Posts Tagged ‘maps’

DigitalNZ location search

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Over the past couple of months I’ve been building a little application using the API’s from the DigitalNZ project. DigitalNZ is a collaboration between government departments, publicly funded organisations, the private sector, and community groups to expose and share their combined digital content. Part of their plan to expose their data is to provide a publically available API for developers to expose their content in ways they may not have thought about.

Typically, a large dataset has a search box as it’s main interface. I wanted to get right away from that approach and create an engaging interface. This uses a map interface to allow the user to freely explore the content.

It currently uses a combination of API’s from Google and Flickr to convert a latitude and longitude from the map to obtain a place name. It then displays a shapefile from Flickr to approximate the area being searched, and returns a list of relevant results from DigitalNZ. Since I started work on this, the data returned from both of these API’s have been released under a Creative Commons license (Yahoo have released their geoplanet data and Flickr have release their shapefile data). I’ll end up incorporating these releases into the application rather than relying on the API’s for the functionality.

Explore the contents of DigitalNZ.

DigitalNZ

New York then and now

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

I’ve been playing around with yet another Flickr Commons then and now project, this time using the images of New York from 1935-1938 from the New York Public Library.  The process for this has been a little bit different to the previous then and now demonstrations.  The images that have been posted don’t have any geo-location metadata (a latitude or longitude) so they can’t be placed directly on a map in the same manner as other Commons photographs.  What they do have instead, is very good street addresses in their titles.

The google maps API has geocoding API call that translates a human readable address into a latitude and longitude.  So if we pass the title of a photo into the API – let’s say “Willow Street, No. 113, Brooklyn”, it returns the latitude and longitude of “40.6978614, -73.9955804”.

For the demonstration I’m using a KML file.  Generating this file is now a 2 step process, import the data from Flickr using their API, pass the title of the photo into the Google Maps API to get the latitude and longitude and merge both results into a KML file.

Of course some of the titles provide ambiguous addresses or don’t provide enough information and don’t automatically return a result.  for some of the images I’ve manually tweaked the data that I’ve passed into the geocoding API to obtain a result.  The results are by no means perfect, but it’s a pretty good demonstration of what can be achieved from very little data and automating everything.

Please explore my New York then and now mashup and let me know what you think.

New York then and now

New Zealand then and now

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

On November 27 the National Library of New Zealand became the sixteenth institution to join The Commons.  In what was perfect timing, within days Google launched their streetview service for New Zealand.  Of course I’ve modified my then and now mashup to include the images on Flickr from the National Library of New Zealand.  They’ve been busy geotagging their images and it’s all starting to come together and providing some interesting looks into how New Zealand has changed over time. Start exploring New Zealand then and now.

Flickr commons in my neighbourhood

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Following on from my previous then and now Flickr commons meets streetview demonstration, I started to think of how could I bring that experience to a user based upon their current location – take out the streetview and replace it with a real life view.  Can you provide an immersive experience for a user, giving them only the historical items from a cultural institutions collection, that are relevant to their current location?  Imagine being in a location with your laptop or mobile phone, and being able to see exactly what the location you are standing in looked like in the past.

For example – thanks to free wifi from the Apple Store in Sydney on George Street, I built a web application to show me my current location.  It’s pretty accurate, but not perfect.  In this case it’s showing my location as about 100m from where I actually am (on the corner of King St and George St).  I can then display all the images from Flickr Commons that relate to that area.  As you can see there are a variety of historic images available and I’ve selected an image showing Martin Place.

Flickr in my location

From where I am standing on George Street I can see the real life buildings that are shown in the historic photo.

Martin Place

If I then walk down George Street 100 metres I can be in the same environment where the photos were taken and can compare the historic image of my current location on my laptop to the environment I am standing in.

Flickr in my location

So how does this work?

Up until a few months ago, the only option available was to to guess the location of the user based upon their IP address.  This might have been able to give the application the city that a user was in, but it was unlikely to provide it with a more accurate location than that.  Recently two plugins based around the W3C Geolocation specification have been developed – Geode from Mozilla labs for Firefox 3 and geolocation functions have been added to Google Gears which is available for a variety of browsers.  By using these plugins I can determine a reasonably accurate latitude and longitude for a users location and if a user doesn’t have either of these plugins installed, or for privacy reasons decides not to allow these to broadcast their locations, I can fall back to using the much less accurate IP address lookup.

Once I have a users location, I can use the Flickr API to return all the images that are within a certain radius of the user.  If I also use Google Maps as the mapping application, I can also add wikipedia articles from the users current location into the mix.

Try it out

I’ve developed two prototypes, the first one returns historical images from Flickr Commons. Given that there aren’t a vast number of photos in the Commons yet, and even fewer have geolocation information added, unless you are around the Sydney CBD area, your mileage may vary.

The second prototype returns images from Flickr that have a creative commons license. As there are a lot more images available in this category, the chances of getting a result is much greater.  For either of these to work you’ll need to download one of the plugins.