Thursday, July 27, 2017

How Big is Delaware?

Icebergs are measured in Delawares. A Delaware is equivalent to two Luxembourgs.

The colossal iceberg, which recently separated from the Larsen C ice-shelf in Antarctica, has presented the media with a bit of a problem. Ever since the iceberg calved news editors up and down the land have been asking themselves,

'How can we describe something this large?'

Most news organizations eventually settled on describing the iceberg as being 'as big as Delaware'. Of course most consumers of these news organizations immediately replied,

'How big is Delaware?'

I've also heard the iceberg being described as being twice the size of Luxembourg. So Delaware is about two Luxembourgs. Now all we need to know is - how big is two Luxembourgs? How Big is the Iceberg has the answer to the questions of how big are two Luxembourgs, one Delaware or even one large recently calved iceberg.

This Google Map allows you to drag the outline of the iceberg around and compare it to any location on Earth. You can of course drag the iceberg over Delaware of Luxembourg if you want to compare it to those standard iceberg measurement units. However you can also drag the outline of the iceberg to a town or city that you better understand the size of.

This kind of draggable shapes map is very easy to create with the Google Maps API. There is a great example of a Draggable Polygons map in the Google Maps API documentation. Note the comments in the code to 'set geodesic to true' if you want your polygon to automatically resize when its dragged north or south on the map.

Icebergs aren't the only things that you can compare with geographical locations on a map. There is a whole host of websites which allow you to directly compare geographical locations with other geographical locations on a map. You might like The True Size of ...OverlayMaps, MAPfrappeMy Life Elsewhere, Mapmerizer and If It Were My Home?

French Wildfires Mapped

Last night around 10,000 people were evacuated from their homes as wildfires raged in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region of France. So far about 15.4 sq miles of land has been burned and around 4,000 firefighters and troops have been battling the fires.

The European Forest Fire Information System monitors and maps forest fire activity in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. The EFFIS Current Situation map provides information on on-going fires and the danger of fire in Europe and around the Mediterranean.

The map includes a fire forecast for the next 6 days. This consists of a heat map layer highlighting the areas in Europe most in danger of forest fires. The darker the area the larger the risk of fire. The map also allows you to view the location of active fires and of burnt areas using MODIS and VIIRS satellite imagery.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Slow Down Mapbox

You've probably seen by now at least one of the ever popular animated weather maps that have emerged in the last few years. You can see examples at Earth.nullschool.netWindyty and VentuSky. Each of these maps include impressive animated cloud layers. However they aren't as fast as this super fast animated weather map.

I love the speed of this animated map. It is also pretty neat to be able to actually change the color of the animated clouds.

I'm not entirely sure how the map works. It looks to be using either an animated PNG image or a series of images being used to create the animation. The image(s) is then overlaid on the map as a canvas element. Once loaded into the canvas layer the user can then use the rgb controls to adjust the color of the image(s) on top of the map.

Of course you could always just add a video as an overlay on the map but, after seeing this map, that feels like cheating.

Strolling Through Jane Austen's England

The Smithsonian has created a mapped tour of the towns and houses that shaped the life of the English novelist Jane Austen. It is an interesting introduction to the author's life and would be a handy accompaniment to anyone watching the BBC's television program Jane Austen: Behind Closed Doors.

Jane Austen's Footsteps uses KnightLabs StoryMapJS platform to explore some of the important locations in the English writer's life. The map provides an interesting but brief biography of Austen's life, illustrated with some contemporary photos of some of the houses and towns where she lived. Ultimately however the map struggles with its lack of content.

I hesitate to say it, but ... It is a truth universally acknowledged that a map of Jane Austen is in want of more life.

The map could have used a vintage Georgian basemap, so that we could actually explore Austen's footsteps on a map which might have been familiar to the author herself. Many of the locations on the map, such as Chawton in Hampshire, have changed very little since Austen's day. So perhaps Street View could have also been used to give more of insight into the village of Chawton, so we could actually view the village where Austen spent much of her later life.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Machine Learning Accessibility

Project Sidewalk is a crowdsourced effort to map street level accessibility issues around the world. The project uses Google Street View images to find out where accessibility problems are apparent on the streets.

Using Project Sidewalk you can help identify accessibility problems (such as missing curb ramps on sidewalks, obstacles on paths and uneven surfaces) by tagging them on Google Maps Street View. When you first start using Project Sidewalk you are walked through how to spot and identify accessibility problems on Street View. After completing the tutorial you can explore the streets on Street View and find and label any accessibility features that you find.

Project Sidewalk users have already mapped the accessibility of nearly half of Washington DC. Once Project Sidewalk has enough crowdsourced data it should be able to develop better computer vision and machine learning algorithms to automatically detect accessibility issues with Street View. This would enable developers to automatically create accessibility maps and routing engines for people with accessibility problems.

You might also like The History of Machine Learning and Street View, which looks at how MIT has trained computer AI's to identify the safety of city streets and neighborhoods experiencing high levels of urban development.

How to Degentrify Your Neighborhood

Back in 2015 Sam Floy invented an algorithm which could work out which neighborhoods were becoming gentrified and which were becoming more salubrious. His basic formula simply looked at the ratio of coffee shops to fried chicken restaurants to determine the desirability of a neighborhood. The Guardian has now refined Sam's algorithm to help identify neighborhoods which are undergoing de-gentrification.

In How to know if where you live is “up and coming”: fried chicken vs. coffee shops Floy compared heat maps of coffee & fried chicken shops to identify the areas with more coffee shops. The areas with more coffee shops are the areas that Floy believes are more salubrious. He then overlaid these areas on a property value heat map in order to identify which of these areas are in parts of London where it is relatively cheaper to buy property.

The Guardian has discovered that you can cancel out the coffee shop number in the gentrification equation. In fact all you really need to know in order to determine the desirability of a neighborhood is the number of fast food restaurants in the area.

In Fast Food England the Guardian has mapped out the number of fast food restaurants per 1,000 residents in each postcode area in England & Wales. After mapping the concentration of fast food restaurants the Guardian discovered that the most deprived areas in the UK tend to have the highest concentration of food food restaurants and the least deprived areas have the fewest.

You can enter a postcode or location into the map to find out the number of local fast food restaurants to 1,000 people, how that compares to the national average and the total number of takeaways in the area. You can also find out whether the number of fast food restaurants in the area has increased or decreased over the last three years. You can determine if your area has become more or less gentrified by discovering if the number of local fast food restaurants has gone down or up.

Therefore if you want to help de-gentrify your neighborhood you need to open up a local fast food restaurant. Might I suggest a fried chicken restaurant.

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Desire Named Streetcar

In 1872 the Denver Horse Railway Company built the city's first streetcar line. Over the following decades more and more lines were added until Denver had a streetcar network which covered much of the city. Unfortunately the arrival of the motorcar led to the longtime decline of the city's streetcar transit system.

You can explore how Denver's streetcar network grew and also observe its decline on Denver's Streetcar Legacy and its Role in Neighborhood Walkability. A timeline control allows you to view how the city's streetcar network grew in the city from its inception in 1872 through to its end in 1950. As the timeline plays out you can see when the all the different lines were opened and closed.

Despite its demise Denver's streetcar network has had a lasting impact on the city's environment and the walkability of its neighborhoods. This interactive map also explores how the streetcar network effected the city's design and what the author calls 'Pedestrian Oriented Commercial Buildings'.

For some reason I've always imagined that there were a lot more streetcar lines in San Francisco. The good news is that there are actually more routes now than in 1960. However the present coverage is not a patch on the number of streetcar routes that existed in the city back in 1940.

Where the Streetcars Used to Go is a lovely interactive map which allows you to view the streetcar transit network as it existed in 1940 & 1960 and as it exists today. Streetcar fans will be delighted to learn that the map also allows you to view vintage photos of streetcars in San Francisco.

You can actually browse through these wonderful photos of San Francisco's historical streetcars by the different streetcar routes. If you click on a streetcar route on the map the photos, running along the bottom of the map, are filtered to only show photos taken along the chosen line. The name of the selected route is also displayed on the map alongside the dates when the route was operational.

Interactive maps don't have to be complicated. Sometimes you can create a lot with just a few features. A case in point is the BC Electric Railway Map.

With only a few polylines on a custom designed basemap the BC Electric Railway Map has produced a beautiful looking visualization of Vancouver's BC Electric Railway Company transit network, as it looked in the early Twentieth Century. The map plots the historical interurban and streetcar lines of the network between 1890 to 1958. It also contains a few photos and Street Views of modern day Vancouver showing how some of the company's historical buildings and lines look today.

Of course there is a actually a little more to this map than a few polylines. It also includes some very well designed map interactions. For example, if you click on a map marker, the map uses Mapbox's GL's map rotation capabilities to zoom-in, tilt and rotate the map to provide a close-up view of the selected location. The map rotation itself is tracked by a gorgeous vintage looking compass rose, which shows the current map orientation.

I also like how the map content slides in and out in the map sidebar when you select a marker on the map. There isn't a lot of content on the map at the moment but the presence of the 'Chapter 1. - Stay Tuned' button suggests that there is more to come from the BC Electric Railway Map.

Why is the Bus Always Late?

German newspaper Tagesspiegel has been investigating the punctuality of Berlin's buses, trams and subway trains. They wanted to know which lines, bus-stops and stations had the best and worst punctuality problems. They also wanted to know why some buses are always late and why some trams are always on time or even early.

Why is the Bus Late? includes an interactive map which allows you to explore the punctuality record of every stop and station on Berlin's public transit network. Select any transit line on the map and each station on the line will be shown with a small graph showing how often the buses, trams or trains are on time, early or late. You can select a station on the map to view the exact percentages. You can even change the direction of travel to view the punctuality of the vehicles travelling in each direction on the line.

It turns out that trains in Berlin are pretty good at arriving on time but buses are often late. Why are the buses often late? It's all the fault of the trains.

Apparently when the train lines are forced to close, for maintenance or for emergencies, replacement bus services are provided for the train passengers. This takes buses and drivers away from the normal bus routes. Therefore one reason that buses sometimes run late in Berlin is because they are covering for the trains.

Airbnb in Berlin

In 2008 the first Berlin apartment was listed on Airbnb. It is estimated that there are now around 10,000 properties in Berlin being rented out on Airbnb. You can view where and when all 10,000 properties were listed on Airbnb on a new interactive animated map.

Airbnb in Berlin is an animated map which shows the growth of the Airbnb market in Berlin from 2008 to the present day. As the animation plays you can watch as properties are added to the map by the date of their listing. Every dot on the map shows when a property was first added to Airbnb and the name of the property's owner.

Unfortunately the map doesn't include a timeline control. It would be useful to be able to adjust the date visualized on the map. For example this would be useful for exploring the effect of Berlin banning whole properties from being listed on Airbnb from May 2016. It would also be useful to view some other visualizations of the data, for example a heat map view showing where in the city the most properties are listed.

Airbnb vs Berlin is a much better data driven investigation into the popularity of Airbnb in Berlin and the possible effect it is having on affordable housing in the city.

Among the interactive maps used to illustrate this investigation is Airbnb Streets. The map highlights the streets in Berlin with more than 20 Airbnb offers and reveals that many of the properties listed on Airbnb are in popular tourist areas. In particular there is a high concentration of properties in areas that are popular with young travelers.

Another interactive map in the article visualizes the number of Airbnb listings by neighborhood. This choropleth map shows in which areas of the city more flats and rooms are offered on Airbnb. The Reuterkiez area in Neukölln is the most active neighborhood on Airbnb with 476 rooms and flats listed within only a few blocks.

A third map shows the locations of properties by the top 10 'power users' in Berlin. There is one user who lists 44 separate properties in Berlin on Airbnb. This rise in 'super users' suggests that Airbnb is being used as a business tool. It appears that more and more Airbnb listings are being rented on a commercial level by landlords exploiting the service to make higher profits from short term rentals rather than from renting out their properties to long term tenants.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Rubbish Map of the Week

Litterati is an iOS and Android app which is used for logging the location of litter found on the streets. Using the app anyone can take a quick photo and report any litter that they find. The photo is then added to the worldwide Litterati interactive map.

The app has already proved hugely successful around the world. The Litterati interactive map already has nearly half a million reports in the United States and over 100,000 reports in Europe. After taking photos users of the app are meant to dispose of the litter in a responsible manner. If they do this then that is a lot of litter which has already been removed from the world's streets.

Users of the app are also encouraged to log the type of litter (plastic, cigarettes, cans, glass etc) and the manufacturers and brands of the litter. Marlboro, MacDonalds and Coke are the three leading brands so far whose discarded cigarette butts, wrapping and cans have been found on the streets around the world. This suggests that these brands have a lot more work to do to encourage their customers to not litter the streets.

Litterati claim that users have also created groups to crowd-source the identification and cleaning of particularly dirty neighborhoods in their towns and cities. City authorities have also used the app to identify the levels of cigarette butts on the streets in order to determine tax levels to charge on cigarettes.