Created A Survey Assistant Application (J2ME Prototype)

Hi all,

I’ve been really getting stuck into performing on-foot surveys of areas where the street names are missing. Luckily for me, I live in the city where Nearmap is headquartered (Perth, Western Australia) and having the roads traced out on openstreetmaps isn’t usually an issue, just getting the names.

I started thinking about an “easier” way of recording street name data for later use. Walking papers is fantastic (and I still use it to print out where I need to survey), but I was looking for something less fiddly than writing names onto a sheet of paper. Also more importantly, I was thinking of a way to engage with people not living in an area to enable them to still help with updating maps in an area.

Having written a few J2ME apps in my time, and some of these involving Location Based Services (i.e. GPS), I created one to help record name and POI data. I guess you could say it’s based on the tourist guide principle (“if you look over there you’ll see…”). That is, if you record the position, the direction and the surveyor’s comment, others should be able to determine what the street’s name is, what the park is called, what shops are at the shopping centre etc. The data entry process is quite simple:

1: Press button to record the current coordinates
2: Enter the bearing (TODO: using on-board compasses - still testing the practicalities of this idea, so I’m reluctant to sink too much time into it)
3: Record point: enter the (compass) bearing and name of the street or comments on the POI

When a point is recorded, the GPS coordinates, heading and comments entered are saved onto the phone. At the end of the survey, choose “Send” from the menu and all the stored data is sent to a server via WWW/CGI. After that, it’s relatively simple to render these points using Open{StreetMaps,Layers}. I’ve included a small screenshot from my recent alpha test of the application here:

As you can see, I’ve selected a data point where I’m saying that the street heading directly north is called Jasmine Avenue (I’ve already used this set of data to update the map, hence the street names are present).

It’s my hope that this application will be useful for the following reasons:

1: Not so much writing down of stuff in the field, meaning that people running surveys don’t have to carry around as much stuff.

2: Dissociates surveying from the editing of the map. If you like doing the surveys but aren’t so keen on the data entry, someone else could theoretically lend a hand by using your survey data to update the maps. Same for people who can’t perform the survey (particularly our OSM friends overseas) but don’t mind helping out with the data entry.

There are some definite TODOs in here such as using a phone’s on-board compass (my phone doesn’t have one, so I’ve been using an ‘orienteering’ compass) or coding for more popular platforms (Android etc). In the mean time, I was wondering if anyone out there:

1: Thinks my app has a role helping the surveying effort?
2: Would be interested in helping test the (ASCII) phone app (J2ME phone with on-board GPS required - e.g. Nokia E71)?
3: Would be interested in helping to test the usability of the data generated, by trying to enter in street name / POI data provided by users of the J2ME application (I think this is quite important, particularly to write guidelines on recommended use of the application)?

Thanks in advance,

Hey, it sounds like an interesting approach.

I think I had similar issues and questions in mind (i.e. adding metadata such as POIs and road names to an area that was traced from areal imagery) when adding basic editing functionality to GpsMid. It too is a j2me app, but I think takes quite a different approach, in that you can add the data directly to OSM from your phone. I.e. you can click on a road on the map on your phone and then add tags such as name=so and so street. Unfortunately due to the limitations of the crappy keyboard on most phones, it was a bit more tedious than I had hopped. However, the POI collector functionality, imho turned out quite well, where you can add a missing POI with only a few clicks directly to OSM. It might be an interesting alternative, or complementary to your approach and thus I though it was worth pointing out here.

Imho some form of OSM editing functionality for mobile phones will be very helpful on improving the map and aid more “traditional” OSM surveying. So it is exiting to see more people attempting it and it will be interesting to see which concepts end up working best under which circumstances.

Thanks for your feedback, and the heads up. Your applet looks very feature rich, and like you’ve said, we are going for different approaches to the issue. I guess I’m coming at it from trying to create an “electronic walking papers”, rather than a JOSM/PotLatch. Mine is much more limited, but also simpler (and if it’s simple enough maybe even my computer-illiterate relatives will go surveying with me :slight_smile: ) I’m also allowing for the possibility that the people that love the surveying might want to pass the way-editing to someone else.

Also, one other feature I’ve just discovered (having witnessed what I feel is a major drama with some significant vandalism of the database around my home city of Perth, Western Australia) is that by storing all the collected data independently of OSM, if you have to go through and re-examine the survey data to make sure they are correctly named and positioned etc, it’s quite easy to do, and the survey data collected doesn’t get affected by vandals / data corruption etc, while still being in an easy to use web-based system.

Anyway, amm, I’m planning to do some surveying with it tomorrow - would you be interested in trying to use some of my data to update bits of Perth, Western Australia :)? If so, PM me.

Hi all,

I’ve created a self-contained version containing the data I gathered from my survey last night without the database connection, and put it onto a public web server (Firefox, Opera only):

If you click on the markers it will tell you what I said about each point. I’d appreciate any comments about it, in particular whether you think you could enter street names into OSM based on someone else’s data from this application.


I am not sure how old this post is. I am writing because I will be very interested in testing your application.
I am trying to figure out if this will work with cheap phones. I run a project called voces moviles and we work closely with household workers.

Lets say they do not get paid one day but they have a hard time remembering the place they work. Would they point out to the address using your app?

Your help would be greatly appreciated.

My e-mail is amanda at idepsca dot org

Thanks a lot


I think I can help, but I’ll email you directly.