The GPS mappers
Mapping Durham City
If you have seen men and women wandering around Durham City, heads down over global positioning satellite receivers, pencils and notebooks poised, you may have wondered what their game was.
The streets and roads of Durham are being mapped. Not for the first time, of course, but this time the idea is to allow anybody to use the result - however they like, and for free.
A team of volunteers are adding Durham to the global mapping revolution.
Gregory Marler and Andy Robinson from the OpenStreetMap Foundation have enlisted the support of Amy Turner and Dave Roberts, two first-time mapping volunteers.
OpenStreetMap's aim is to create geographic data, such as street maps, and provide them free to anyone who wants them.
Final City map in preparation © OpenStreetMap.org
The project started because most maps have legal or technical restrictions on their use.
If people want to copy them, or use them in unusual ways, they normally have to seek permission and, possibly, pay a fee. Permission is not guaranteed, fee or not.
So contributors to OpenStreetMap - a world-wide project - are, gradually, making their own so that they, and others, can do what they want with them.
GPS receivers recorded the trails
They use Global Positioning Satellite devices or just plain old compasses. They map, they walk, they cycle and drive and they write down place names and street names and directions.
Sometimes they do it while they were going somewhere anyway, sometimes they make special trips. Often they get lost.
The volunteers record street names, village names and other features using notebooks, digital cameras, and voice-recorders.
Coloured traces show each person's route
Using a laptop computer, contributors upload the GPS logs showing where they travelled, and trace-out the roads on OpenStreetMap's collaborative database.
In the picture to the right the red shows Andy Robinson, out on his bicycle.
Using their notes, contributors add the street names, information such as the type of road or path, and the connections between roads.
The data is then processed to produce detailed street-level maps, which can be published freely on web sites, used to create handheld or in-car navigation devices and printed and copied without restriction other than an acknowledgement.
Click below to see the Durham map in progress:
last updated: 18/06/2008 at 16:12