Archive | June 2012

OpenStreetMap data extraction

Many people have asked how they can extract data from the OpenStreetMap. Here is an example of how I got some locations I wanted out of the system.

I use PHP in my example but I geuss the method is transferrable. This solution is not the most ideal one but it gets the job done. I will update this example as I see fit to make it as good as possible. If you find a better way to do these things, please leave a comment.

The php and osm files used in this example can be found here (osm_example.rar).

There are many different sized files available at multiple sources but the ting is those files are huge so handling them requires good knowledge of the content of the file (because you can’t open it with a text editor and check it) but also massive, state-of-the-art hardware.

But since I know what I’m looking for and where to get it, I can export custom .osm file from OpenStreetMap.

First go to OpenStreetMap and hit the Export link at the top of the screen. Zoom and pan the map to select the area you want your information from. The maximum ammount of nodes the exported data can have is 50,000 so zoom close.

Select OpenStreetMap XML Data as the format you want to export and hit the Export-button. This should prompt a window where you can save the map.osm file containing the data of the selected area.

So now we have the file. Let’s jump to the .php-file. Read More…


Nokia’s head up in the clouds

A short video of Nokia Air was leaked to the world.

It seems that Air was a pre-Microsoft era idea of a cloud user interface for touch screen devices.

The icons seen on the video are styled with the new icon style introduced with N9 in June 2011. The overall user interface of Air looks something like Meltemi and Symbian together. In mid-June this year Nokia announced that they will close their office at Ulm, Germany. Ulm was the place where Meltemi was developed so that closing announcement ment that Meltemi project was canceled for good.

That gives us some kind of a time window of when was this video made. Maybe some frustrated soon-to-be-ex-employee leaked the video to show what Nokia was working on. Maybe hoping that someone else would get inspired from in. After all it seems like an idea worth looking through.

Since Nokia is now married with Microsoft, ideas like Air won’t see the light of day. They are given a shot to the neck to protect Microsoft’s SkyDrive and Office365.

Nokia has been following cloud ideology before. Before Nokia’s development of its own Linux-based operating systems MeeGo and Meltemi were cancelled they released a video of Smart Data Analytics.

To me this shows as a cloud platform collecting user data to be able to improve the user experience even if you switch from a device to another. For example, the places you have recently searched and viewed on Nokia Maps are synchronized with your phone and when you are close to a similar place you were looking for, the phone lets you know. If you searched for Indian food, the phone starts vibrating in vicinity of an Indian restaurant.

The SDA video says the Nokia platform understands. Well, Nokia is using Microsoft’s platform now so the future for this innovation seems less than bright.

But that’s not exactly all Nokia has innovated for a world more cloudy than before. In 2010 Nokia Research Center presented a video about a concept that allows faster and more available networking than before. It was called Cognitive Radio.

Cognitive Radio doesn’t seem like a mobile phone application at first. It looks like an innovation that Nokia Siemens Networks would develop further. It’s a good idea and some other network manufacturers have had similar concepts in the past year so this is clearly a path to stay on.

From these examples we can see that Nokia had a vision of a clouded world where services and devices are less relevant than the user. The other way looking in to it is that Nokia is copying the Google recipe.

If only Microsoft would realize that Nokia has better understanding of implementing services on dynamic mobile platforms, than meets the eye.

When do we renew our phones?

Two days ago Microsoft had their Windows Phone Summit where they published some features of the upcoming Windows Phone 8. At the same event Microsoft announced that the current Windows Phones can’t be updated to WP8. This launched intense conversation about why would anyone buy a Windows Phone now since it will be an ancient relic in six months. Let’s take a closer look at this dilemma.

There are three things that lose a lot of their value when they are purchased – cars, computers and mobile phones. That is because technology evolves constantly. And it does it fast. Right after a new model hits the shelves even newer model is being published. Lumia 900 just became available in finland and now we know it will be somewhat outdated in six months. Some people take this as if the phone stops working the moment Windows Phone 8 models arrive to the market.

Most consumers don’t care if they own the newest model available but some tech enthusiasts do. So the dilemma touches mostly them. It’s funny how most of these enthusiasts give more value to the newest hardware instead of the user experience. In some cases the phones will have technology that has only a small amount of real world applications. If you happened to get a phone with NFC when the first ones of those came available you probably noticed there’s not much use for the nice feature. But now there is. And that phone is not the hottest new model anymore.

Manufacturers usually offer updates to the older models when they publish newer models or, like in Microsoft’s case, new operating systems. Purpose of their updates is to bring the older models as close to the new, upcoming, models as possible. It’s called good customer service. For example when Microsoft published Windows Phone 8 they promised updates for the current Windows Phone models. These updates can’t bring such changes as quad-core processors or SD card support for the current models but who expected that? The updates will alter the user experience to be as close to the WP8 experience as possible.

Last autumn I had to give up my former employer’s phone so I had to buy a new one. I knew I wanted an Android phone from HTC. EVO 3D had just came in store but I hit my eyes on Desire HD which was relatively cheap so I got that. I knew it was old model that wouldn’t get any more updates but it still had a relatively new version of Android. I was surprised when the phone told it wants to be updated to newer version of Android. Few months later HTC updated the phones operating system and user interface which was another surprise because I kind of wanted to experience the new Sense interface. Another pleasant surprise came in February when HTC told that my Desire HD will have another os update which gives me Android 4. So the phone I thought was dead at the moment I bought it is now going to have most of the features the new flagship phones have. This is extremely good service from HTC.

Some consumers are brand loyal to one manufacturer or operating system and get only that manufacturer’s phones or phones that have a certain operating system. These consumers don’t actually have a problem to own the most high-tech model at the market. They are happy with the flagship model of the brand and they know it will be the flagship until the next year.

The problem is bigger if the brand doesn’t matter. Manufacturers bring out one top model per year. If you buy a top model at spring, a “better” one comes out at summer from another manufacturer and another on comes out at autumn. When one top model comes available the next one is published and the object of desire has changed. This happens several times every year.

So when is the right time to buy the newest phone available? If you are going to wait the next top model to be in stores you have to wait just so you can find out it’s already outdated. So go and buy the damn phone available right now. It will still work after a year.

Microsoft’s new impact at the tablet markets

So, Microsoft came out with their very own tablet. They call it surface.


When compared to iPad, Android tablets haven’t succeed so well despite all the hype and expectations. Looks like the hardware or operating system separately doesn’t do the trick.

Microsoft uses the Apple recipe and provides hardware and operating system in one neat package. Of course there will be other Windows 8 tablet manufacturers later but Microsoft gets a head start. The moment Windows 8 hits the stores there will be Surface too. Other manufacturers come in later.

Microsoft published two versions of Surface which will confuse users who are not that into technology. There are several different versions of iPads, yes, but the most essential parts like external ports are similar in all of them. You get to choose between memory size and connectivity options. With Surface you have to choose weight, processing power and behavior as well as external ports. Now there’s a possibility that people start thinking which version of Surface they should buy.

That one doesn’t cost that much but does it have all the nice features the other one has? If I buy the more expensive one, is it really that much better than the other? Will I pay extra and get – Oh, hey! There’s that iPad everybody’s talking about.

For now it looks like there’s no built-in 3G in Surface. Maybe Microsoft forgot to mention a thing like that because it’s so obvious. Surely they must know what tablets are mainly used for. Don’t they?

With Windows 8 and it’s Marketplace, Microsoft aims to control the users’ software and content marketing as Apple and Google are doing already. That’s not necessarily a bad move and in fact it might make Microsoft a noteworthy competitor for Apple.

All in all, Surface will have a greater impact on Android tablets that it will have on iPad. Most likely Surface and other windows 8 tablets will eat the markets from Android rather than from iPad. My prediction is that in the near future iPad remains the number one tablet. Windows and Android tablets will be far behind fighting with each others.

If Google feels this new situation threatening they might publish their own Google tablet (Nexus tablet) via Motorola. Most likely they are already working on it.

Scouting the locations

As mobility has become the thing in IT sector, users of IT are mobile as well. This can be seen as a rise in the use of geographic information services. Earlier this week Apple published their own map application for iOS. Now that everyone has their maps set we can set our eyes to the horizon and see where the world is going with all this?

Location-awareness seems to be the hot word today. Of course many location-aware applications are in the beginning of their stories if even that. Location-aware advertising is something everyone must have heard of but that’s only taking baby steps as well.

Location-aware services are everywhere. You can add geographic information into your Facebook updates, Wikipedia entries, Instagram photos, photos you take with your camera (a real camera, not a phone) and many others. Even Google search gives you results according your location.

Foursquare and Google Places are just the most obvious examples of how to use geographical data. They place points of interests, like bars and movie theatres on map for people to discover. Tons of small startups have risen around this core idea of location-based social media. Most of these startups can be divided into two groups. On the other group are services like Foursquare which create a real world gaming platforms with their check-in systems. On the other group are local chat services with wich you can easily connect to people nearby without actually having to meet them. Isn’t it nice that you can ask what’s the atmosphere at the corner bar instead of going out and finding out yourself?

Most of these startups won’t live longer than a year or two leaving only few big ones after them. The small ones know that too. What happened with social media, is now happening to local social media. Don’t get me wrong, the small ones might set the direction for the bigger ones we go into the future with.

The most used location-based service is so-called business locator. Most maps offer this solution as a build in feature. A business locator shows you local businesses as points of interest. These POIs are based on your location, search phrase or personal preferences. The business locator is extremely easy to build if you happen to have database full of businesses’ addresses or locations. Almost every location-based service uses business locator in some way.

The Internet is full of services where you can find and compare products and prices in web shops. I have done some research in the Internet but I haven’t found product locator services that can tell you where to find a product you are looking for. That is unless the product is on an ad that pops out the moment you hit the search button. There aren’t any useful product locators that would show the product on the map of your mobile device.

Why am I looking for such service? You can see the stores on the phone’s map app but you cannot know what you can find at these stores. Neither can you say where is the closest place you can find a screwdriver in the middle of Helsinki. To know that you must have been in that store before. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could type in a list of products you want and when you are near to that product your phone tells you to stop by and get it because it’s less expensive here that at the place you usually do your groceries? I can easily see that business locators turn into product locators in the near future.

The same will happen to local news and media. GeoRSS has been around for years already but not too many media house uses the advantages it offers. That might be because people are widely unfamiliar with GeoRSS and location-based services in general.

We will see a lot of location-based services in the near future. Most of these services will be copies of each others and many will die out when the location-based bubble pops. But after that we will have a world more local that the one we live in today.