Crowdsourced mapping with Mapillary (on a bike)

I’ve been riding my bike around town running the Mapillary.com app on my iPhone since April 1. The app takes photos automatically and then uploads them to their server, where they get geocoded and added to a map, much like Google’s streetview. (Google has only driven through town once, in 2011, and they only mapped a very small portion of town for streetview). Mapillary is not nearly as advanced as Google, but since anyone with a smartphone can contribute photos, it’s a handy way to capture snapshots of town.

Take a look a the streets and paths I’ve mapped so far, and feel free to contribute your own images using the Mapillary app for iPhone or Android.

You can explore the map here:
http://mapillary.com/map/imgl/lZH7a0xPBikhL7KP-DNR6g/photo

When I started doing this, I quickly discovered that I needed a good way to secure my iPhone to my bike and I needed a battery case for my phone so I could take more photos in a session. Without a battery case, I was limited to taking photos for about 30 minutes before my phone died. With a battery case, I don’t worry much about running out of power.

Here are a few tips if you’d like to try this yourself:

  • Get a handlebar mount that holds the phone perpendicular to the ground, like the Velocity Clip. Most iPhone handlebar mounts are intended for looking at the screen while riding, not taking photos, so they don’t really work.
  • Use a battery case, like the Mophie Juice Pack Plus
  • Turn off wifi and bluetooth while riding to extend your battery life
  • Press the + sign in the Mapillary app often to create new sequences
  • Review your photos in the app before uploading. I end up with a lot of 45-degree pictures of trash cans and parked cars when I make U-turns on my bike. It’s a lot easier to delete these bad pictures before they’re added to the Mapillary server.
  • Ride super slowly on sand, dirt, gravel or seashell roads. Speed and bumpy surfaces result in blurry photos.
  • Keep the sun behind you and shoot mid-day when shadows are lessened.
  • Don’t bother taking photos when it’s dark or really cloudy. Blue skies result in the best photos.
  • Stop, get off the bike, and take some panoramas or short walking sequences.

One of the best things about Mapillary is that you can document places that a Google streetview car could never go. Here in town, that means alleys, town landings, walking paths in the woods, the beaches, and, of course, the Province Lands Bike Trail.

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