Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Urban Diary London Map

The map of the last three weeks keyed by participant. The dotted lines indicate connections within a trip sequence but without proper GPS signal.

Image by UrbanTick for UrbanDiary using the to convert the data

There are a number of patterns showing up now. On of the main ones is the difference between workweek and weekend. The workdays are back and forward movement between home and the work place. The London characteristic here is a sort of a star shape. People live outside and travel linear into the centre and back out. For some participants the workweek tracks are only two little islands on the map, connected through a doted line, as a lot of traveling is underground.
The weekend travel pattern on the other hand is mainly around the home location and tends to be directed outwards. Very often this is directed by the location of friends and family.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

The Puls of the Transport Network

The puls of the transport network does play a big role in the constitution of the cities puls. The pace of the departure of the public transport, the frequency of the stops, but also the location of the stations spatially drive this rhythm. Any live tracking transport site gives a good idea of the puls of the transport network.
The following visualisation of the commuter trains around Copenhagen give a really good impression of the frequency. It represents the realtime position of each train on an abstract network map.

Image by Jim Larsen / Click HERE to see the live map. Works best in Firefox or Safari

The time laps captured at a tube station visualizes the puls from a different angle and show how the arrival and departure of trains pump the commuters through the network.

tlCTstationFull_090127 from urbanTick on Vimeo

The Puls of the Planet

An animation to visualize the puls of the world was created by using phone call data. Centered on New York, the puls is generated visualizing the amount of phone calls going to or from which part of the world to or from NY.
The different time zones influence this rhythm, also does the day and night cycle.

The size of the area shrinks or grows according to the phone call data and international cities with the highest amount of calls are highlighted.

pulse of the planet from sarah barns on Vimeo.

produced by MIT SENSable City Lab

Friday, 20 February 2009

London Diary - Week Two

It has been a busy week, as always. The data collection this week was again good, with some nice tracks. To the disappointment of some participants, the pattern has been VERY similar to last weeks. Unfortunately our lives do not quite cover as much ground in the city as we might like to think, the routines we follow are rather strong. Nevertheless, to find that the perception is different is already a good finding.
But have a look yourself, here is a clip generated from the data.

UrbanDiary_2W_090219 from urbanTick on Vimeo.

A different view gives the following clip. Here, the data is replayed in 24H, so all the records played in one day. The coverage shows that there is activity throughout the day, except the early morning hours. Between 02h00 and 07h00 there is a big gab in activity. The rest of the time 07h00 to midnight and beyond is very active. What is a bit misleading here is that the weekend activities are squeezed in together with the weekday activities. From the clip above we have seen that the activity pattern between the two vary a lot. The next step would be to find a visualization that clearly focuses on this problem.

UD_dayIcon_090220 from urbanTick on Vimeo.

You can see last week’s visuals here.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

London Diary Visualisation in GeoTime

After a lot of complicated file manipulations, the data is in a format or better in a location or just is set up to be usable. Well, it is not exactly complicated to handle the data, I was just not quite sure how best to store it. The main problem is the date format, a misinterpretation seems to happen during one of the steps, still have to figure out where exactly.
So it took a few trial and error investigations to figure out what might be usable. The solution for the moment is gpx to csv to database and then to put into Google Earth or GeoTime it has to go back into a csv to Excel.
So from Excel it can simply be linked to GeoTime. While installing GeoTime it will automatically install the GeoTime Excel Plug-In that can then be use to link the open spreadsheet to GeoTime. There is a setup to be made but this is rather straightforward, basically telling GeoTime which column of the spreadsheet contains what kind of information. Several different settings can be saved for later use, which is great, as it is likely that the same source will be used a number of times. Then the data is in GeoTime after some processing. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Image by urbanTick - Screen shot from GeoTime

Funny enough, this time the meeting query tool works. After failing to use it in my first go with the Plymouth365 data, I was tempted to get this to work with the new UD data set. And there you go it worked right away. I guess I was just not patient enough with the larger PLY365 set, it probably just takes long, longer than I was willing to wait....
Anyway, interesting who has meet during this first week of data collection. Surprisingly, some people who do not know one another have actually met within a few minutes time difference in the same location. According to the data they just crossed path briefly, but still.

Screen shots from GeoTime, showing meetings in space and time - by urbanTick

Telling from those screen shots, GeoTime’s ability to output information apart from the screen is pretty bad. As a designer and visual person I want much more control over this than this program offers. It is essentially a screen shot in png format. It should at least offer an option to output some vector format to allow further use and especially endless sizing options.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Mini Tracker as Tiny Backpacks

So far research on bird travel and migration behavior was largely guesswork, especially the actual bit of traveling. It is well known where they life and what their destination of migration is over the course of the seasons. What is largely unknown is the bit in between. What is their exact rout of travel, how fast do they travel and how often do they rest, these are the main questions regarding bird migration behavior.
Scientists have tested many techniques, from banding a bird's legs (which was until recently the most successful of the methods), to tracking flocks with radar to even using satellites, all with not much success.
It is known that birds can fly at a rather fast speed of around 60 miles and hour and that they do travel almost half way around the globe during their migration. Biologists now where interested in the details of this knowledge but to receive new data they had to find a new method of observing the birds’ movement.
A new mini tracking device has enabled researchers at York University in Toronto to tag rather small songbirds. The main problem here is the weight. Engineers at the British Antarctica Survey have developed a small light weigh tracker to follow the trips of albatrosses, rather large birds. The scientists at York where able to minimize the technology to a total weight of 1.5 gram. It sits on the birds back and is hold in place with two straps around their legs, just like a miniature backpack. The sensor is not exactly a GPS, it is a solar geolocator. It collects and store data in relation to the sun.
A total of 34 purple martin birds where tagged in summer 2007. Only seven of them could be recaptured a year later. Nevertheless the data was exiting. The data showed that the birds flew two to six times faster going north, than going south. Researchers also discovered that they actually flew much faster than initially guessed. Information about the stopover points will help to protect birds, especially songbirds that are in steep decline.

Image by (main) Patrick M Kramer; (inset) Tim Morton - A purple martin bird wearing a geolocator.

Image source NYTimes/Science

infos from NYTimes/science/environment
and from scienceno.sciencemag

Friday, 13 February 2009

Underwater - Google Earth Beta 5.0

Google released this month a new 5.0 Beta version of Google Earth. The main new feature is the water. So far the oceans were just blue surfaced with little detail. In Google Earth 5.0 the oceans have become part of the (virtual) world and user can explore the “all new” underwater world.

This is a great feature and I imagine the beauty of the detail if someone starts implementing the rising water level. Not only on the level of climate change and catastrophes, but more on the level of the daily cycle of the tide. This was kind of the trigger for my research topic in the first place. The project of the floating city in the Thames Estuary, were the ever changing sea level was a research field and had a great impact on the project. To capture this rhythm in Google Earth would be great.

There is also a new time line, redesigned and a lot bigger. On the PowerBook screen it takes quite a lot of room that is annoying. But I’ll see how it improves the handling, as I will use it in the next few days. The new timeline makes also a series of older aerial photographs accessible. It is now possible to follow the change of a place over time using a series of older imagery.

Recording is now a feature of the free Google Earth version. So far only users who bought a license of the popular visualisation tool
had the option to record their trips on the (virtual) planet. Now everyone can record and share recorded trips including sound - live comments. The focus is on recorded TRIPS, it really is only a record of the navigation done within Google Earth and not a real movie. It is not possible to exchange these recordings other than as kml/kmz files and you need Google Earth to replay these files. You can exchange them though, but not as real movie clips like it is possible in the pied version of Google Earth.

One more new thing is the GPS direct import. Google has now discontinued the $20 version of Google Earth and implemented the GPS track importing function in the free version. It covers still the same functions as it did three years back, meaning only Garmin/Magelan and NMEA support.
I have not been able to get it to work though so far with my serial to USB connection to read directly from my Garmin Forerunner. I have been doing this back when I still had the paid version, but I remember it to be very difficult and each time a number of attempts to connect to the right port were needed. It would scan through all the available port one by one and the eventually hock to the right one. I am suspecting that Google decided not to support the serial connection any longer.

Image by urbanTick - Screen shot Google Earth GPS import window

London Diary - week one

A short clip to visualize different peoples movement over the period of one week in London. It is a first test with a number of participants using Garmin GPS devices.
The data returned is actually better than expected, although there is a lot of errors, even in the city centre there is often a signal.
For a better visualization the day and night feature of Google Earth was used to clearly mark the passage of time. It’s sweet how they all rest in their place when it is dark, and then start off early in the morning. The weekend has been used by a number of participants to make trips, sometimes quite far, in most cases to visit relatives or friends.

UDp_090212_GoEa from urbanTick on Vimeo.

Animation produced in Excel and with a converter by Bill Clark brought to Google Earth

Looking forward to get to work with the data from next week.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Wi-Fi Access Point in Paris Destrict 13

Mapping the Wi-Fi access points in Paris 13th District this animation was produced by

The mapping was done wile walking the streets with a Nokia N95 and N80 with an external GPS sensor. The dots size represents the amount of networks logged at the location.
The growth of the network probably corresponds more with the chosen route, but the density of the map reveals something about the use and maybe the configuration of the spaces indicated.

GeoTime - First Steps

Today I have finally got round to install and try the software GeoTime on my computer here. Oculous kindly offered a license to run some trials on with my data.
It installed all very smoothly and the process is straight forward. I had to click through a few pages of the tutorial files to get the data to appear in GeoTime, but here it is.

Image by urbanTick - data Plymouth365 - full extend (I should use a cleaned up data set, those GPS errors pop out too much...)

Image by urbanTick - Data Plymouth365, zoomed in to the city, very colour full

It is the same data set used in visualizations earlier, as in Plymouth aquarium.
The data was imported using excel and following some advice from the tutorial pages. GeoTime seems to be very picky with the kml files. I didn’t get one of those to show. Exporting to kmz works fine and looks good in Google Earth. The exported file is truly time tagged, this means the time feature can be used and the data can be replayed.
Image by UrbanTick - GeoTime export to Google Earth

Some analysis functions sound really interesting. I finally got the meeting analysis function to work. This would be very interesting, have to work on this.
Great are the isolating features, where it is possible to only display data with certain characteristics, for example a time frame.

Image by urbanTick - data Plymouth365

Image by urbanTick

There is more to come, this will occupy the next weeks to work trough my data with this new tool.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Cab Spotting San Francisco - 3d Visualization

A visualization of the cab traffic in the San Franciso bay area combined with information of the shuttle rada topography mission.

Cabspotting vs SRTM from kns von Rhein on Vimeo.

See lso some stills on Fickr here. Thanx to Kons for the link.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

The tracking - Foretrex tutorial

The devices are here, and I can start recording peoples movement. I have a bunch of Garmin Foretrex 201 devices and will give them out to volunteers to track them around the city. The intention is to collect information about the spatial extend of everyday routines.


This preliminary study will show how useful the data is and what measures I have to take to improve them in the following sets of tracking. Of course I am expecting some problems, especially with signal strength (as it takes place in central London), but I’ll see what the returned data is.

Here is a quick introduction on how to use the Foretrex 201:
The GPS needs a sky view to establish a satellite connection. This can take a few minutes from a cold start. To establish the exact location, signals from four different satellites are required, hence the symbol on page one (see bellow). The accuracy of the positioning depends on several factors. This includes weather, location, landscape and built environment. It is not easy to receive a proper signal in central London. The main difficulty is to establish a signal, once it is established, the Foretrex is quite good in maintaining it.
On Public Transport a window seat is required to receive a signal. Tube will obviously not receive a signal and after leaving the tube station, the device will need to establish a new connection. It will do so automatically.
The device does record the track by default. There is no need to save something.

01 -Use the POWER button (red) to turn the device on. The welcome screen will show up with UT-00 and urbanTick. After a second or so it does automatically switch to the satellite page.
There are five main pages on the device. Use the PAGE button to switch between these pages.


02- Second after the Satellite page is the Map page. This shows the recorded tracks so far. The little symbol in the middle indicates direction and movement. The ARROW buttons to the far right can be used to zoom in and out of the map.


03 - The Navigation page follows. It provides a compass (only if a satellite connection was established).


04 - Fourth page is displaying the Time by default. With the ARROW buttons some more information like speed and altitude can be accessed.


05 - The fifth and last page is the menu for setup and storage. It is used to access the device settings and organize stored waypoints, tracks or routes.


The five pages wrap round. So after page five comes page one again.

The PAGE button is also used to go out of menus. Whereas the ENTER button is the complementary to this, for selecting or entering a menu. The AERROW buttons are used to navigate.

In case the device freezes, the PAGE and POWER button have to be pressed continuously for about five seconds to turn off the device.

If you stay indoors for some time, the device might recognize and ask you. If you enter yes, the device will turn off the GPS signal receiver in order to save power. To turn the GPS signal receiver back on as you leave the building, just use the POWER button to turn the device off and back on.


In case the device cannot locate a satellite outdoors, it might ask you the same question. As you are not indoors, you enter no. The device will he come up with a second dialogue to ask you whether you have moved for a great distance. Here you can say yes and the device will do a more intense satellite check and you should get a signal.


Charging will need about six hours. It can be left over night. For charging the device needs to be connected via the Cradle. If the Foretrex is turned off whilst charging it will show a charging symbol on the scree. As it is fully charged it should then display charging complete. According to the manufacture, the battery lasts for about 15 hours. This means charging i required about every two days.

For further and more detailed information please refer to the official Garmin QuickGuide or the full Handbook.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Google Latitude - Tracking Service and Social Network a la Google

Google officially started a new Location based service today called Google Latitude. It is kind of a location based social network and capable of showing the location of friends and family members. “See where your friends are in real time!” is the phrase Google uses to introduce it.

Users need to download software to their mobile device. From the mobile browser, one has to visit and follow the instructions.
There is a list of devices that work with the new service, but basically it is the Android powered T-Mobile G1, Blackberry, Windows 5.0 and Symbian S60 devices. IPhone and iPod touch will be coming soon and so will Java-enabled phones.
The network can also be accessed through the Google page. In case you are not on the go you can still follow your friends location updates from the computer after login in to your Google account. It is also possible to share the computers (presumably laptop) location trough the Wi-Fi access point.
The service is said to work in 27 Countries and will be free but most likely involve some cost from your mobile phone provider.

Picking up from the online discussion going on about these kinds of services, there are privacy concerns regarding this type of service/information. An other similar project called Loopt has introduced an “override“ feature that allows users to put in their location manually and basically ”lie“ about the location they are at. A similar option should be in Google Latitude. (from, by Richard Waters in San Francisco, Published: February 4 2009 06:19)

Other companies that offer location bas social networking services are Brightkite, Loopt or Pocket Life by Vodafone. They all seem to be in their beta stage, but are fairly busy as it looks like. The devices they work with vary a lot. So if your device is not supported by one service just try an other one. Particularly Brightkite seems to accept basically any mobile phone.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

How Disruption Reminds us of the Routine we Follow

Suddenly after our everyday activities are interrupted, one naturally is reminded of how smooth it “normally” works out. Yesterday’s weather condition has brought London to a stand still and even today there is plenty of reasons to stay home. In the news the routines are the big topic. The articles cover the whole range from complaints to positive remarks about the capitals happiness, but mainly revolve around the normal routine.
I put together a collection of how the terms cycles, rhythms and routines suddenly are used a lot as something disruptive happens.
London under the snow, 10 cm do change the way the city beats.
Following up from yesterdays disruption of the city’s everyday activities there is much talk today about the daily cycles.
One of the phrase used in the news yesterday and today is: “... this snowfall is a once in a life time experience...”
“LONDON struggled back to work through snow and ice today.” (Dick Murray, Transport Editor, Evening Standard, 03.02.09)
An article in the online Evening Standard, titled “This transport collapse is inexcusable”, is questioning the transport collapse also uses the terms. “THIS has been the worst weather-related transport chaos in living memory.“ and ” point spending tens of millions on snow ploughs and other equipment that will be used once in a generation...“ (Christian Wolmar, Evening Standard 03.02.09)
Boris Johnson, the Major or London was of course also talking about the events and is quoted with this: "This is the kind of snow we haven't seen in London in decades...” on The former Major of London immediately used this opportunity to attack his procedure and told the BBC "There has never been a day where the bus service has been cancelled for bad weather. Not in 100 years," (on the guardian)
In an other article by the same news paper the focus lies on the routines of the evening venues in London. ”London's streets empty as snow shuts theatres and bars.“ The street life was described as ”...frozen trade: the normally bustling streets of Soho, including Old Compton Street, were virtually deserted as the icy weather forced restaurants and bars to close...“ (Rashid Razaq, Evening Standard 03.02.09)

soho-street-415x275.WmSFVEUh8qYU.jpgImage from BBC London

Regarding the conditions the weather was compared to the past as ”...The biggest snowfall to hit London in 18 years idled the city's trademark red buses and Underground trains...“ by The Associated Press on msnbc
”A brief history of snow“ is a collection of important snow related events in the UK in the past, going as far back as 1600. Collected by Charlie English, Tuesday 3 February 2009.
Again the weather compared to the past by the Guardian titles ”Certainly not a blizzard, but it was the heaviest snowfall since 1991“ and it concludes ”This is the heaviest fall since 1991, and so there's a whole generation of children who haven't seen snow like this. If I were a teenager I would love to be out tobogganing.“ (Michael Fish, The Guardian, Tuesday 3 February 2009)
Twitter was employed to spread information of course. Everything from closed school updates in Camden, numbers of snowmen and of course amount of snow was integrated.

Image from benmarsh

Anyway updates on conditions, weather, traveling and more can be found on the Guardian New Blog.

An other timelapse to show the snow conditions in London, by, MosReel, February 02, 2009

Monday, 2 February 2009

London Beats Differently - Cycles Disrupted

There is a lot of snow today in London. It has been snowing since yesterday evening and it still is. The city is not really used to it or prepared for it, so it means the daily routine is disrupted or hasn’t even started.
The BBC writes, “Heavy snowfall has left roads closed, and public transport running a skeletal service or nothing at all.”

Image from BBC London

This means not many options to travel around. Probably a lot of people cannot even get to work if they tried and Schools are closed all day.
London has seen the heaviest snowfall in 18 years, weather experts said, according to BBC. It is around 10 cm of snow until now, but could be more towards the evening. Last time, something like this happened, in January 2003, there was what was called the heaviest snowfall in 10 years with about one inch (2cm) of snow.

Image by urbanTick - a lot of snow in London!

The normal everyday rhythm has been completely changed by the weather. There is no 09h-00 to 17h00 working hours today, no scheduled transport, even the airports have closed their busy runways. The city beats differently under the snow.

Businesses have already calculated loss of £1bn because of the disrupted routines. The market reacts quickly to changing conditions. According to BBC Shares in British Airways, which has cancelled all flights from Heathrow, were down 4.25% at 115 pence, while Go-Ahead, which runs Southeastern rail services, was down 2% at 963.5p. These only because it is a day not going according to plan, but when does it go according to plan?

Finally, at around 15h00 UCL has decided to send out an email to all staff and student with instructions on how to deal with these exceptional circumstances. Trying to introduce some sort of rhythm they wrote the following line “All attempts are being made to keep UCL running but it is necessary for reasons of safety and security and on account of unavoidable short staffing to switch to the Friday shut-down routine for all buildings. Procedures in place for week-end working therefore apply...”
If it is not the Monday rhythm there will be an other one to apply.
A not quite accurate but idealistic impression of today in London

tlSnowStreet from urbanTick on Vimeo.