Thursday, July 31, 2008

Getting Where You Need To Go

Google's redesign of Google Maps has caused a bit of an outcry from regular users of Google Maps driving directions. To allay some of the queries that have been posted to the Google Maps Group Google have released this video today explaining how to use driving directions and how to print out the results (with an excellent feature to add street view images).

Via: Google LatLong: Tip of the week: Getting where you need to go


More Sites Add Google Maps Street View

Two areas that Google Maps Street View can give web visitors an enhanced user experience is in real-estate and hotel search. When you are looking at potential houses on-line or you are searching for a hotel it is obviously very useful to be able to scope out locations with street view.
screenshot of zillow is an on-line real estate service with close to 3 million listings in the US. Now Zillow have added Google Maps Street View to every home details page in the areas covered by Street View.

Viewing the Street View of a listing not only means that you get a view of the property but you get a great sense of its location. You can see the view from the property and you can virtually explore the neighbourhood.
screen shot of have added interactive Street Views to its attractions, events, hotels and business listings.

Visitors to can now view hotels before booking. They can also virtually stroll around neighbourhoods for restaurants, stores and famous landmarks before deciding where to stay.


NYC Bike Maps have also added street view to their bike maps of New York.

French real-estate search engine Immobilio is the first European site to add Google street view.


Free Our Data

"Web 2.0 represents a historic opportunity to break down government's familiar walls of secrecy."

Neil Pierce, The Denver Post.

On both sides of the Atlantic there have been increasing calls for national and local government to open up data. The experience of Web 2.0 suggests that if governments allow free access to the reams of data that is collected on the public's behalf then the public will combine and mash-up that data in new and revealing ways.

In the UK the British government has recently established a Power of Information Task Force and a competition called Show Us A Better Way with a £20,000 prize fund to develop ideas suggested by the public that "will improve the way public information is communicated."

I'm sure that the Power of Information Task Force competition is partly the government's response to the Free Our Data campaign in the UK run by The Guardian newspaper. In the US the Open Govenment Working Group is running a similar campaign and they have created a good wiki of open source projects in the United States.

This week the British government announced that by the end of this year,

"Every neighbourhood in England and Wales will have access to the latest local crime information through new interactive crime maps."

One of the best examples of interactive crime maps is CrimeReports. CrimeReports has been adopted by police departments in fifteen states in the US. CrimeReports tags individual crimes on Google Maps so that residents are easily able to visualise crime and policing in their neighbourhood. The site has been frequently cited by UK political parties as the type of crime map that should be available in the UK.

In the UK the London Profiler (dead link removed) is one of the best map mash-ups of data. It is the work of the Centre for Advanced Spatial Awareness (CASA) at University College London. With the London Profiler it is possible to make some very specific visual comparisons on a map of health, education, crime, culture and house prices. London residents are able to use the London Profiler to explore their neighbourhoods and visualise and compare data that directly effects their lives.

In the US government information specialist David Stephenson has been calling for "transparent government". Stephenson says that,

"Beyond shedding light on how government operates, far-reaching and unprecedented change can result when we make reams of data available, plus tools to portray them visually."

In a recent speech Stephenson gave a number of examples of how individuals and groups have mashed-up data in interesting and illuminating ways. Two of the examples he gives are built on Google Maps:

Incident1 maps police, fire, and emergency incidents from around the US. The map shows the most recent incident from each region. It is also possible to see a detailed map of the incidents for your area by entering your zip code or by selecting a region from a list.

IllegalSigns (dead link removed) is a Google Map dedicated to mapping illegal billboards in the Toronto area. Neill Pierce cites IllegalSigns as an example of a website that "holds city government accountable for action".

Stephenson has called for government agencies to release data on a real-time basis. He gives the example of the District of Columbia's Citywide Data Warehouse, which uses RSS feeds to release data from 150 sources, ranging from crimes to pothole reports. In the UK the British government have created a Public Sector Information Unlocking Service. The idea in principle is that if you have any problems accessing public information then you can contact the unlocking service and they will strive to gain you access.

As governments and politicians wake up to the fact that opening up data may lead to innovative new ideas more freedom of access to public information does seem to be occurring. This of course provides great opportunities for map developers.

If you want some ideas of what can be achieved with that data you just need to browse through some of the wonderful Google Maps mash-ups that are featured in the right hand column of this page.


Public Data -Power in Our Hands - David Stephenson of Stephenson Strategies
Let our Data Go Free - Neal Pierce, The Denver Post


In the UK the Royal Mail has also just agreed to make available for free its Postcode Address File for the purposes of the Show Us A Better Way competition. Hopefully this is just the first step in opening up the data completely. The file is the most up-to-date and complete address database in the UK, containing more than 28m addresses.

CrimeMapping have left a comment to promote their crime map. We had a fully look at Crimemapping and a few other crime maps at the beginning of July.

I have also received an e-mail from UCrime to inform me about their service mapping crime on university campuses. I hope to do a fuller review of their site in the next couple of weeks.

I also hope to do a full review of Habitmap who also e-mailed about their new community mapping and social networking platform.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Population Summary Map

Population Summary Map -(dead link removed)

Mapperz have produced a stunning example of how the new ArcGIS JavaScript Extension for Google Maps can be used to link Google Maps with the huge amounts of data on the ArcServer Geodatabase.

The population summary map allows you to draw a polygon on an area of the United States. What this does is create a 'buffer' line which is sent to ArcServer which then returns the population data for that area to the Google Map. The data is returned as a clickable marker so that you can now view the population data for any block in your chosen area.

The census block data is then processed on the fly to the Google Charts API which generates a 3D pie chart. When you click on the census block polygon a chart is created showing a breakdown of the population by age.

Mapperz makes a big acknowledgement to Andy Gup for creating and making this code available to the GIS community. You can read more about how this map was created at the Mapperz Blog.


Where Are You Going To Be?

As promised yesterday, here is the second part in our look at location based web applications. This two part post was inspired by Peter Batty's presentation at the GeoWeb conference last week so it seems only fair to start with his own project whereyougonnabe.

Whereyougonnabe is a Facebook application that helps you meet your friends more often. You tell whereyougonnabe where and when you will be doing things in the future and can see when your friends will be close to you.

It is a great tool for keeping up with what your friends are doing. You can view your location and your friends' locations on Google Maps or Google Earth. Here's a video with Peter explaining the service himself,

Dopplr (Dopplr has joined the dead pool - link removed)

Dopplr is one of the better known future location services. Dopplr lets you share your future travel plans with your friends and colleagues. The service then highlights coincidence, for example, telling you that three people you know will be in Paris when you will be there too.

You can use Dopplr on your computer or your mobile phone and it links with on-line calendars and social networks so it easy to update your future locations.

TripIt is a personal travel assistant that automatically organizes all your travel plans.

To build a travel itinerary you simply forward your travel confirmation emails to TripIt. TripIt then automatically combines your related travel bookings into a single master itinerary and searches the web for related information, including daily weather, Google Maps, driving directions, city guides and much more.

You are able to share your complete itinerary with friends or family who need to know your travel plans, or collaborate with fellow travellers on a trip. You can also create a network of TripIt Connections so you can view friend's travel calendars and get alerted when your travel plans overlap with each other.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Google Maps Gets A New User Interface

Google Maps has been given a nice new user interface. I was using Google Maps about twenty minutes ago with the old interface so I think this change has gone live in the last fifteen minutes.

The screen-shots below aren't very clear but you can just about see that the yellow tabs in the old interface (top) have disappeared and that the accordion effect to hide the search results in the left-hand column is now controlled by an arrow at the top of the map (in the lower screen-shot).

According to the Google LatLong blog the map is a 'tad' bigger in the new user interface. This seems to be a result of deleting the 'Search the map', 'Find businesses' and 'Get directions' orange tabs directly under the search box (top image).

It appears that Google Maps directions may have lost some functionality (as pointed out by Doug in the comments). Apparently when you use the directions feature, you can no longer reorder the directions as you could before nor can you see the leg time/distance values any more.

The Google Maps Help Group has been inundated with complaints which seem to be focusing on the same issue of a loss of previous functionality in the driving directions. From the replies to the complaints it seems that "you should still be able to drag destinations in the left panel. The only difference is you'll use the little green circles in the "launcher" area where you input each address."

California Earthquake
By some stroke of fortune (although I wouldn't want to say good fortune) Google's new user interface has put the Real-Time Earthquakes Maplet at the top of its 'Browse Popular maps' list. Which means that a lot of users will have viewed the map below, which shows the earthquake, measuring 5.4, that caused buildings to shake across a wide area of southern California in the US this evening.


Where Are My Friends Now?

Peter Batty gave a presentation at the GeoWeb conference last week that has generated quite a lot of positive press. In the presentation Peter explains his thoughts on the future of location based social networking, as well as introducing his future location service whereyougonnabe (more of which tomorrow).

You can watch the presentation here.

I really like Peter's distinction between current and future location applications and I thought it would be interesting to have a quick look at the examples he gives of each type of application. Tomorrow I'll have a look at future location services but today I'll concentrate on the examples of current location applications that he mentions in the presentation.

Zkout (dead link removed)
Zkout screenshot
Zkout connects users to their friends and to recommended places that are near by. Zkout automatically tells your friends what you are doing and where you are in real time from your mobile phone or computer.

The service allows you to explore what's happening in your area right now on Google Maps, find out where your friends are and what they are doing right now and it also allows you to share videos and pictures from your mobile phone.

FireEagle (link removed - FireEagle has joined the deadpool)
Yahoo's FireEagle is still in invite only beta. If you can get an account FireEagle lets you share your location with sites and services online. In essence FireEagle is an intermediary between your location devices (phone, lap-top, GPS etc) and location based web sites like Google Maps.

Loki lets you share your location with your friends via Google Maps. You can change your location at your own MyLoki page or (and this is the clever bit) you can download the Loki toolbar for your browser and update your location automatically.

The Loki toolbar can triangulate your location automatically. You can then share your location with your friends in a number of different ways. You can share the address of your own public page or you can embed a map in your blog to show your last recorded location or add a map to your Facebook account.

Dodgeball (dead link removed)
Google owned Dodgeball is a mobile phone service that lets you find friends near by and inform any friends near by of your location. The service lets you ‘crush’ on friends on-line and also tells you when your 'crush' is near by.

Dodgeball also informs you of venues that are near your current location.

Anyone wondering about Peter Batty's surname might be interested to know that the name is common in Yorkshire, England and is often used as an example to show how genealogy can be used to illustrate social migration over time.

map showing migration of the Batty surname in the twentieth century

The two maps above show how the name Batty has migrated southwards in the UK between 1881 and 1998.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Safe Roads on Google Maps

screen shot of saferoadmaps
Google Maps walking directions come with a warning that says, "Use caution when walking in unfamiliar areas." I am sure that the Google Maps team are working hard on various algorithms to determine the safety of different streets (my suggestion would be to combine a score from CriminalSearches and WalkScore).

What seems strange to me is that Google acknowledge that some streets are safer to walk down than others (even if they are unsure which ones) but don't warn that some roads are safer to drive on than others. Where is the warning to "drive safely on unfamiliar roads"? Where is the warning that "This road will kill"?

Of course Google Maps comes with an API so that the 'community' will fill in any gaps left by Google. Hence today we have the launch of SafeRoadMaps from the Center for Excellence in Rural Safety.

SafeRoadMaps overlays statistics from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System on Google Maps to give a visual representation of traffic safety across the USA. With SafeRoadMaps you can enter an address and view the roads that have the highest number of traffic fatalities in an area. You can also view dynamically generated maps that show how public policy has been implemented to improve transportation safety by region.

Fatalities are shown on the map with tags in the shape of an exclamation mark. You can get extra details on any fatality by clicking on a tag. The details tell you the nature of the accident, the sex and age of the victim and whether alcohol was involved in the accident.

What we need now is a feature to refine Google Maps driving directions to avoid traffic black spots.


Create Embeddale Flash Google Maps


With Umapper it is possible to create interactive Flash Google Maps, display those maps on your website or social network, export the map created to Flash ActionScript 3.0 or KML. It is one of the better map creation tools that I have seen. It excels in the amount of options it gives the user and has a very impressive feature to automatically add Wikipedia articles to a Google Map.

It is very easy to create a map with Umapper. Markers can be placed on the map manually or you can use a search box to let Umapper find the location for you. A third option is to search Wikipedia. With this option Umapper finds the Wikipedia article and places a marker on the map that includes the Wikipedia article and a photo.

I created the example map above in a matter of minutes using the Wikipedia search option. All I did was enter the location into a search box and Umapper automatically found the location and added the text and photograph from Wikipedia.

When placing markers there are several options. You can edit information window content, change the marker appearance, enter an exact latitude / longitude position, or delete a marker.

When adding content for the information window you are able to define the font type, size and colour. There are also options to align the text or to bold, italicize or underline text.


Friday, July 25, 2008

Embed a Street View

StreetCities is a nifty new service that lets you embed a Google Maps street view and map in a blog or website.

I particularly like the ability to switch between the Street View and the Map. I think I might be using StreetCities a lot in the now regular Fridays Maps Fun posts to show some of the more interesting street views found on Google Maps.

StreetCities' views are very easy to set up. It is just a question of finding your location on a Google Map (there is a handy geo-coder search to guide you) and then defining your map and layout options.


The Latest YouTube Videos on Google Maps

YouTube Vision (this map no longer seems to work)
YouTube Vision screen shot
Mibazaar has released three new Google Maps mash-ups that embed YouTube videos on Google Maps. The first, YouTube Vision, shows the most recent geo-tagged videos from YouTube embedded on a Google Map.

The videos play automatically and when one video finishes the map scrolls automatically to the next video. At the top right of the screen are 'forward' and 'back' arrows, which make it possible to fast forward to the next video or rewind back to a previous one.

Obama Vision
and McCain Vision (both these maps no longer seems to work)
Screen shot of Obama vision
Ich bin ein Berliner?

Similar to YouTube Vision are two more video maps Obama Vision and McCain Vision. Both these Google Maps mash-ups show the latest YouTube geo-tagged videos from the 'news' category containing the keywords 'Barack Obama' or 'John McCain'. The Obama map in particular is interesting at the moment as it seems to be capturing Obama's movements on his travels abroad.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Live Video on Google Maps

Qik, a mobile phone video streaming site, have teamed up with Ipoki (dead link removed), a live GPS phone position site to enable users to stream live video from a mobile phone on a Google Map in real-time.

You can read more about this new service on the Ipoki blog (dead link removed) or you can see it in action in this YouTube video.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

All the Criminals Near You on a Google Map


CriminalSearches is a new website that lets citizens view a Google Map of their neighbourhood with all those with a criminal record who live in the area tagged on the map.

The Neighborhood Watch feature of allows users to quickly discover if anyone with a criminal record is living in the surrounding community. Users simply enter a full address, or city and state, and are presented with a map identifying people in the area with criminal records. You can then click on the map to view detailed information about the identified criminals including name, age, current and previous addresses and complete criminal history. Different types of criminal are given different tags.

This Google Map is of course going to be of great interest to just about everyone. I'm sure you will be checking out your neighborhood in the next few minutes (if you haven't already done so). Moreover I can see this being a great tool for people looking to move house. Wouldn't you want to check out the criminal records of your future neighbors if you could? And if you had been thinking of buying a property in the area in the screen-shot above wouldn't you change your mind after seeing that map?


Thursday, July 10, 2008

ArcGIS API for Google Maps

The ArcGIS JavaScript Extension for Google Maps allows map developers to extend the Google Maps API to use ArcGIS Server services. With the extension, you can add your own data to a Google Map and embed this map in your own page.

ESRI have a number of examples of what can be achieved using their new API. Examples and reference for the API can be found here. Using the API you can:
  • Display your own maps on top of a Google Maps base map.
  • Execute a GIS model and display the results in Google Maps.
  • Search for features in your GIS data and display the results on Google Maps.
  • Find addresses using your own address locator and display the result on Google Maps.
  • Display attributes from your GIS data on the map using the Google Chart API.
  • Allows others to add GIS functionality from your server as a Google Mapplet.


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Real-Time Ship Tracking on Google Maps have produced a Google Map showing real-time information about ship movements throughout the world.

The system is based on AIS (Automatic Identification System). The International Maritime Organization (IMO) requires all vessels over 299GT to carry an AIS transponder on board, which transmits data on position, speed and course, among some other static information, such as the vessel’s name, dimensions and voyage details.

MarineTraffic uses this information to plot the real-time position of marine vessels on a Google Map. The vessels' positions are shown on the map by tags in the shape of boats. The tags are colour-coded to show whether the vessel is a tanker, passenger vessel, cargo vessel, yacht etc. Clicking on a tag brings up a wealth of information about the vessel and its current destination.

MarineTraffic say they can expand their coverage to include any area worldwide. Anyone can install a VHF antenna, an AIS receiver and start immediately sending and seeing data on the map.

Other Marine Maps
  • Hi-Def San Francisco -real-time ship tracking in the San Francisco Bay
  • Isle of Wight Live Ship Tracking - live tracking of ships around the Isle of Wight
  • Live Piracy Map 2008 - A piracy map created by the International Chamber of Commerce purports to show all the piracy and armed robbery incidents during 2008.
  • Bluemapia - Bluemapia is a boating social network built around Google Maps.
  • World Port Source - Interactive satellite images, maps and contact information for hundreds of ports throughout the world.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Satellite Coverage Map


SatBeams is a satellite coverage map currently showing the footprints of 226 satellites worldwide. Using the map it is possible to match your home with the coverage zones of all the mapped satellites. Therefore you can quickly establish which zone your house is in and which dish size is recommended for your selected satellite based on the satellite footprint.

The map also allows users to plot the frequencies and channels they receive and add satellite equipment to the reception report including the antenna model and type of receiver.

Previously Featured: