During a quiet weekend recently at the Nitte Mahalinga Adyanthaya Memorial Institute of Technology, 21 of its students created a bit of a stir with a ‘mapping party'.
Using GPS-enabled Android mobile phones and Free (non-proprietary) software, they added hitherto unmapped locations and updated corrected details of places to OpenStreetMaps (OSM). And all this was done based on data collected from people, and not from governments or commercial entities.
They added details of Mangalore, Varanasi, Ranchi, Kozhikode, and two places around Karkala — the Gommateshwara statue and St. Lawrence Church.
One of the students, Dishant, said they used the OSM Tracker for Android phones. The ‘New Track' feature recorded the coordinates, creating a path tracing their movements from place A to B. Details such as paths, shops, bus-stops, bridges, phones, highways and stairs were added through it. In JOSM software they added text, shapes and marked paths and then uploaded these to online maps.
The draw for most participants in the initiative was that the method allowed anybody to add data. The students said getting more people to participate in data collection made maps “richer”.
“Any person with an Android phone who wants to contribute to open maps can do it… because one person can't get all the data,” said Aadarsh.
According to Vedaj, OSM allowed him to add details to a map that anybody could access. It was “a way to contribute and serve society”. As there was little he could add to the well-mapped Kozhikode, Vedaj said he enjoyed the activity because teamwork made the data collected more accurate. “Even if there is a mistake, someone will correct it. Doing it alone is difficult,” he said.
Akash Jaiswal and his teammate directly added Machchodri Park and Swaminarayan Temple to the Varanasi map.
Praful Kumar from Ranchi added St. Xavier's College, Harmu Ground (“where Dhoni played cricket”) and Pherayalal Chowk. Chaitra Nayak, Aadarsh and friends added details to the Mangalore city map.
Pavitran, an OSM community contributor who led the team, believed that the final product would help anyone who wanted to use a map. “The best part about these maps is that you can get your own version. Unlike Google, it is free to copy, modify, redistribute and there are no legal issues with that,” he said.
The students said they mapped 80 per cent of Nitte, including details of their college hostels, stadium, quadrangle, roads and the “Maggie Shop”.
Aadarsh added the KSRTC bus-stand, Bharat Mall and Bejai to the Mangalore map.
Keywords: Android mobiles