Mapillary, an app developed by Lund University senior lecturer Jan Erik Solem, crowdsources street view images. The company has now joined forces with OpenStreetMap, the world’s biggest free, editable map service.
If you live in a small town, or have booked a vacation in a remote location, you’ve probably encountered this problem: there are no street view images available of a place you’d like to see - or they’re years out of date. Jan Erik Solem at the Department of Mathematics has set out to solve some of these problems, by handing over control to users worldwide.
The concept is simple: anyone can download the Mapillary app for iPhones, Android, Windows phones, or action cameras. You then take photos of a chosen location and upload them. Within minutes, your photos are combined with every other photo of that location, and viewable online.
So what does the collaboration with OpenStreetMap mean? It translates two separate streams of crowdsourced data into an improved, integrated experience, Solem says:
”Mapillary is now the photo layer in OpenStreetMap’s editor. This means that if someone takes photos with Mapillary’s app, those photos will be immediately available for anyone editing the map elsewhere in the world. You could be taking photos in one part of the world, and someone else could be editing and fixing the map a few minutes later in some other part of the world”, he explains.
Since its launch in February of this year, Mapillary’s small but active user base has collected 4.5 million photos, or three laps around the Equator. According to Solem, the idea for the app pre-dated the launch by many years.
”The timing was never right, since the technology was never there. I think it’s only in the last year or two that smartphone cameras are good enough, sensors are good enough, internet connectivity is good enough for users around the world to use the devices in their pockets. A few years ago we couldn’t have built Mapillary”, he concludes.
Jan Erik Solem