Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mapping progress of NBN rollout

National Broadband Network (NBN) is a government initiative to build a national, wholesale-only, open access broadband network to all Australians, regardless of where they live. The aim is to connect 93% of homes, schools and workplaces with optical fibre providing superfast broadband services. The remaining 7% will be connected using next generation fixed wireless and satellite technology. You can monitor the progress of work, and where the network is being rolled out, using NBN Rollout Google Map.

Over the next ten years over 200,000 km of fibre-optic cable will be deployed across the country and up to 6,000 homes a day will be connected to the new network. Users of the map can search by address, postcode or suburb and find out if NBN work is underway or planned to commence soon in their area. Some areas on the map may not appear on the rollout plan, as the map only shows areas where plans for the national network have been announced so far.

The application has a very simple interface that will be very familiar to previous users of Google Maps. Colour-coded markers show indicative locations and status of work, while polygon overlays provide more details as to the extents of geographical coverage. Overall, it is quite informative and straight forward to use.

First spotted on: Google Maps Mania

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A year of OSM data edits

If you ever had any doubts about the power of crowdsourcing, or simply about willingness of hordes of anonymous strangers to commit time and resources just to a cause, totally for free, have a look at the following video. It highlights a year of edits of free OpenStreetMap data.

OpenStreetMap: A Year of Edits 2011 from Derick Rethans on Vimeo.

Many question the quality and “authority” of the data but personally, I am very impressed with accuracy and currency of data, where available. Great free resource. Great cause!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What’s the benefit of gov data warehouses?

In truth, no one really knows as yet but early evidence emerging from the US indicates that initial hopes may have been overly optimistic.

The US government launched a massive data warehouse initiative under brand in 2009. The objective was to put most, if not all, information gathered by various government departments and agencies into the hands of private sector and nonprofit Web and mobile app developers. To jumpstart rapid uptake of that data and provide extra incentive to developers the government sponsored a myriad of code-a-thons and app development competitions through, paying out $38 million to prize-winning developers in the first year. But, as a recent article from Nextgov suggests, “turning government data into private sector products has proved more complicated in practice”.

As this author suggests, the key problems are that many agencies show little interest in devoting dwindling resources to making data more accessible. Agency data publication schedules also are often too slow for the go-go world of mobile apps. In some cases, agencies publish data in difficult-to-manipulate forms such as PDFs, significantly increasing the upfront work for developers who then have to create and organize spreadsheets. And agencies often release new information in a different structure, making it inconsistent with historic information.

Following the example of US government, Australian and British governments also embarked on similar initiatives, and State governments in Australia followed with their own localised versions. The end result is a proliferation of data catalogues with varying degree of useability. However, the biggest hurdle with government data isn't finding it, but getting it quickly and in a form that can be put to immediate use.

All in all, despite a massive effort and significant resources spent on enabling online access to data, many users still prefer to deal with individual agencies to get fast access to that data in a useable format, even if it is delivered via snail-mail on a CD-ROM. Because of this, getting a clear picture of the benefits of establishing data warehouses with free public data will be rather difficult to determine, with a fair dose of accuracy.

Related posts:
Free data a GFC casualty
No copyright on databases and maps?
Governments intensify fee data efforts
UK unlocks vaults of spatial data

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Continental reference image

Late last year Geoscience Australia released the Australian Geographic Reference Image (AGRI), a national mosaic which provides a spatially correct reference image at a 2.5 metre resolution. Base imagery comes from Japan's Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS) and was captured between 2007 and 2010. In total 9,560 corrected scenes were used to generate AGRI. This product is available under Australian Creative Commons 2.5 licence and is supplied by Geoscience Australia on demand for a fee of $250.

AGRI was developed to address the need for a higher resolution reference image, of known accuracy, over the entire Australian continent. There are many potential uses for AGRI, but in particular it is a valuable resource for both users and providers of satellite imagery over Australia. A problem common to all remote sensing is the need to accurately locate observations to the ground (through a process called 'geo-referencing' or, because satellite observations often form images, 'image rectification’ and in some cases 'orthorectification') - to ensure that observations taken at different times and from different satellites and instruments can be compared, and are accurate and consistent.

The most reliable approach is to register all images to a single, controlled image base – a reference image. Geoscience Australia has used this approach since 2002, rectifying images from satellites to the national Landsat panchromatic mosaic. However, the Landsat panchromatic mosaic has an accuracy of no more than fifteen metres so, is not suitable for use with higher resolution imagery available from more recent Earth observation satellites. AGRI is a timely addition and will ensure consistent positional accuracy of high resolution imagery captured all over Australia.

Related posts:
Free imagery for WA
Free high resolution imagery
New elevation and land cover data

Monday, February 20, 2012

UK crime statistics revisited

What a difference 2 years make! In November 2009 I reviewed on this blog the then just released official map of crimes and antisocial behaviour from the National Policing Improvement Agency. I was not overly impressed with the overall functionality of the site and presentation of neighbourhood boundaries on the map. However, the most recent update of the application is a great improvement on the original, well deserving a mention.

The key change is that rather than providing statistics on various types of crimes for many neighbourhoods at the same time (using differently shaded boundaries akin to thematic map), now the information is presented for a single neighbourhood, or an area of 1.5km in radius from user selected point, or individual streets within that radius. The information is updated automatically as users select different types of crimes and/or zoom in and out on the map. Information is refreshed very fast and users can identify approximate locations of all types of crimes, down to street level.

Yet to be implemented improvement is that, from May, users of the crime map will be able to see what happened after a crime was committed, what action was taken by the police and whether anyone was eventually convicted for the crime.

Congratulations to the development team who managed to totally redefine the original concept and develop a very innovative presentation format for a very complex set of statistics. It makes the whole application very simple to use yet very informative. The original site has been visited over 450 million times and is by far and away the most popular UK government website. I have no doubt that the updated version will be even more popular.

First spotted on Google Maps Mania

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Free high resolution imagery

It does not happen very often that something of great value is made available free of charge, and in large quantities. Courtesy of US Government and GeoEye, you can now access some 180,000 scenes, one meter resolution (black and white) and four meter resolution (multi-spectral), captured by OrbView-3 satellite around the world between 2003 and 2007.  The initial data format available is GeoEye's Basic Enhanced (L1B) product.

The OrbView-3 dataset is amongst 170 collections of aerial photography and remotely sensed data catalogued in the National Satellite Land Remote Sensing Data Archive and made available for download (mostly at no cost) via USGS EarthExplorer

Searching of what’s available in locations of interest is very easy with EarthExplorer. For example, just select “Search Criteria” tab on the left of the screen and type in desired location, then select Orbview-3 option in “Data Sets” tab and click on “Results” tab to see a list of available images. Very handy feature of EarthExplorer is the ability to show on the map footprints of available imagery and/or low resolution “browse images” to preview what exactly you will be getting (unfortunately, just as rectangles and not warped images to fit footprints). EarthExplorer is built with Google Maps API so, has very familiar to all user interface.

As spotted on