We’re currently looking at a project which involves maps of the Ormskirk campus which – if you read my 125 by 125 blog – I find quite exciting. Maps are important for lots of things the University yet we’ve never had very good maps. We have access to lots of them, but nothing that’s quite suitable.
For example, our own campus map has all the buildings labelled and is pretty up to date but it’s not to scale or plotted against a real grid system.
We also have a 3D drawing of campus which is used in the prospectus and online in the interactive campus map. It looks nice but again it’s not accurate enough for plotting real positions and it’s a pain to keep up to date.
Google Maps is to scale but missing lots of buildings and some websites are moving away from it to other services because they’ve started charging for heavy users, not something I think they’d do to us but they could add advertising:
Microsoft’s Bing is even worse:
The Ordnance Survey have released some of their data, and we also have access to it through Digimap, but questions remain over licencing and the frequency of updates.
We can do better than this by building on what has already been done by OpenStreetMap.
[Mapumental’s] base mapping layer is from OpenStreetMap – a project to create a free (as in beer and speech) map similar to the ones available from Google Maps, or even from the OS. It’s created by volunteers who go out with GPS and plot the routes online. Almost all major roads are on there already and certain areas have excellent quality coverage – take a look at South Liverpool for an example of how good it can get.
The quality of mapping on OSM for Edge Hill hasn’t been great – in the past I’ve taken the odd GPS track or paths around campus and added them but generally it’s been pretty poor as you can see from this recent capture:
Recently though, the quality of aerial imagery available in the OSM editor has vastly improved making tracing over the campus a viable option where it hadn’t been before (buildings going back as far as the Faculty of Health were missing from Yahoo!’s images). A few hours work has resulted in a much more complete map of campus:
As I write it’s still not perfect but all the buildings are plotted along with roads, footpaths and many of the facilities we have on campus like cafes and shops. OpenStreetMap allows anyone to make corrections and add missing features which will help keep it up to date.
Now that we have an up to date base map we’ll be looking at ways we can make use of it in some exciting forthcoming projects which I hope we’ll be blogging about soon!