In our book and in this blog, we often focus on crowdsourcing, citizen science, and the Internet of Things. Mapillary, a tool that allows anyone to create their own street level photographs, map them, and share them via web GIS technology, fits under all three of these themes. The idea behind Mapillary is a simple but powerful one: Take photos of a place of interest as you walk, bicycle, or drive using the Mapillary mobile app. Next, upload the photos to Mapillary again using the app. Your photos will be mapped and connected with other Mapillary photos, and combined into street level photo views. Then you can explore your places and those from thousands of other users around the world.
Mapillary is part of the rapidly growing crowdsourcing movement, also known as citizen science, which seeks to generate “volunteered geographic information” content from ordinary citizens. Mapillary forms part of the Internet of Things (IoT) because people are acting as sensors across the global landscape using this technology. Mapillary is more than a set of tools–it is a community, with its own MeetUps and ambassadors. Mapillary is also a new Esri partner, and through an ArcGIS integration, local governments and other organizations can understand their communities in real-time, and “the projects they’re working on that either require a quick turnaround or frequent updates, can be more streamlined.” These include managing inventory and city assets, monitoring repairs, inspecting pavement or sign quality, and assessing sites for new train tracks. One of Mapillary’s goals was to provide street views in places where no Google Street Views exist.
Many organizations are using Mapillary: For example, the Missing Maps Project is a collaboration between the American Red Cross, British Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières-UK (MSF-UK, or Doctors Without Borders-UK), and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team. The project aims to map the most vulnerable places in the developing world so that NGOs and individuals can use the maps and data to better respond to crises affecting these areas.
Using the discovery section on Mapillary, take a tour through the ancient city Teotihuacán in Mexico, Astypalaia, one of the Dodecanese Islands in Greece, Pompeii, or Antarctica. After you create an account and join the Mapillary community, you can access the live web map and click on any of the mapped tracks.
Mapillary can serve as an excellent way to help your students, clients, customers, or colleagues get outside, think spatially, use mobile apps, and use geotechnologies. Why stop at streets? You could map trails, as I have done while hiking or biking, or map rivers and lakes from a kayak or canoe. There is much to be mapped, explored, studied, and enjoyed. If you’d like extra help in mapping your campus, town, or field trip with Mapillary, send an email to Mapillary and let the team know what you have in mind. They can help you get started with ideas and tips (and bike mounts, if you need them).
For about two years, I have been using Mapillary to map trails and streets. I used the Mapillary app on my smartphone, generating photographs and locations as I hiked along. One of the trails that I mapped is shown below and also on the global map that everyone in the Mapillary community can access. I have spoken often with the Mapillary staff and salute their efforts.
We look forward to hearing your reactions and how you use this tool.
Recently, information technology research and advisory company Gartner listed what it considers to be the Top 10 technology trends for 2016. This insightful article, when considered in light of recent GIS developments, shows that these tech trends are both influenced by and are reflected by geotechnologies. Whether or not you agree that the 10 trends listed here are the “most influential,” please consider their connections to GIS. The first trend, The Digital Mesh, refers to “all devices are connected in an expanding set of endpoints people use to access applications and information, or interact with people, social communities, governments and businesses.” GIS and GPS technologies are enabling the connections to occur, and conversely, influence the direction that GIS will go.
One manifestation of how the Digital Mesh is driving GIS is the attention over the past few years on building GIS apps. If you would like to learn more about building your own GIS apps, consider enrolling in the free 5 week Esri MOOC “Do-it-yourself Geo Apps.“, by signing up for a free developer’s account on ArcGIS Online, or by building some of your own web apps such as with this tool.
Other trends include the “information of everything” and big data, and we’ve written about Big Data several times as well in this blog since 2012. Adaptive security architecture is another trend, developed in response to privacy breaches, and we’ve written about location privacy here and in our book. We have also reflected about The Internet of Things, which through the sensor network is enabling GIS to become a sort of “nervous system of the planet.” In fact, it is difficult to think of any of the trends identified without being able to identify numerous connections to GIS.
In this column, and in our public domain data book, we frequently write about issues of geospatial data privacy. In response to what many perceive to be a rapid erosion of data privacy, some attempt to keep their own data as private as possible by hosting their own web apps running on their own computer server. A recent article in Wired discusses one way to do this, with a small device from Indie Box. The Box includes a tools to run a calendar, address book, file sharing, photo album, and an email client. Eventually, its developers want the box’s software to be available so people can use their own hardware. And they also want the box to act as a hub for devices on the Internet of Things.
The philosophy behind using this device and tools reflects the Indie Web Movement, whose followers seek to expand options for opting out of company-run services such as Facebook and Google Drive. Using Indie Box is just one method of “opting out” of sharing their data with national security agencies and private companies–many others exist. The geospatial community has long had options to keep data private. But as web based solutions expand alongside privacy concerns, so too will options to keep geospatial data private and the movement behind it all.
Interesting article published by the BBC on the next big frontier for the Internet – the Internet of Things. This next stage in the evolution of the Internet allows us to access and control an increasingly diverse network of devices and sensors, such as personal fitness monitors and many household items. There are applications available now for remotely controlling central heating systems, recording TV and video when we’re not at home, and keeping friends and families informed of our whereabouts. The Ford Motor Company recently announced a new initiative using their in-car connectivity system and an interface to a mobile tracking application, allowing drivers to share their location with friends and family directly from their cars using their smartphones and voice commands.
The early days of the Internet were all about people exchanging information. Now the technology has evolved to integrate many physical devices, allowing us to use the information collected by these devices to manage our lives more effectively. Almost inevitably, with many such innovations the attendant concerns of privacy and location tracking are raised. If I use my smartphone to adjust the central heating in my home to come on/switch off at certain times, and that information is stored on a network and accessed by others or my phone is stolen, that information could potentially be used by someone trying to gain access to the house when no one is in.