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So you’ve got a GPS

Magnifying GlassA while ago you discovered the cool site that is and you signed up, and uploaded all your holiday photos that you had on your PC to help map out the UK.

Then you went and got a GPS receiver yourself, and you moved onto Geocaching. Nice.

(But you’ve no chance of you ever doing this one that I found today, but if you are in Charleston then you might like to go and seek out the first one I’ve ever planted myself this weekend)

But I wonder if you’ve yet to hear about something which I’ve only just found out about in the last few weeks and am now having much fund with … and that’s to use your GPS receiver to create a free map to rival that of Google. And it’s at

“Why would you want to do that?” I hear you ask. The short answer, as provided by their website, is:

Because that data is copyrighted and owned by people like the Ordnance Survey. Google/whoever just license it. If we used it, we’d have to pay for it.”

But the point is this: Think of it as WikiPedia for maps. Anyone can go out, collect map data, upload, and edit it for any part of the world, and create a totally free and potentially up to date map of the real world.

I’ve already found three fairly major differences between what Google Maps thinks that the roads in Charleston are like, and what they’re actually like in the real world.

Here’s generally how it works:

•Your GPS must be a model that is capable of saving ‘tracks’. (A diagrammatic path of where you’ve been)
•You download theses tracks to your PC when you get home and upload them to the website
•You edit information such as street name, land marks etc…
•Slowly, a free map of the whole world is built up.

Back in ye olde England it seems that quite a lot in urban areas has already been done. But look here in Charleston! Not a lot at all .. which is why it’s time to get mapping and see if I can at the very least do the whole of the downtown/peninsular area and get it all mapped up.

Here’s already two screen shots showing what Charleston looked like about two weeks ago before I started doing it, and a map of how it stands today showing pretty much everywhere that I’ve been in the last two weeks.

Charleston Map

Geeky? Yes. Fun? Most definitely. But out of it all, one of the most fascinating things I’ve discovered is that map makers lie on purpose to protect their data. They hide ‘easter eggs’ – tiny pieces of map data that is deliberately wrong, so that if anyone else copies their maps, then they can use this as proof. Have a read about a road in the UK which is on plenty of maps, but doesn’t actually exist.

I’m off back out to do some more mapping ….

6 responses to “So you’ve got a GPS”

  1. Jono says:

    See? I told you you’d enjoy it!

  2. Kirk says:

    I tried to do this, but their website was so confusingly unusable I gave up.

  3. […] Geoff is putting his GPS to good use, helping to build’s map of Charleston. […]

  4. geofftech says:

    I thought it was a bit tricky and confusing at first, but I kept at it and eventually it all made sense. Go try it again Kirk! It’s obviously only truly fun if you map something that hasn’t been mapped before, or if you find something different in real life to what TeleAtlas/Google say exist.

  5. Richard says:

    Worcester Avenue is the name of the road that runs down the east side of White Hart Lane football ground. It’s labelled as Paxton Road in the A-Z as a deliberate mistake. It’s been chosen because there aren’t any houses on the road (and the main entrance to THFC is on the other side of the ground), so nobody would ever need to know what the correct name of the road was.

    Had a look at the website – it’s got a long way to go before I’d trust it for navigation purposes.

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