The Map (SOTM 2013)
In early September 2013, the annual OpenStreetMap conference was held in Birmingham, UK. The conference welcomed users, developers and community members from all over the world. There was a theme of change for the conference and several talks were based around this. OpenStreetMap has changed considerably since it was started in 2005 and has matured and developed. It is an example of crowd sourcing information and an open source project that believes in freedom of information. It has been used for citizen science projects some of these were illustrated: freedom of mapping allows users to undertake surveys easily and to record and document results based upon an area for example.
Some of the presentations focused on changes in the landscape and changes to maps over the year. One of the talks highlighted the persistence in the landscape of trees, roads and other natural and man made features. Another discussion was about the historical linear maps. An example is highlighted in this article entitled Before There Was GPS.
Two further presentations focused upon transition mapping and evolving the map to completeness. The former looked at the transition town movement and its similarities with the OpenStreetMap community. The movement needs mapping for its initiatives, whether to help with a vision of a low carbon future, or to plan events or for themed tours as an example. The second talk was a discussion on how to complete a map and whether it will be possible. It considered degrees of completeness, different user groups ideas of what complete may mean and the geographical scales whereby maps are more likely to be “complete”. To complete mapping an area there has to be a process that starts with the basic road layout and then adds further details such as footpaths, landuse and then, eventually, down to buildings and address details.
Community mapping was a theme and there was another interesting presentation about transition community mapping in Scotland where, in Dunbar, locals had used OpenStreetMap to envisage new cycle routes around the town and for ways of opening up access to the railway station.
From France was a review of Michelin, the French mapping company, creating a city map in OpenStreetMap for Clermont-Ferrand. The organisation mapped the city area by bike, covering around 500km of roads. A survey was deemed to be the best way to map the area and the bicycle was chosen to access narrow streets. Photographs were captured by a GoPro device: taking two pictures a second at a resolution of 11 Mega pixels linked to 3 GPS data loggers to reduce errors. Christian Quest gave an interesting overview of the project where information collected has been added back into OpenStreetMap.
3D open mapping is here and being generated from OpenStreetMap. There were discussions on smart cities and how these will be developing over the next few years. Business adopting OpenStreetMap information is growing but there are still licence issues that have not been fully addressed. AND have supported OpenStreetMap in The Netherlands but still have questions what the Open Database Licence really allows them to do with information that they may contribute. The debates ran for years to change the licence and it seems the new Open Database Licence (ODBl) has not really cleared up all the questions about sharing map enhancements back.
Overall SOTM 2013 was an excellent conference presenting an incredibly wide range of topics in the open mapping area. It showcases a very wide variety of uses and developments in the open data and open source world.
Some of the presentations and videos of the conference can be viewed here: Lanyrd Coverage.