GGeodata – The Google Spatial Data Infrastructure (GSDI)

Recently, Google announced an extension to its API to pull Map Maker Tiles – something, that was already predicted more than a year ago. Then, shortly after, the news about recent developments related to Google Map Maker – the new directions feature for MapMaker. Also reading about how TomTom is using GPS traits from its customers to improve the quality of their map database, Google’s Street View data coverage and about the new Google Android My Tracks application, that can record tracks from outdoor enthusiasts and then maybe do something not-evil with them… and finally…Blink!

I just can’t help but wonder how long it will take, until Google will have built up its own Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) – the GGeodata – a Google SDI that will join the data pools already available from government mapping agencies, the commercial geodata providers like Tele Atlas or Navteq and the OpenStreetMap project. It looks like Google can already build its own base map for many parts of the world. I always wondered why Google does not use OpenStreetMap data to fill in the gaps in their maps, but licence issues are probably a good explanation why that is not happening.

I could imagine that Your Tracks will soon contribute to an offroad map database. In a similar way, all sorts of GPS tracking data, for instance generated via Latitude could be used to enhance the quantity and quality of the huge data pool that may be fed into the super-analysis machine.

I wonder if someone will figure out how to automatically create a routing enabled network from spatio-temporal tracking data – would be much more convinient than waiting for the crowd to do their volunteering job by digitising and defining attributes. What if you could use geospatial lifeline data (pdf!) and all kinds of other automatically generated tracking data and work out the segments and nodes by aggregating all the data and applying some magic analysis recipe to it. Speed of movement at certain times by a certain amount of people… many things could be inferred…

But how do you gather all the required data if you are not Google or a mobile network operator? Maybe you found OpenGeoSpatialLifelines – but that sounds too complicated for a project title – so how about we just call it OpenLifelines – or even better OpenTraces, and make it a place where people can anonymously share their spatio-temporal location data. Then we would only need the magic recipe – So anyone volunteering to have a go at the algorighm?

Christmas Tree Breeding Ground

First I thought moles, but as we got closer, I knew we finally discovered the secret breeding ground for Christmas Trees. I’ve never really tried geocaching, but I reckon fresh snow geocaches would be heaps of fun – except – when you want to hide a snow-cache you’d need to do some serious planning ahead – if you don’t want to give it away to easily.

Snow Patterns

Exploring the Void

 „Whiteout is a weather condition in which visibility and contrast are severely reduced by snow and diffuse lighting from overcast clouds.“ (from Wikipedia)

Whiteout

What a great day to explore untrodden ground and discover the Void. Chances of getting lost? Pretty good, if you are not familar with the area. Reference points? None! – Hmm, well… your partner. If you’re an expert with the altimeter and the compass – or if you have a GPS device, you can greatly increase your chances to find your way back – after snow and wind have taken care of your tracks. Otherwise, good luck and get ready for the bivvy!

Zipflknight – It’s all about Contrast

Today, I am happy to introduce another new member of our growing Zipflbob family. We haven’t really found a new name for him yet. „Zipflellie“ is up for the vote, but since he’s a boy, that may only make his life harder than necessary. Although the guys from Freakonomics have some interesting theories, which put all this naming philosophy into a new perspective. Anyway – „Dark Knight“ was what first came to my mind when I found him in the woods. And it would only be logical to call him Zipflknight then. His new friends have already given him a nickname – They lovingly call him „Darth“. So while we are looking after the new fellow, he is actually not gonna stay with us for too much longer – his new family has been waiting for him for a while now, and I’m sure they are very much looking forward to meeting him soon – to take him out for some adventures themselves.

Zipflbob - The Dark Knight

The World’s most famous upcoming Zipflbob Race

You may not think this will happen, but secret market research already indicates that by 2012, Zipflbobs sales will tip and by 2023, exceed the number of skis and snowboards sold worldwide. Reason enough for us to do some early research ourselves and explore the racing track of the Zipflbob Word Championships in 2025.

We thought it would be a good idea to inspect the whole race track, so we had an early start and climbed steadily towards the crux of the upcoming Zipflbob run.

Ski Tour Ascent

When we got to the „Mausefalle“, which translates to mouse trap in English, there were already a large number of spectators and officials, preparing for the race. The „Mausefalle“ is the crux of the course, as you take off for a long jump into a near vertical wall (slightly exaggerated) slope.

Mausefalle

Anyway, about half an hour later, the race started and we watched closely, trying to identify the most optimal line racers chose on the course, just ahead of the „Mausefalle“. If you want to stand any chance of winning, it is crucial to reach speeds of 100 km/h and more, before you take off. At the present time, the „Mausefalle“ jump it is yet too dangerous for Zipflbob riders as materials are not designed to tolerate the impact forces when landing. However, technology is moving fast and by 2016, the leading Zipflbob engineers are expected to have developed suspension technologies, which will reduce the landing impact and make it possible to do jumps of 50-70 m, without loosing control and any parts of your body.

Herminator

One of the best lines was chosen by the „Herminator“ – a legend in ski racing and an idol for many Zipflbob racing pioneers as well.

Spectators

We were a bit disappointed that there were only few people watching the race. This is very different to Zipflbob races, where access roads to the Alps have to be closed 2 days before every race, as millions of spectators from all parts of the Worlds are heading for the slopes. Still, – in summary, we were satisfied with what we discovered. The course is tough enough for the Zipflbob World Championships, and we are very much looking forward to 2025.

Zipflbob, Zipfljo and our new family member Zipflmax

Today we took our new family member, Zipflmax, out in the snow for the first time. Of course, he was already very excited when we got into the car, fastened the seat belts and started our drive to the big mountains. Zipflmax had heard about the big mountains a lot before, but this was the first time, he would actually go and see them for real.

Zipflbob Driving Home

After we got out of the car, Zipflbob, Zipfljo and Zipflmax lined up for their first family walk ever – they enjoyed the fresh air, the snow and the exercise outdoors.

Zipflbob Hiking

Zipflmax was happy to come first and he followed the track without once asking how far it still was until the final destination. Good boy! We’ll take you out again.

Zipflbob Day Out