Thursday, 30 April 2009

Having the Map - Base Mapping in Geotime

Finally I managed to get some kind of data from ArcMap linked into GeoTime as a base map. The projection that works is only WGS84, but most of the data we have her obviously is in British National Grid. So some transformation is required. This very often results in some funny shapes and suddenly you go, wow, I haven’t seen greater London as this kind of squashed tomato shape yet. Another problem is to get the transformed files to match up, and so on. It is confusing.
But her we are at least the Greater London area is there and the river Thames.

Image by UrbanTick for UrbanDiary - Location points with river Thames (far left), inner and outer London (centre), London regions (right)

And then even the buildings appear, imported from the Virtual London Model, developed here at CASA. They are slightly out of place but there they are.

Image by UrbanTick for UrbanDiary - zoom Kings Cross with location spots

Next step will be to ad some detailed information to the GeoTime data. At the moment it only represents track point location data. But with the series of interviews that are underway at the moment some more detailed data about the participants activities are available and GeoTime could be quite helpful in relating these different types of information.

Image by UrbanTick for UrbanDiary - lines of activity, zoom Kings Cross (left), Kentish Town East (right)

These Images are screen shots taken from GeoTime with the software’s internal screen grabber. The top view was used to get the displayed GP data to mach properly with the imported base map. For visualization purposes this was seen to be the easiest way o understand what was going on. By switching into 3d view things get complicated and it is difficult to make sense from the combination of data that moves up and down in time and a base layer with a static map. Specially when zooming in to see details. The feature to replay the data can be helpful in this situation though. The map then acts as the division between past and future, basically the present. A location dot is used to mark this position.

Image by UrbanTick for UrbanDiary - 3d view in GeoTime


An update on this mapping topic.

The issues where something I talked about with Curtis from GeoTime. He suggested that a very quick fix is a available through the recourses in ESRI ArchGIS. They actually offer a number of base map under file, free recourses in 9.3 the world street network works quite good for the London location. And after I found the slider to adjust the map transparency I was quite happy with the result.

Image by UrbanTick for UrbanDiary - central London view with ESRI recourse base layer imported from ArcGIS

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Garmin Forerunner 405 - UD Tested - Review

We have been using the Garmin Forerunner 405 now for more than a week and it’s time to look at this tool again. An earlier post was all about how great this device feels and looks, but this time we want to go a bit deeper into how it is to actually use it.
The two devices we have at the moment where in use pretty much non-stop ever since we got our hands on them. And getting the hands on them or better your finger is one of the highlights of this tool - the Bezal - as it is called by Garmin is the companies answer to apples iPod wheel. It works as a touch sensitive ring around the clock face, but other than the iPod is has no click, only touch. The fact that one can actually touch it and communicate through touch makes for a great relationship right from the start, although the device’s respond is not always as expected. The Bezal does play up and sometimes reads touches as rotations or rotations as touches, I suppose this is what the click wheel is all about. The settings for this input method are great and after testing them one can definitely find a personal best fit.
But to get things in a bit more order we’ll restart this review with the setup process. Lovely how the device it self actually gives you an introduction. At first startup the 405 introduces itself as the instruction on screen get you to use all the methods of input. This is very nice and works very well, as one is able to use the device straight away.
The first satellite connection then sets the devices date and time and your ready to go. The first satellite fix the device got really quickly. Something under two minutes, which for a central London location and inside a court, is really good.
To start tracking, two settings need to be made. One is to turn the GPS receiver on and the other one, the one I only realized after my first trip around the block was not recorded, the timer needs to be started. This makes it at first glance a bit more complicated than the previous device 201, where only to turn on the device was required.
Then off you go and you are tracked and this means tracked! Once the signal is established there is hardly anything that brings the 405 to loose it. Again this is tested in central London in narrow streets with high buildings, on buses and so on. The accuracy is generally around 7 to 9 meter. Sometimes it is actually a bit scary, when you are inside the kitchen of your ground floor flat and the device still tells you 9m accuracy or your sitting on a double-decker bus on the lower floor in an aisle seat and check your device - 7m! Being used to a 201, the reception of the 405 is a dream!
On the other hand being used to a 201 the information on the 405 is much reduced. The display is obviously smaller, but the information one can aces is also reduced. I assume Garmin aims at another target group with the 405 and they decided, that for training less information is good enough. For example there is no altitude information, no information about actual speed or location. Also, compared to the 201 the compass and the track record map are not a feature of the 405 and so are all the information’s about sunrise, sunset and so on. Further there is to mention that one screen usually only gives the user one type of information. Say on the time screen only the time and the date is displayed, but not the satellite connection or any timer information. So if you are interested in what is going on as you are on the go, you find yourself tapping and turning all the way.
To get to the input methods from there, the Bezel as much as we have fallen in love with it in the first place is not always one hundred percent accurate, as mentioned before. There are three methods of input on the Bezel itself. One is rotating round the clock to navigate down, clockwise, or up, anti clockwise. To select a menu a tap on the Bezal is all that’s needed and in you go. The third method is actually tap twice and this is for confirming messages that pop up on the screen. The 405 does, compared to the 201 not come up with questions, like, are you indoors? There are buttons on the device though, but after discovering that you can tap the Bezal you’ll probably find this more convenient and not use the real buttons much. One button is for selecting, enter, the other one is for quit, exit. One major button we do miss is an on/off button, or at least a way to turn off the device. There is no way to turn it off; you just let the battery dye. A strange thing to do really, if you think of someone doing training, as the developers may have done, who does that twice a week, this person might wants to turn the device of for the two days it is not in use.
The menus and its content are, overall very clear and simple.

Image by UrbanTick / Forerunner colour black.

A rather big thing is connecting the device to the computer, surprisingly. The device itself has no connection point, it transmits the data wirelessly via a Garmin made protocol. For this an additional USB stick called Ant-stick is required. Of course for this additional software is required and this software is preferably downloaded from the internet. There is actually no Mac software on the CD that is included in the package; only Windows support is delivered in the pack. Fortunately there is Mac support and apparently we did not get it to work on Windows yet, we are still working on this. So basically Internet is required for the setup, not only to download the software, but also Garmin makes everyone to sign up online before they are allowed to use the device. We could not really believe it at first, not even apple makes you sign up for using the iPod after you have downloaded the software, that comes actually preinstalled if you are on a Mac. So we signed up and there you go your data gets downloaded and by default is uploaded to the internet and publicly available. The default settings on your online account are set to public, so unless you change this your training or what ever you recorded on the device, including your weight, birth date or your resting heart beat rate.
After all that it is possible to change the settings in the references of the Garmin Ant Agent program, so that it does not upload to the internet directly. There are currently some issues reported and discussed online, with this special USB Ant stick. Older laptops, especially PowerBooks see to hang up if the USB stick is disconnected without the machine shut down. The MacBook we tested did work fine but just would not enter sleep mode after disconnecting the stick. Garmin seems to be working on these problems.
The tracks are saved in a .tcx file format. Apparently this stands for Garmin training centre. That is the Garmin software that goes with all this to actually visualize the recorded data. This is another thing one needs to download and set up, but we won’t talk about this here.

Image by UrbanTick / To make sure you train safe!

This .tcx data can be translated with the aid of the brilliant GPSBabel software into any other GPS related format you wish for. The only thing one has to do is select the input file format, as the .tcx is not automatically recognized as the Garmin training centre format. The right format would be .tcp, as it is called after exporting out of the real training centre, but it works fine though. The heart rate monitor data gets lost with most file transformations, as very few formats are intended to incorporate such information, but the standard stuff is there to play on Google Earth.
The 405 has better signal compared to the 201, but it also saves a lot more track points. A trip comparison showed that for the same trip at the same time, the 201 saved 234 location Points, but the 405 saved 645 location points. The route both records display does actually not much differ. The recording interval of the 201 is pretty good with few points. On the other hand the 405’s storage capacity is much more limited.

Image by UrbanTick / blue line Foretrex 201, pink line Forerunner 405

Image by UrbanTick / blue line Foretrex 201, pink line Forerunner 405

Similar is the battery life. The 405 needs to be charged every day/night. It does charge quickly though, three hours will do it. We managed to get 08h45 tracking time out of the device, wile having the GPS on for the whole time. As we are looking at tracking peoples daily routines, this is the very least we need. In this respect the 201 was pretty good. It would do during the experiment with participants two or three days before charging. If the user does turn off the GPS when inside, a normal full day out of the house, nine to nine is possible, but not much more.
Charging is a funny thing with the 405, much because of the unconventional way Garmin choose to connect the cable to the device. It is not plugged in, it is clipped on. It is a refreshing way to do it as we are used to the boring plugs we daily use on our ten different gadget that want to be fed, but makes the device useless during the charging period because the Bezal is partially covered by the clip. The 201 could be used wile being plugged in, actually this would even open more options, like external antennas or real time tracking. So the 405 can for example not be used in the car and having it charging wile playing with it.
Before summing up, some words on the choice of colour. The device is available in two colours only, who would guess it, black, and some green beige, one for males and the other one for females presumably. But actually this green beige weird colour is great looking!

Image by UrbanTick / Forerunner colour green/beige.

Over all, a superb device, it has its clearly specified target group and usage area but within this it is flexible and very good. It is definitely better than the old Foretrex 201, even though not in all areas. This review has probably been a bit harsh at times, but we loved the device right from the start and still do.
Hmm, actually we have left out the major part of the device. The training bit, together with the heart rate monitor and some virtual training partners, pace, laps and that sort of thing. We are not into this and don’t understand any of it so we cannot comment, I we haven’t even tried to use it, sorry. But apparently it is great. If you are interested in this sort of use o the device you might wana read here, Garmin Forerunner 405 review.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

What Shape are You?

While working with the GPS track data of the UrbanDiary project, in connection with the series of interviews I am conducting, I suddenly recognized the different shapes and patterns that are being produced by the participants. Really funny shapes and forms, but always with a number of strong fix points. The shape is determined by a number of factors such as the spatial relationship of destinations, the distances traveled, the amount of travel and the intensity of repetition. The first point, relationship of destinations makes for the overall shape and the last point, the intensity of repetition makes for the character of the shape.
The images are all generated from data of participants who have a track record of two month and the drawings are the same scale.

Images by UrbanTick for UrbanDiary

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Two Month of Track Records - UrbanDiary Update

It is over two month of tracking participants of the UrbanDiary project. The data is now used to render a set of new animations.
It is a general setting, superimposing all participants days on top of one day, including weekdays and weekends.
The radial transport structure in the city really starts showing up now and the corridors are highlighted. The dally beat of moving from the outside to the inside in the morning and back out in the evening is a strong characteristic. The trips that do not follow this rule can be identified as weekend activities or days of. The colours correspond to the map posted earlier.

UDtwoMonth_London from urbanTick on Vimeo.

UD_TwoMonth_Detail_Bloomsbury from urbanTick on Vimeo.

Monday, 20 April 2009

GeoTime on the Mac

I have reinstalled the iMac and set up parallels on it. This allows to run the Mac osX and Windows Vista in a separate window.
And there you go, it allows to install, GeoTime on a Mac. So far I was running it on a windows machine.
I tried a few things, including importing the whole data set from the UrbanDiary project. It works ok, but seems to be slower than the installation on a Windows machine. I will test it some more and see if it is worth working on it on Mac. Next step will be to get the arcGIS integration to work with it on the Mac.

Image by UrbanTick

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Just Arrived - the New UD Tracking Watches - Garmin 405

The two test devices supplied by Garmin have just arrived. They are charging now, but will be soon out for first test walks around central London. The main interest is how good they will ply in these urban conditions.
Garmin kindly sent us two forerunner 405 wristwatch GPS to test them. They will be used in the UrbanDiary project to extend the field of participants.
First touch, the device is surprisingly responsive through the “Touch Bezel“ and one immediately finds oneself attached to the new tool. Simple setup, including a short tour through the device function at startup help to be able to use it straight away from the beginning.
Setting up the first of the devices in the court of Torrington Place took no more than an impressive two minutes to get a good Satellite signal and location. Compared to the Foretrex 201 that was used at the same time this is great and the weather conditions where very cloudy. The 201 didn’t find a signal for five minutes and we couldn’t be bothered to wait in the rain for the device to find a signal.
Garmin has supplied a heart rate monitor belt and ant stick as well so this will be in the next phase of testing.

Image by UrbanTick

On Cycles - the Beginning of Urban Settlements

A book by Josef H. Reichholf titled “Warum die Menschen sesshaft wurden”, translated why men started settling, explores a new theory to explain why the first settlements started forming. As generally known, the early humans were not settled at one place but rather nomadic, moving around to ensure the supply of food. The current theory to explain why they started settling down assumes, that around 15000 to 11000 years ago there has been a shortage of animals to hunt and people started farming plants and simultaneously started domesticating animals. Josef Reichholf argues this view is wrong and develops in his book a different explanation for the big change from nomads to citizens. His two main arguments are that at this time, in the area where farming first started, the ground must have been very rank and therefore it must have had plenty of food. The second argument is, that starting to farm grain from early forms of these plants would have been much too labor intensive as these early plants must have had such tiny grains. Only much later crossings of these plants grow the grain we know today. So he sets out to set up his own theory on how all this happened. His main idea is that it all started from having too much rather than not enough. He suggests that it started with the production of beer, or rather an early form of it, which is quite simple to brew from grains and water. This drink was sweet and nutritive. It was mainly consumed as part of events related to cult and religion. The buildings for rites and cult are the oldest ones known, for example Goebekli Tepe (Turkish for "Hill with a Navel") in south Turkey. From there it has grown into permanent settlements. It wasn’t therefore hunger that lead to permanent settlements but excessive consumption and surplus of supply.

Image from / Image from

This theory of how settlements started is very interesting in the context of the research work on cycles in urban environments, not so much because of the beer and how the early settlers had started farming, but more in context with the rites and events that were based on a cyclical repetition but also based at one specific location in space. In connection to this cult site a permanent settlement could have started growing, but it would still be based, through the cycle of the cult event, on a repetition. This would then suggest that the rhythm of the rite was the main driving force behind the settlement and from it must have influenced all areas of everyday activity in these early hamlets from the start.
As an example a quote about the calendar system developed for Goebekli Tepe: “The Mesopotamian year of Göbekli Tepe in southeast Anatolia, Urfa-region, north of the Syrian Harran plain, 11 600 – 9 500 BP, and the calendar of Upper Mesopotamia in later times, for example in the Halaf period, 6th millennium BC, had (I believe) a month of 30 days, a year of 12 months plus 5 additional days, while 63 continual periods of 30 days yield 1890 days and equal 64 lunation”

This would link in with the earlier post on week and calendar concepts, that also derive largely from religious rites and cults and at the same time have their spatial manifestation.
To have the event or rite as the starting point for the settlement give a very interesting dimension for the research on cycles in the current urban environment.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The New UrbanDiary Map is Here - Two Month of Tracking

The new and updated UrbanDiary Map is here! Bigger, bolder and with even more tracks!
It contains now two month of tracking data of sixteen different participants. The collection is still growing and will be updated continuously.
After this period of two month the participants routes have mainly established and show up bold on the map. Nevertheless some one off routes continue to appear and they could be of much interest.

Images by urbanTick for UrbanDiary - click on image for detailed map

Monday, 13 April 2009

Mobility in the City - Temporary Changes

A clip to visualise the temporality of space, by isolating moving elements. The clip tries to highlight the mobile element in an urban environment. This can be cars, pedestrians, but also birds and weather.
It is done through the absolute difference between the images from a live camera feed.

Temporal Differencing - Cityscape 2 from Henrik Ekeus on Vimeo.

Friday, 10 April 2009

One Year of Travel Data - Aquarium

Using the travel data from the art project The Location of I, by Martin J Callanan this aquarium below was generated. Again the Google Earth Plug-In is used to visualise the KML file. The file can be downloaded here, on the website of the artist, tweaking is done in excel. The time data is recalculated as the height information. Therefore the altitude represents the time.

Other visualisations of this type have been tested here before and can be found here.

The Search for Time - Search Terms Over the Past Few Years

An other project by artist Martin J Callanan is looking at internet search terms and visualizes the amount of hits per term over the period of three years. The project is called text trends, its specialty is the lineup of terms. How do terms like sex and love compare in a graph? Check it out for your self, but surprising enough the up and down is at times surprising. Especially the terms related to time show an unexpected rhythm, e.g. see summer and winter.

Images by Martin J Callanan - Screenshots, click on them to view the web applet.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Routine and Tracking in Advertisement

This week I came across two campaigns that caught my interest because of their language of communication. I thought, wow, the topic now become very popular, if it is used in add campaigns.

One is an article on mens cloths in the latest edition of the GQ magazine, German edition (GQ, 2009, April) and it plays with the daily routine of working people in the city. The suite changes every day, but the location it everyday approximately the same. The story over five spreads implies that the guy is following a working week routine and passes this yellow hydrant in the morning on his way to work just before nine.
It is a brilliant setting for fashion and works very well. Although I think the photographer could have played a bit more with light and weather.

Images by GQ

It somehow reminds me of this 90ies hair conditioner add on TV, where the blond woman was portrayed on three different locations in three different weather conditions, but her hair stayed the same. I think it was a product by Schwarzkopf. A clip can be found here.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

The other one is advertising UK holiday locations employing Google Earth style location data by, found in the Guardian, Saturday 2009-04-04.
The story here is that on a satellite image sowing a costal town, presumably in the UK, specific locations are marked with information on activity and duration, very much like the UrbanDiary project. The arrangement is used to tell the story of one particular weekend trip, but stands for what you could do with your next weekend. It then also points out that there are 112 weekend and bank holiday days a year, presumably enough time for one or two such experiences... How did they calculate the amount of days of?


Images by

Monday, 6 April 2009

Urban Space Perception

Another nice clip illustrating how elements and configurations of spaces shape the experience of our daily journeys.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Stop Motion Meets Moving

A really nice stop motion clip by mustardcuffins on vimeo. It is titled “Still Moving” and described as “Stop motion Tilt shift meets tracking. what fun! lots of photos.... this technique is an extension of my other video The Persistence of Vision.Shot in London with a Canon G9 - no i didn't film it from a train or bike - no roller skates!”
Tracking here is not in the sense of location tracking as in the UrbanDiary project, but rather in the sense of tracking elements of orientation and navigation. This is shown lovely by keeping an element in the focus wile moving around it or passing by. It could be read literally as a visualisation of how a person perceives the city wile moving through and in this sense it could be titled as a subjective (Google) Street View.

Still Moving from mustardcuffins on Vimeo.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Animal tracking - Frogs second

Some more info on frog tracking I have found these days online. A real tracking device for frogs exists and has been tested in a number of studies already. it is more of a belt rather than a backpack. I am not sure how much it affects the swim performance but it definitely looks much cooler than the pack!

Image from Holohil Systems Ltd., paper Evaluation of a radio-belt for ranid frogs by Galen B. Rathbun and Thomas G. Murphey

Image from UCBerkleyNews from a study in the Sierra Nevada to research the decline of the mountain yellow-legged frog.

There is more to this topic about amphibians and reptiles in our gardens tough. Apparently no one really knows what is happening at dawn, dusk or tough out the night at the back in the grass. An online article on describes with the title 'Stock-take' of garden creatures and calls out “Whether it is frogs in your ferns, or toads in your tulips, a coalition of wildlife charities is asking for volunteers to carry out a national "stock-take" of the reptiles and amphibians in the UK's gardens.” So if you are a proud user of a back garden, report the activity you observe.

Actually, the two frogs ‘Blurb’ and ‘Rosi’ are now out and about the garden again, but without the GPS devices. No need to worry about them they are fine and probably remember the first of April!

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Animal tracking - Frogs

First results of a fine scale GPS tracking study in London’s private gardens show amazing results. Spring arrived in London and the frogs started to come out of their winter quarters about three weeks ago. They were tagged with GPS devices and have ever since collected data on their daily routines in the local gardens.
GPS accuracy is somewhere between 3 and 15 meters but still, this study shows it is possible to get some results on very local scale as this back garden tracking shows. The two participants ‘Blurb’ and ‘Rosi’ where very collaborative and willing to be tracked. Fortunately the GPS devices are waterproof as the frogs like the wet!

frogTracking05.LrpHz9rrKzWs.jpg​        frogTracking_montage01.TRDCdC59Gx0Z.jpg
Participant 01 ‘Blurb’                Participant 02 ‘Rosi’ with her “backpack”

Their tracks are shown in yellow, the many gaps refer to their habit to jump from spot to spot rather than walk

Image by UrbanTick

Spain Geotaged

The MIT SESEABLEcity lab produced a clip of a visualization of geotagged Flickr photographs located in Spain. The visualization covers a time period of one year and gives a good impression of which spots get photographed by digital and web enthusiasts.

“(Un)photographed Spain maps thousands of these public, digital footprints over one year. As photos overlap in certain locations, they expose the places that attract the photographer's gaze . In contrast, the absence of images in other locations reveal the unphotographed spaces of a more introverted Spain.” (by senseablecity on vimeo)

(un)photographed Spain from senseablecity on Vimeo.