Estimating Population

NASA’s Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) has produced a population estimation service “for estimating population totals and related statistics within a user-defined region.” Basically, it provides a population estimate for an area drawn on a map. Available as data via map and GIS clients, it’s also accessible via a web app. I’ve noodled about with it; its population estimates are generally not insane. [Kottke]

Wired Covers the Mapzen Shutdown

Wired’s coverage of the Mapzen shutdown (see previous entry) is fairly comprehensive.

The good news is that, in some ways, Mapzen’s founders built it to fail. “Part of the rules with Mapzen is that everything is open source and we only deal with open data,” says CEO Randy Meech. “Luckily, we’re staffed to help people stand things up on their own.” Users now have T minus 28 days to grab the info they need (or get Mapzen’s help to do it) and upload it to their own data portals, keeping it free and accessible.

The reason for the shutdown is still elusive:

At this point, the company’s coroner’s report is thin. Meech would not comment on the reason for the shuttering. The company is owned by a Samsung subsidiary focused on research and is funded by the South Korean company’s incubator. We do know that running a mapping company ain’t cheap. While Mapzen’s products are built on openly licensed data from OpenStreetMap, it adds valuable software tools to the mix for those who don’t know how to build their own or don’t have the time. Its tools help developers build aesthetically pleasing maps and equip them with search and routing services, while its staff curates, publishes, and creates data. It’s possible Samsung simply decided it didn’t have the money to compete or that it wasn’t worth the price tag.

The article goes on to point out that, Mapzen’s death notwithstanding, the mapping biz continues to be a hot, albeit expensive, sector. [Tyler Bell]

Morphology

Yesterday I told you about Mapzen’s announcement that it would be closing down at the end of the month. So it’s bittersweet that I find, in my to-do list of links to post here, a Mapzen project. Morphology is a tool that abstracts the map into an unlabelled set of lines, patterns and forms. The default view combines several different features, but you can isolate single features: airports, roads, parks, bodies of water, and more. The work of Mapzen cartographer Geraldine Sarmiento, it was first presented as a NACIS talk last October. [Atlas Obscura]

Mapzen Is Shutting Down

Mapzen announced today that they were shutting down at the end of January 2018.

Our hosted APIs and all related support and services will turn off on February 1, 2018. You will not be charged for API usage in December/January. We know this is an inconvenience and have provided a migration guide to similar services for our developer community. Our goal is to help as much as possible to ensure continuity in the services that you have built with us.

Fortunately, the core products of Mapzen are built entirely on open software and data. As a result, there are options to run Mapzen services yourself or to switch to other service providers.

No reason was given for the move.

Google’s Map Data Alchemy

Justin O’Beirne’s lengthy analyses of Google Maps and Apple Maps are always worth reading,1 and his latest is no exception. Looking at the rapid proliferation of buildings, areas of interest and other examples of Google’s Ground Truthing program, Justin discovers that Google’s buildings data are a product of its satellite imagery, its places of interest are a product of its Street View data, and its areas of interest (the orange-shaded areas that indicate business districts) are the result of combining those stores of data.

…so this makes AOIs a byproduct of byproducts[.]

This is bonkers, isn’t it?

Google is creating data out of data.

This is slightly more than Google’s competitors are able to match. As always, Justin’s analysis is worth reading in full, and comes complete with before/after animations that make his point visually clear.

Street View Car Gets Disrespected by the Bing

What happens when a Google Street View car meets its Bing equivalent? The Verge explains: “As it turns out, when two Google Street View and Bing cars pass each other, only one (in this case Google) will admit to it publicly. Like an embarrassed or jilted lover, Microsoft masks the memory of the Google encounter with a giant white rectangle in Bing maps. […] Google however, proudly shows off the Bing car in all its glory.”

All We Like Street View Have Gone Astray

It began in the summer of 2016. Faroe Islander Durita Dahl Andreassen started a campaign to get Google to map the islands in Street View by strapping 360-degree cameras onto the backs of grazing sheep and uploading the resulting images. The gambit worked; as of this month, the Faroe Islands are on Street View (The Guardian, The Washington Post). There have been worse promotional gimmicks. [MAPS-L]

Street View at the Top of the World

Tanquary Fjord, Quttinirpaaq National Park. Google Street View (screenshot).

At 82° north latitude, Quttinirpaaq National Park is on the northernmost tip of Canada’s northernmost island, Ellesmere Island. It takes days to fly there and requires you to hire a charter plane. Fewer than 50 people visit every year. And along with the remote northern communities of Grise Fiord and Resolute Bay, it’s just been added to Google Street View: Parks Canada staff backpacked across the park with the iconic Street View camera. More from CBC News and Google.

Esri Makes Satellite Imagery Available to OpenStreetMap Editors

Esri is making its satellite imagery collection available to OpenStreetMap editors.

Today Esri is proud to announce that we are making our own global collection of satellite imagery available to the OSM community directly through our existing World Imagery Service. This regularly updated resource provides one meter or better satellite and aerial photography in many parts of the world, 15m TerraColor imagery at small and mid-scales (~1:591M down to ~1:72k), 2.5m SPOT Imagery (~1:288k to ~1:72k), 1 meter or better NAIP in the US and many other curated sources, so we know it will make a welcome addition to OSM’s growing catalog of reference layers.

OSM editors have been able to trace maps from satellite imagery for years; other sources of such imagery have included Bing and Yahoo (back when Yahoo Maps was a thing). Different sources have different strengths, so this can only help the project. (Esri’s imagery makes no difference where I am, but that’s not a surprise.)

Canada’s Indigenous Communities on Google Maps

CBC News reports that more than 3,000 indigenous communities in Canada—traditional First Nations reserves as well as treaty settlement lands and urban reserves—have finally been added to Google Maps. For some reason I thought they already were—U.S. Indian reservations have been on Google Maps for some time, after all (their visibility, or lack thereof, was commented on in 2011: here, here and here).

A Year’s Worth of Changes in Google and Apple Maps

Justin O’Beirne is back with a look at how both Google and Apple Maps have changed incrementally over the past year.

Shortly after I published my Cartography Comparison last June, I noticed Google updating some of the areas we had focused on[.]

Coincidence or not, it was interesting. And it made me wonder what else would change, if we kept watching. Would Google keep adding detail? And would Apple, like Google, also start making changes?

So I wrote a script that takes monthly screenshots of Google and Apple Maps. And thirteen months later, we now have a year’s worth of images […]

It’s cool to see how much Google Maps has changed over the past year. But it’s also surprising to see how little Apple Maps has changed[.]

Previously: What Happened to Google Maps?; The Universal Map; Comparing Google and Apple Map Styles.

Mapping Bristol

A wide-ranging article at Bristol 24/7 explores at the different ways that Bristol has been mapped throughout history. It begins with a look at Jeff Bishop’s 2016 book, Bristol Through Maps (Redcliffe), which includes 24 maps of the city from 1480 to today. Then it goes on to Bristol City Council’s Know Your Place, which layers historic maps on top of a web mapping interface, and finishes with a roundup of the work of local artists and graphic designers. Quite the microcosm: so many kinds of mapping activity, all focused on one British city. [Tony Campbell]

New Google Earth Launches

A new version of Google Earth launched today. Unlike previous versions, the desktop version runs in a web browser rather than a standalone app. Also unlike previous versions, it’s no longer cross-platform: for now at least, the desktop version only runs in Chrome, and the mobile app is Android-only.

Frank Taylor has been covering the new release at the venerable Google Earth Blog and has a first review.

For my part, I’ve poked around in it in Chrome a bit and I found it fairly responsive and easy to use. If it runs this well in the browser I can see how a standalone app would be redundant; this is a better delivery method. I would much prefer it, though, if it also ran on platforms that didn’t belong to Google.

Update, 21 April: Coverage from AFP and Geoawesomeness focuses on the features, which I gave short shrift to above.