Industry News

Development Seed’s data team in Ayacucho, Peru has spun out to form GeoCompas:

I am pleased to announce that the skilled data and annotation team from DevSeed is separating to become an independent employee-owned company called GeoCompas. The Geo AI practice at Development Seed has grown, and the GeoCompas team has been essential in providing crucial mapping, annotation, QA, and automation support. Their expertise in geodata is now available to everyone.

The new company focusses on OpenStreetMap editing, data labelling and annotation for AI projects, but also development of data processing pipelines and web services.

Tom MacWright

In short:

  • MIT license
  • TypeScript codebase
  • Contributions welcome

Placemark is the map editor software-as-a-service that I built for several years. It’s a website where you can import, create, edit, export, publish, and visualize geospatial data.

The code is on GitHub and already receiving contributions.

Sad news from Placemark today, the platform is shutting down in January:

Well, I’ve made the decision to wind down my efforts on Placemark - it’s been a lovely journey thanks to great folks using it (like you!) but ultimately wasn’t self-sustaining financially.

Starting today,

  • New signups will be disabled
  • Existing paid users will have free access until January 19, 2024
  • In January 2024 I’ll release the full source code for the application as open source

The writing has been on the wall since Tom MacWright wrote in January:

I’ve envisioned it as a tool that you can use for simple things but can grow into a tool you use professionally or semi-professionally, but maybe that’s not the future: the future is Canva, not Illustrator.

Tom was the creator and only person who worked on Placemark (as far as I know). It’s hard to compete as a one-person company, when products as impressive Felt launch at the same time.

LAT × LONG on Bluesky

A short programming announcement: In addition to Twitter and Mastodon, I’ve started posting updates to Bluesky.

I also have a couple of Bluesky invites to give away. If you’re interested, shoot me an email at letters@latlong.blog. Yes I prefer email; I’m that old. I’ll send the invites out on a first come, first serve basis. I will be using your email adress for this purpose only, I won’t store your email or sign you up for a newsletter.

I’d like to use the occasion to remind everyone that the feeds are the best way to get notified of new content on the site. No sign-up required, you get full articles delivered to your favourite feed reader, and you get to support the open web.

Geofencing business Radar introduced a new suite of APIs, aiming to get a slice of Google Map’s and Mapbox’ business:

Radar Maps Platform has it all, including base maps, geocoding APIs (forward geocoding, reverse geocoding, IP geocoding), search APIs (address autocomplete, address validation, address autocomplete), routing APIs (distance, matrix, route optimization, route matching, directions), and UI kits (address autocomplete).

Our beautiful vector base maps support classic, dark, and light themes. You can easily add base maps and UI kits to your website with v4 of the Radar JavaScript SDK.

There is nothing ground-breaking in the announcement; the features offered in the platform are the pretty standard. But Radar’s pricing is competitive, so you might as well keep this one on our radar. (Yeah, I love a rubbish pun.)

A new map style has been added to the OpenStreetMap site:

It’s a mix of osm-carto and OpenTopoMap. It has many improvements: more tag support (busway, embankment, cuisine, solar plants, aquaculture, pitch, sea, tree etc.), CJK fonts, etc. There is also better internationalisation: country specific road shields, peaks using imperial system in the US, hierarchical place rendering in China, etc.

South-eastern Australia rendered in Tracestack Topo

Zoomed in, it looks a lot like the standard OSM styled. In lower zoom levels, it reminds me of school atlases I grew up with. Very nice.

Stamen won’t be hosting their iconic and very popular map tiles any more. Instead, Stadia Maps will host Stamen’s maps tiles going forward:

We’re partnering with Stadia to move our tiles to their servers, and working closely with them to make sure that our beloved map styles keep running well into the future, and better than ever. They’re experts in running well-maintained map serving infrastructure. For most users, switching over will be as simple as setting up a Stadia account, and changing a few lines of code. For most non-commercial customers, there’ll be no service disruption, no tracking, and the price tag will continue to be free.

Stamen’s tile service will be discontinued in October; until then existing tile URLs will redirect to Stadia’s servers.

What this means:

  • You’ll need a Stadia Maps account.
  • You need to point your application to the Stadia URLs by October.
  • You might have to pay if you’re application serves more than 200,000 tiles per month or if you’re using the tiles with a commercial application.
  • All Stamen map designs will be ported to Stadia, and most styles are now available as Vector tiles too.

Considering Stadia’s generous free tier this is a fair compromise. Stamen generously made their tiles available for free for a very long time. Running a tile service needs people and the infrastructure costs money, and we can’t take it for granted that a small cartography shop provides an essential service for free forever.

Radiant Earth announced two initiatives to further the development and sharing of machine-learning models and the adoption of cloud-native formats for geospatial data.

Source Cooperative aims to provide a marketplace for machine-learning models and training data:

Source Cooperative builds upon Radiant MLHub’s legacy as a neutral and trustworthy data publishing platform and will enable the publication of a wider variety of datasets in addition to machine learning training data products and machine learning models. For anyone who has any kind of data or machine learning models that they need to share, Source Cooperative will allow them to upload it, define how open they want it to be, and even charge for it if they want to.

It sounds a bit like GitHub, but for machine-learning models and training data, with integrated monetisation. The new platform will replace Radiant MLHub, which will end operations in October 2023, and all data will be migrated to Source Cooperative.

Cloud-Native Geospatial Foundation aims to advance the adoption and development of cloud-native geospatial data formats through educational materials and supporting software development efforts.

Both activities are in very early stages with very little detail. You can contribute by participating in community surveys for each initiative.

Felt added support for raster data like GeoTIFF, XYZ tile services and images:

Today we are announcing three new features that make raster files easier to work with than ever before:

  • The ability to upload raster files as layers on your map.
  • The ability to add any XYZ URL from sources such as Planet, or other imagery providers, which will dynamically load external imagery.
  • A set of purpose-built OSM layers, such as streets and building footprints, to complete your map quickly.

There’s a real danger that this is becoming a Felt fan blog but they keep delivering well-designed and useful features that strip away a lot of the complexity that comes from working with geospatial data. While we have seen most Felt’s functionality before in traditional GIS, their approach to reimagining known functionality to make map making more accessible to non-GIS crowds is truly ground-breaking.

Dylan Loeb McClain, New York Times:

Ms. Norwood, a physicist, was the person primarily responsible for designing and championing the scanner that made the program possible.

[…]

Ms. Norwood, who was part of an advanced design group in the space and communications division at Hughes, canvassed scientists who specialized in agriculture, meteorology, pollution and geology. She concluded that a scanner that recorded multiple spectra of light and energy — like one that had been used for local agricultural observations — could be modified for the planetary project that the Geological Survey and NASA had in mind.

Rebecca Bellan and Ingrid Lunden, reporting for TechCrunch:

Last month, when transportation startup Via raised $110 million at a $3.5 billion valuation, CEO Daniel Ramot said it planned to make acquisitions to grow its transportation technology stack. Now, a piece of that strategy is falling into place: today the company is announcing its acquisition of Citymapper, the London startup that produces a popular urban mapping app.

I always loved Citymapper. When it came out, it offered a better experience for public-transport routing than Google Maps. I remember moving to London, and Citymapper was a lifesaver; I could not imagine how anyone would navigate the city without it.

But then, I never understood how they were making money—if any. Citymapper offers memberships, which enable additional routing modes, but I don’t think bus-only routing convinces many people to pay for the service. They also sold public-transport passes in London at discounted rates and, more recently, the app’s free tier contained ads. This acquisition is about talent and technology rather than removing a competitor from the field.

AWS is extending Amazon Location Service, their range of geospatial products, with “Open Data Maps”. It offers four base maps developers can use as background maps in their applications: A light and dark standard map, plus a light and dark monochrome design as a background for data visualisations. The maps were designed by Stamen and are mainly based on OpenStreetMap data via Daylight.

Open Data Maps will be a serious option for organisations with high usage, which serve more than 200,000 tiles each month. The pricing for map tiles is quite competitive and lower than that of similar products from Mapbox or MapTiler.

Number of tiles served AWS Mapbox MapTiler
100,000 $3.50 $0.00 $0.00
200,000 $7.00 $0.00 $25.00
300,000 $10.50 $25.00 $25.00
500,000 $17.50 $75.00 $25.00
1,000,000 $35.00 $200.00 $75.00

After OSMCha, OpenStreetMap US now also supports MapRoulette as a Charter Project.

MapRoulette is a vital tool within the broader OpenStreetMap ecosystem, guiding mappers to areas needing contributions.

MapRoulette serves the mapping community as a user-friendly tool for systematic improvement of completeness, quality and accuracy of map data. Mappers from over 70 countries review more than 40,000 tasks a month. More than 330,000 changesets in 2022 alone can be directly attributed to MapRoulette.

With Charter Projects, OpenStreetMap US aims to ensure long-term stewardship of critical open-source tools for OpenStreetMap. It provides projects with a home and the ability to raise funds for further development.