research project topic

David Pottage david at
Sun Apr 27 12:32:31 CEST 2008

On Friday 25 April 2008, simarillion wrote:
> Hi community,
> I'm studying electrical engineering at Karlsruhe University in Germany and
> I nearly finished.
> Now I have to do a student research project and because I'm a big fan of
> the openmoko/freerunner project I want to combine this. I've got an offer
> from an Institude to do something like that. I must give them a topic that
> must contain research and the GPS. Now is the question, what research with
> the freerunner and it's GPS device can I do that would help the openmoko
> community and seems to be something that institute would support. It should
> not be "only" writing a gui or something like that.
> I have got to improve, develop, add or optimize something. This project
> should last between 3 and 6 months. I'am also trying hard to be allowed to
> give my research solution back to the community, as kind of code or
> information.

How about some software to turn GPS locations (lat/long) into place 
descriptions that more people will understand. Lat/Long format is not very 
usefull for most people unless they are navigating by sea or air, as most 
maps are not ruled with lat/long grids. It would be much better to convert to 
the grids used on the maps people commonly have. In most places that will be 
road and atlases that may not use a national grid, but will probably use the 
same basemap and projection.

I am thinking of giving the user their current location in a format like: 

"Michlen Road atlas of France, 2008 Ed, Page 53, square D2, top left corner"

The user would tell the software which maps and atlases they own, and would 
then be able to convert opaque lat/long locations to a format that is more 
easy to find on the map they have. This could be used for their current 
location, the location of other people (via Stroller's SMS idea), and with 
the help of OpenStreetmap as a gazetteer of other places.

Converting between nationally recognised grids should be simply a question of 
feeding in the correct parameters into a conversion formula. In principle 
converting to the proprietary grids used by road atlases should not be any 
harder once you find out what projection, scale etc the atlas uses. This 
should be fairly easy to calculate if you can feed in the map reference of a 
number of landmarks, and corelate those places with their locations on 
OpenStreetmap. The complication is the mult page format of atlases, and the 
fact on most the grid does not contine from one page to the next. (eg page 
one might have squares 1-6, but turn the page and they start again at 1 
instead of continuing to 7).

What I suggest is that you come up with a helper application that community 
members can use to feed in the parameters for the atlases they own. The 
information can then be uploaded to a central database and shared by all 
users. The parameter entry application would ask the user to look at the 
index page of their atlas, and say how many pages wide and high the overall 
mapped area is, how the page numbering works (eg are successive rows north or 
south of each other), If there are any sections of a different scale, or 
projection, and what grid format is used on each page. The application would 
then ask the page number and grid reference of a sucesson of places taken 
from OpenStreetmap, until it had deduced the map projection, scale etc to 
sufficient precisson.

David Pottage

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