Norc, a Romanian company, is providing “street-level imaging” a.k.a. Street View for selected Central and Eastern European countries:
According to their website, the current coverage includes:
- Romania – Bucharest, Ploiesti and Prahova Valley, Constanta and the Seaside, Brasov and Poiana Brasov, Cluj-Napoca, Timisoara, Iasi, Sibiu, Pitesti, Targoviste
- Austria – Vienna
- The Czech Republic – Prague, Brno
- Slovakia – Bratislava, Trnava, Kosice, Banska-Bystrica, Zilina, Nitra
- Poland – Warsaw, Krakow, Poznan, Wroclaw
- Russia – Moscow
The interface is compared to Google’s Street View still a little rough around the edges, but otherwise, Norc did a fantastic job!
However, it would be interesting to know if Norc has developed its own business model based on their Street View services, and how it would work, or if they are just preparing to become the next Google snack.
What’s the point of having a national mapping agency when even semi-public agencies like our Umweltbundesamt (environmental agency) are doing data dissemination based on Google Maps and Geonames? [via joesonic]
Speaking of paleogeography is in that case certainly appropriate: neogeography makes the national mapping agency look like an endangered species. Even though I never really liked the terms and heated discussions about paleo- vs. neogeography. To me, paleogeography sounds way too negative for what it actually does. Paleogeography still provides a major part of the backend and a lot of necessary knowledge for the so called Geoweb. Period.
While neogeography is the cool thing. It’s fresh, slick, easy to use and attracts a lot of bright people outside the geography area who are doing amazing things with geographic information. Personally I see myself somewhere in between and try to get the best out of both.
Obviously some paleo organizations, like our national mapping agency is for instance, should look slightly to the left and to the right of their very straight path. It seems they are still serving the geo market of the last century. Their traditional products, like the topographic and cadastral maps, are certainly great and important works, but in the meantime they have to face the fact that the geo market has a little changed in the last couple of years.
Believe it or not, even in Austria there are map based businesses growing. Companies or start-ups who arrange their business models around easy and affordable access to local geographic information. Most of them depend on the goodwill of global players like Google or Microsoft. The EC usually is very quick when it comes to express concerns about monopolies of those companies and threaten them with law suits. I think, as for the geo market, the European mapping agencies have enough resources – in terms of geo data, infrastructure and knowledge – to throw into the game. They are powerful enough to compete with the big players, provide alternative map services and eventually support local economies. If they only wanted to.
Besides, the above mentioned example shows very well the benefits of neogeography for the public sector and that there is growing demand for such technologies.
So, again, where is the point of keeping a huge tax funded public body when it rejects to move on, serve current public needs, support local economies and public wealth?
Last week an interesting email dropped in my inbox. It links to a decree of the Spanish Ministry of Public Works (Ministerio de Fomento) about the Spanish geodata policy.
One paragraph of the decree is obviously talking about the INSPIRE directive, guaranteeing free public access to basically nothing more than metadata and pretty overview thumbnails of available public geodata.
While most European national mapping agencies stop at that point by just implementing catalog services and pretty map thumbnails, the Spanish government goes further: although I’m afraid my Spanish is not good enough to interpret legal documents 100% correctly, I think the email author is right saying the document talks about free access and (non-commercial, attribution) use of Spanish public geodata.
Artículo 3. Servicios de acceso, análisis y procesamiento en línea y distribución.
3. La descarga por medios telemáticos en línea, utilizando los servicios de información geográfica habilitados por el CNIG, para uso no comercial realizada por el usuario de la información geográfica producida por el IGN, será gratuita.
Artículo 7. Uso libre y gratuito.
La licencia de uso libre y gratuito será única y tendrá el siguiente alcance:
a) Exclusivamente para usos no comerciales.
b) Su concesión llevará implícito el compromiso de citar al Instituto Geográfico Nacional como autor y propietario de la información.
This is a MAJOR step for European geodata policy and it’ll be interesting to see if other governments will follow the excellent Spanish example.
The JRC recently published the report “Socio-Economic Impact of SDI” (62 pages pdf), clearly emphasizing the benefits of free public geodata:
8.2 Political and social impact
The socio-political impact areas of IDEC, in line with the objectives of the INSPIRE programme, affect a broad array of users, especially those linked to the public sector and to serving the general public (e.g. public administration, public services, and universities), such that the entire community benefits from access to information and spatial data. Nevertheless, this is an ongoing process that demands a change in mentality towards a culture of shared data, in which the contributions of each party enrich the whole and can be shared by all. Freeing this information will ultimately enable everyone to prosper from general social and economic development.
So there is hope that one day European taxpayers can freely access and use the products created with their own tax money.
Yesterday we found out about the NUTS region codes update at EUROSTAT. Today I had the chance to dig a little deeper and try to find a workaround for non-matching regional data. So far we’ve got an updated EUROSTAT which looks, in combination with non-updated GISCO geographic data something like this:
The map illustrates the coverage of available regional data in Europe. For testing I’ve chosen an unproblematic regional indicator which is usually available for entire Europe: population 2004 on NUTS3 level.
A verbal description of all region code changes can be found in this document. The map above visualizes most changes (because change = no data available any more).
It used to be possible to cover EU27 (with a few region code tweaks even Romania and Bulgaria), EFTA and candidate countries. Seriously, that’s not my understanding of a successful data update.
However, all overview maps I’ve seen so far (well, only those in the *new directory* of the NUTS documentation) are already updated to NUTS 2006 codes. So there is hope that GISCO updates the downloadable data soon.
The definitive geographical dataset with the new NUTS 2006 boundaries is presently under development. We expect that the data will be ready for downloading before the end of May.
What’s TIGER in the US, is GISCO in Europe. Not quite as detailed and up to date but at least free to use under following conditions:
a) the data will not be used for commercial purposes;
b) the source will be acknowledged. A copyright notice, as specified below, will have to be visible on any printed or electronic publication using the data downloaded from this page.
The available geodata is aimed to use in combination with other EUROSTAT products (which are also available for free on their website) in the first place. The scale is too small for detailed map production and on most layers the date is indicated with 199x.
If the left hand of EUROSTAT would know what the right hand is doing, everybody who is interested could now start creating statistical maps and analysis across Europe by simply downloading all necessary data. Unfortunately it’s not as easy as it seems to be: the left hand changed the statistical units in Europe (NUTS), while the other hand didn’t. So what we now have is a statistical database using new region codes and a geographic database using old region codes. Needless to say that a lot of GIS out there, working with EUROSTAT data, are now somewhat screwed because geographic and statistical data doesn’t match anymore. A workaround until updated geodata is available is not using the NUTS3 level, NUTS2 (and larger) data seems less problematic. Not the best solution if you’re in the field of regional analysis of course.
Just one more detail on today’s EUROSTAT confusion:
Apparently the www-directory was copied. One copy was updated. Now which one of both sites holds the correct information? All bookmarks lead to the old one, no hint (or redirect??) that the entire site has moved and was updated…
Regarding interoperability and openness, the downloadable geodata comes as ESRI Personal Geodatabase 9.2, not sure how many GIS applications can cope with that file format. Whereas provided metadata is excellent, well, GISCO already had excellent metadata in 2001.
Michael has an interesting post about an unlocked iPhone running under the Austrian carrier One (recently acquired by French Orange). Hmm, I really wonder whose iPhone this may is…
So there is no reason to sign one of those rumored and ridiculous iPhone mobile plans to get the super gadget.
This is a great user-generated map, showing minority groups across Europe:
View Larger Map
Sadly enough some of our politicians see the diversity of this continent as threat rather than as potential and I bet they would love to ethnically “clean house” if only they could. [via Google LatLong]
Tragedies like the fires in Greece show the importance of programs such as GMES, an European initiative for Global Monitoring for Environment and Security. One aim of those efforts is immediate deployment of valid and high quality earth observation data in case of environmental disasters to support crisis management (e.g. ESA satellite imagery of the fires in Greece). But what’s worth the best data when there are no authorities to address with… [via heise]