Thursday, 18 December 2008

Everytrail - Test Track


A new tool for the apple iPhone was released by the popular Everytrail website. This free tool to track movement can be downloaded from the iTunes store. It uses the GPS technology built in to the iPhone 3G, but it also uses the cell information and Wi-Fi to record its position.
The tracks can be saved locally on the device including pictures. It is possible to take pictures directly from within the application and they get included in the track data. There is the option to upload the recorded data directly, but even better is the option to store it locally and upload all at once. This saves battery power and therefore extends recording time. Developers suggest also to set the screen brightness very low. The main problem for tracking with the iPhone really is that the tracking application has to run in the foreground and it cannot be interrupted with the Home button or the Lock button. The Everytrail software does cleverly offer a “fake” lock option that prevents any input and disruption wile the iPhone is in the pocked. This “fake“ lock option looks the same as the normal iPhone Lock screen with a slider to unlock, but it is basically just from within this application and therefore means that none of the two button (Home or Lock) on the iPhone shall be pressed. Otherwise the ”fake“ lock will be interrupted. It only prevents touch screen input.
I tested it on a shopping trip down Tottenham Court Road in London. Although the device was an old iPhone without GPS the record is pretty accurate and can almost keep up with my Garmin Foretrex 201 that I normally use.
Once the track is uploaded to your personal area on the website (it is free to sign up here too) it is then possible to download the track as either KML, to view/use in Google Earth or as a GPX for use with any GPS software. This is a great option that not many other such products offer.

Here is embedded the uploaded track directly from everytrail.com including the images taken during the trip.

ShoppingTottenhamCourtRoad

Widget powered by EveryTrail: GPS Community

Or it is possible to integrate as a simple map
ShoppingTottenhamCourtRoad at EveryTrail

Map created by EveryTrail:GPS Geotagging

Friday, 5 December 2008

Interaction with the Urban Form - Plymouth City Centre


Plymouth city centre is a very specific area. It has a very distinct character arising from the strong postwar design by Patrick Abercrombie. It has a truly mono functional use, it is a shopping centre in the most literal sense of the word possible. There are no offices, no restaurants, no pubs or bars, no housing, just shops and on the first or second floors storage space for the shops.
The shops open at 10h00 am and close at 18h00. These hours then basically determine the “opening” of the city centre. Outside of those the centre is dead, again literally. There is a very special phenomenon attached to this. Although the opening hours are as described above, shoppers vanish around 17h00. So approximately one hour before closing the shops are already empty and so is the center. Being in HMV at half five is like a scene out of “I am Legend” - hello is there someone? (I have written a longer article about this topic on JLF urban research.)
To my surprise this pattern shows up dramatically in my records. Although I was aware of this pattern and could have behaved differently, but I didn’t. There is no reason to walk through this area, as there is nothing happening and on top of this it becomes rather scary to be on your own in this vast outdoor shopping centre at night.
This short clip shows the activities within 24h. It is zoomed right into Plymouth center. The activities start around 10h00 and end exactly at 17h00. There is the odd crossing outside of these hours, but the characteristic shows clearly.

plymouth365_plyCentre from urbanTick on Vimeo.



To illustrate this in a bit more context, the following images include the city centre of Plymouth but cover also bits of outside area. What this shows is, that even after 17h00 the track record shows still a high number of activities, but they all exclude magically the centre.



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Images by urbanTick - Time sequence 07h00, 09h00, 11h00, 16h00, 17h00, 19h00 and 22h00 activity in the Plymouth city center. Click for larger view.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Track Logs - Visualization Clips


I have been working on the improvement of the visualization. The main concern was the representation of the data in terms of time. So far the data was displayed only when there was a track point. Each track point would fade out after a representation time of approximately 30mins. What gets lost in this representation is times I stay in one place for a longer period, say being at work for a half a day or a day.
This new clip takes this into account and the represents exactly those times I haven’t moved for a wile. Interesting how those clusters build up and dissolve.

plymouth365_24H_duration from urbanTick on Vimeo.



Compared to the point version, the movie below shows the movement with longer duration times. It displays a time frame of 30 minutes. After this time the tracks and points fade out. Similar to the version above records that represent a longer attendance in one place stay even though the set timeframe has past.

plymouth365_24H_duration30 from urbanTick on Vimeo.



To set the duration of 24H in a more realistic context, the clip below integrates the amount of daylight. So at night it’s dark and during the day the sun is shining! Even tough it s Plymouth ...!
Anyway the darker periods of this day are quite long. This is due to the fact that the model uses January the first to calculate daylight conditions. So its winter then.

plymouth365_24h_sun from urbanTick on Vimeo.

Comparison


What is now possible is to compare three different cities. I have a track record from Plymouth, Basle and London.
The following three screenshots are taken from Google Earth at an altitude of 9km. So they are comparable in scale.
What they all have in common is the fix points. The main structural elements of how my days work in terms of space and time are the same. Leaving home going to the same workplace everyday and returning back home. Between those fix points there build up quite intense tracks lines. This base layer get extended by some secondary points, e.g. location for the weekly shopping, favorite spots, friends location, ... The third element are the trips. Journeys that are usually going out of the daily routine to a further destination or just a stroll. They occur characteristically on days off or weekends. Depending on how familiar I am with the surrounding they are more focused or of more explorative nature.
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Image by urbanTick - Plymouth


Image by urbanTick - Basel



Image by urbanTick - London

Interesting is to compare how I respond to the urban surrounding. The three cities have very distinct urban patterns from one another. Take Plymouth, a city completely planned almost from scratch after it was destroyed in the Second World War. The planner was Patrick Abercrombie who also presented ideas for the reconstruction or better new construction of London after the Blitz. Basel on the other hand is a similar size city in a very different setting with its growth patterns structuring very much its appearance. Or London as the third example, the world city with its single centre core.
To explore how those characteristics influence my interaction with the built environment in terms of routs I choose I overlay my tracks onto maps that capture the characteristics of the three cities.


Image by urbanTick - Plymouth Abercrombie Plan with Plymouth 365 track overlay

Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, the tracks redraw quite exactly the characteristics of the Abercrombie Plan.



Image by urbanTick - Basel city center with track overlay

Note area A (dark brown) is the old medieval town surrounded by walls dated ca 1860. Area B (beige) is the extension, ca 1875,but still surrounded by a wall. Area C is the extension of the city ca 1926, but is also mainly the present extend. It is important to know that after the walls have been demolished, the freed up space has been used for major infrastructure placements such as roads, but also as open spaces. This means that additionally to the link roads that from the centre outwards there is also a no of ring roads (on the ground of the former walls) that tie in very well with the rest of the network. Moving radial is quite simply in therefore and the use of it is represented in through the no of tracks. Compared to this in London it’s quite tricky to travel radial as it has a strong centralized structure, roads mainly leading into or out of the city centre.
This then is represented in the London track log. It is strongly linear and this represents exactly this centrality as the line is pointing towards the centre.
So now guess which track log is which city.






Images by urbanTick - track record line drawings