Close up of a Splashmap
Splashmaps? So what is this all about? It is a project that a friend of mine has started over a year ago and which I followed along with moderate interest until at one point I started to understand that this is actually a cool way of making good use of Open Data. And even making it physical as a printed map! Can you believe it? Me, with a print-out! How last century is this? So anachronistic that it is probably cool again.
Besides being based on Open Data from two very different sources another novelty is that the outcome is printed onto fabric. It is all geared towards the outdoors. We started off conceiving this to be a nice addition for mountain bikers and walkers in the national forests of Great Britain - but this was only a starting point. As we proceeded people came up with more and more ideas. This new way of producing high quality on demand prints turned out to be useful in many contexts.
One of our friends pointed out that this is ideal for horseback riding. Paper maps tend to make noises that will irritate horses and once irritated a horse will not stop to buckle until the paper map is gone, typically together with the rider.
But then it becomes more radical. A colleague from the World Bank complained that the maps they distribute in the tropics tend to have a short life time because they simply fall apart in paper-adverse weather conditions. And then there is a need for heavy duty "analog" mapping in emergency situations with pouring rain and storms. Can you imagine relief mapping with the most up-to-date OpenStreetMap data in disaster areas? That wasn't my idea either.
How to get there?
These are all things which we did not consider at the outset and cannot promise will actually work out but they all make a lot of sense to me. So if you think this is interesting and you would like to contribute, please consider to help us get the seed funding at Kickstarter.
We are still short of quite a bit. Ugh - how I don't like doing this... I feel like Wikipedia asking for funds but with way less Moral Authority.
The Geodata Stack
Now, for the geeks of you - what does it all make up? My CEO will probably crucify me for sharing all the details but hey, this is not really bleeding edge. The Open Data is up for grabs by anybody and the tech stack is also a rather boring standard set-up. But I will share some background anyway.
We take OpenSpace data from the Ordnance Survey and apply our own styling. One big feature of the product is the option to style the maps in our very own way. Up to now we have been pretty conservative, but I can already imagine versions with reflecting colors for night shifts and ultraviolet colors for hidden spots in secret maps, and... Yeah, well, we are not quite there yet. But if there is interest we will explore it - once we got this off the ground.
Next we export foot and bridle paths (and some other secret ingredients) from OpenStreetMap and add them as an overlay. Once you buy a map we will be glad to give you the source data used to create it. Why? Because we believe in sharing and - obviously - as per ODbL you are entitled to get the data anyway. But not the Ordnance Survey Open Data because that comes in a different database and is thus not affected by the ODbL. ((This was just a hint for all those who still believe that you cannot use OSM for commercial undertakings. You can!)). And you can also download the Ordnance Survey Open Data on your own anyway - which is actually pretty cool in itself.
The Geo Tech Stack
We used the C taste of the OSGeo stack to set up the stack using GDAL/OGR, PostgreSQl, PostGIS, MapServer, Mapbender, OpenLayers and some glue to create management interfaces. The whole stack is interoperable because we based it on OGC standards starting from GML and ending with a WMS output. Yes, with high quality prints in 600dpi. This might be noteworthy for those who still believe that web mapping is just little pixely pics. Far from it. With MapServer 6.2 we get some really fine cartography. In between there is some manual tweaking and bending and correcting of geometries and text placement, for this we typically use Quantum GIS. Obviously Proj4 is all over and some imposm and shp2pgsl and you know, the whole shebang...
So yes, this is a full Open Source based architecture, using Open Data and nothing but. No But, no FUD, it just works like a treat.
More of this & Kudos
Splashmaps(tm) Ad-Hoc projection(c) Back off! Patent Pending!
Sounds interesting? Find out more about David Overton who has been investing a lot of time into the whole project:
He had the initial idea and also walked us right through up to the end product. He ran the print files through a dozen print shops all over Europe and beyond to find the right mix of fabric, colors, text sizes and symbols to use. Many thanks David!
And many thanks to all our backers (check them out, you might even know some). And now lets just keep fingers crossed that we make our pledge goal within the next 9 days (Gulp!).