Years ago, maps were made by organisations like the Ordnance Survey, with teams of experts poring over the globe to gather data that would then remain unchanged for years. Even as the digital age dawned, online mapping companies still employed their own people to gather data, with little input from those who would end up using it.
However, times have changed and now anyone with a smartphone can join in with one of several large-scale, crowdsourced mapping projects. The benefits of this are enormous, with updates being made in real-time by the people who are using it and individuals being able to add tiny, local details that may otherwise escape the attentions of the large mapping companies. We’re taking a look at some of the most interesting crowdsourced mapping projects available for your smartphone.
This app has a great deal of potential to aid mobile users, especially when they’re choosing which network to sign up to. Collecting data from anyone who downloads the app, Open Signal creates a map of mobile coverage across the world, breaking it down into particular details such as 2G, 3G and 4G networks.
Small towns and even some remotes areas are covered by the map’s data, making Open Signal a useful tool for anyone who’s trying to work out which network to sign up to.
Open Street Maps is one of the biggest names in crowdsourced mapping, and this app is the service’s mobile incarnation. Along with access to the maps themselves, including the option to download them for offline use, the app allows users to edit them.
This gives people the opportunity to add to one of Open Street Maps’ most endearing features, the collection of minor details that only someone local to an area would now about. This can include things as insignificant as park benches, making Open Street Maps a truly unique resource.
Waze is another big name in crowdsourced mapping which helps drivers to avoid heavy traffic and other problems. Using information generated by its users, it updates in real-time so you’ll know exactly what’s going on as it happens.
A team of editors also work to crunch user data into the maps and update them with any road-layout changes, making Waze an excellent source of road information. The service is so well developed that Google has recently made moves to include its findings in Google Maps.
Without doubt the most unusual app on this list, and one which differs from the others in many ways. Sickweather trawls social networks for references that people have made to being ill, then adds these to a map.
Users will then be alerted when they are entering an area in which people have recently claimed to be ill. Preferences can even be set that differentiate between the types of illnesses to which you are alerted, including the likes of chicken pox and whooping cough, making this an unusual exercise in public health and well being.