A better writer than me once said, “the future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed”. He may well have been at the San Francisco Quantified Self Meetup last night, where the future was on display to the 50 or so data geeks and self-trackers who filled the room to hear about the latest in self tracking, measurement and general self-betterment.
Here are three of the highlights:
Breezing – Portal Metabolism Tracking
Breezing is a startup with a device that could dramatically impact the lives of millions of people who live with or with the threat of metabolic syndrome disorders like obesity, diabetes and the plethora of related diseases. Given that most of the residents of the US will be obsese in the next 20 years, you’ll either be suffering from one of these diseases or you’ll be paying for it through taxes and health care premiums.
The neat little device (pictured below) measures the amount of carbon dioxide and oxygen in that you exhale to give you an accurate reading of you “metabolic rate”, which can basically be summarized as the rate at which your body burns energy. A comparable test today is costly and time consuming – a test starts at $100 and takes at least 30 minutes and requires a visit to the doctor. Some of the impacts this device is going to have include:
- Showing people the ongoing-term benefits of different types of exercise on their own metabolism. Skipped the gym two weeks in a row? Breath into Breezing to see how your metabolism has slowed down.
- Showing people the impacts of dietery choices. Drinking sugary drinks and eating ice cream all day? Breath into Breezing and see how you metabolism has slowed down.
- Eat well and exercise well – breath into Breezing and see how you metabolism is a powerhouse, burning more calories to give you more energy and vitality!
No affordable device or convenient set of tests has ever had the potential to make such a clear link between nutrition, exercise and health. Breezing are currently running an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for development.
Somaxis MyoLink – Muscle Tension Tracking
Next up, the Somaxis MyoLink muscle trackers (shown below) have huge potential to help people suffering from workplace injuries like RSI, help Yoga practitioners perfect their moves or help gym-goers get the most out of their weights session. The neat little sensor attaches to the skin and measures the tention of the muscle. So in the case of an office worker at risk of RSI, the device can alert the wearer to bad posture, bad typing postions and other bad habits.
Notch.Me – Infographics From Your Runs
Other notable talks included Notch.me, a neat service that creates a cute looking infographic from your RunKeeper or Fitbit data. We’ll see a lot more services like these in 2013 as they attach to some powerful trends:
- Consumer preference to use images as a communication and sharing medium
- Growing ubiquity of personal data & the need to make sense of it
- The social currency of sharing via Facebook, Twitter and other platforms
What does it all mean?
The Quantified Self movement today feels a lot like the geo-location space did when it was emerging. There’s the same energy, optimism and brave new world attitude that existed in the years after GPS selective availability was turned off, making it a viable consumer product, when Google Maps had just been released and it was clear that it was a matter of months until smartphones had GPS and location became ubiquitous. That optimism spurred countless products, projects, companies, movements and features from OpenStreetMap to Flickr Geotagging to GeoRSS to KML & Google Earth to the now ubiquitous check-in and of course to CloudMade.
At CloudMade we’re supporting the development of the emerging self-tracking, health and fitness movement just like we supported the emerging geo-location movement. Products like Mapsafe are used by Magellan Active to power an API that gives consumers a cloud repository for fitness data, letting them share it between different apps and services; our Micromap stack is used by device OEMs like Motorola to power their wearable devices. There’s lots more to come.
This is early days – we’ll return to this theme more and more throughout 2013. What do you think the future of self-tracking, health and fitness has in store?
At the Mobile World Congress this week, Magellan announced the next part of their SmartGPS ecosystem of GPS navigators, apps and websites. The free apps for Android and iOS will be released in the summer and will compliment the SmartGPS On-Dash navigator.
The apps are powered by CloudMade’s SDKs for iOS and Android and by our Mapsafe and Hybrid Data products. Let’s take a quick look at the use cases that CloudMade’s On-Dash navigation platform enables:
- Free: both apps are free which means they will attract >10x more users than paid apps. This is a great way for OEMs like Magellan to give their customers a taste of their premium navigation experience via their smartphones.
- Device to Device: we’re not big fans of sticky notes and bits of paper when it comes to getting an address into your GPS navigator. We prefer that a passenger in a car can search for the nearest gas station, find a great restaurant in Yelp or Foursquare and then send the address from their smartphone to the SmartGPS navigator, making a safer, easier, more connected driving experience.
- Connected Ecosystem: the apps are designed to interact with other parts of the Magellan ecosystem. For example, from the Magellan website a SmartGPS owner can create a wishlist of places to visit on their weekend roadtrip, share and collaborate on that with their friends and family and have their wishlist wirelessly synchronized with their SmartGPS app and GPS navigator.
- Rich content: the SmartGPS apps come with an exceptionally rich set of content, all available to search through a single user interface. Content includes Yelp, Foursquare, Navteq, Traffic, Gas Prices and more.
The apps hit North American stores in the spring and European stores in the summer.
Four years ago in February 2009 we launched CloudMade’s developer program. Fast forward to February 2013 and we’re launching the platform that kickstarts the next four years for CloudMade and our customers. What’s happened in the last four years and what do the next four have in store for CloudMade and the thousands of developers, OEMs and enterprises that build on our platform?
The First Four Years
Four years ago we set out to build a platform that would let developers of all types all around the world build exciting location aware apps, websites and experiences. We focused on three areas to make a difference in:
1. Create Something Different
We created the Style Editor – the first tool of its kind to let developers create beautiful custom map styles. We innovated ontop of, and improved, open source tools like Mapnik to create a unique tool chain. For the first time, developers and designers could come to a website and use a point and click interface to create a custom map style. When they were done, the style they had created was instantly available through an HTTP API that could be accessed from any platform. Since we launched the Style Editor over 15,000 map styles have been created and we’ve served up billions of custom map tiles. Developers like Red Robot Labs have created experiences in which the map seamlessly blends with the game design. Transport Agencies like Transport for London have created finessed styles that help their users navigate with ease. Map visualization pioneers like Movity (since acquired by Trulia) created styles that let their data take prominence. Whatever the use case, the Style Editor provided a way for thousands of developers to express themselves through their websites and apps.
2. Build for Developers
Most of you reading this are developers. You’re one of the most sought after players in the mobile ecosystem today. Google, Apple, Facebook court you and spend millions of dollars to get you to build apps on their platforms. Over the years we’ve invested in CloudMade’s developer program and now over 25,000 developers on web and mobile build projects and businesses on our platform. That investment is set to continue.
3. The Best Maps
In 2009 OpenStreetMap was the source of map data for CloudMade. OSM and the incredible community of volunteers around the world who spend their free time building a free map of the world has become the inevitable de-facto choice for mapping. Apple, Twitter, Foursquare and countless other business rely on OSM to deliver the best maps in the world.
Over the last four years there’s been an explosion of accessible, exciting geo-data and a large focus of the new CloudMade platform we’re launching today is accessing, organizing and making sense of the huge amount of map data out there today.
This post talks about how we’re building out the original CloudMade APIs for Map Tiles, Routing, Geocoding – making them faster, keeping them rock solid stable, making them cheaper and passing on the savings to you.
Starting The Next Four Years
As we listened to our customers and looked at the market over the years after we launched CloudMade, we noticed some key trends that shaped the platform we’re launching today:
1. An explosion of geo content and the tools to create it
The kind of crowd sourcing that OpenStreetMap pioneered combined with the explosion of smartphones and cheap data plans has lead to an explosion of geo content. From Yelp to Foursquare to Facebook Places to Food Spotting to real time traffic to weather to movie times and restaurant reservations. Where 4 years ago there was only OpenStreetMap and a smattering of other pioneers, now we’re flooded with content. Now the problems aren’t “where do I find a map” they’re “how do I make sense of it all?”, “how do know this place is the same across all of these different sources?”, “how do I manage this much data?”, “how do I analyze this much data?”, “how do I route across this much data?”, “how do I manage to access so many different APIs?”, “how do I give my user the results they’re looking for”. We are certain that there is going to be more and more geodata being created over the next few years. We have little idea what kind of new geo content is going to emerge over the next 4 years. The platform we’re building on is designed for this.
2. Pervasive location. Intermittent internet.
To add to the complication, our customers from large OEMs to independent developers told us that whilst geo-location (the raw latitude and longitude of the device) was pervasive, available through all major mobile OSs, increasingly available to web apps and available to OEMs through low cost GPS or WiFi positioning, access to the internet was far from pervasive. App developers told us about the inevitable network lags whilst accessing services over mobile networks. OEMs told us about new categories of devices they planned that would be intermittently connected to the internet through WiFi or Bluetooth. Tablets, on-dash GPS navigators, in-dash automotive systems, watches and other wearables all share this dilemma – pervasive location but intermittent internet.
3. Apps, Apps, Apps
The app phenomena has deeply impacted us and our customers. For developers it created a market place and a business model that let their businesses grow and thrive. For OEMs, apps have not only driven the smartphone explosion, they’ve elevated consumers’ expectations when it comes to the quality and content of the user experience. GPS navigators that used to be about getting from A-B find it hard to compete with Google Maps. Your TV is not just a screen for the cable companies, its an interface through which you interact with the world. Consumers are demanding the kind of slick experiences that iOS and Android developers craft across all of their devices and screens – from their car to their home and their office.
4. More Devices. Not Less.
Convergence is all very well. Sure, I don’t have a camera in my pocket any more. Now I have a Nike Fuel Band on my wrist, a Kindle Fire in my jacket, an iPad Mini in my bag. There are more connected devices distributed more evenly throughout the the world than ever before. This poses a problem for developers and experience creators who must now master the art of creating apps that span multiple devices with many different use cases, use modes, screen sizes and platforms. Cisco estimates that there will be more connected devices than people in the world by 2017. How is your app, your business going to capitalize on this reality?
Three New Products from CloudMade
To address these major trends in our industry, today we’re launching a new range of products: the “Mapsafe” family and the “Hybrid Data” family and a new range of CloudMade SDKs, starting with Android. Each of these new products has been built from the ground up over the last 18 months to address the trends we and our customers have seen. Each of them use a cloud-device architecture that distributes computation between the cloud and the device, making the most of the abilities of both. Let’s take a brief look at what they can do.
Hybrid: Always Up To Data Geo Content
“Hybrid” made it possible for GPS OEM Magellan to create “SmartGPS” – the world’s first WiFi enabled personal navigation device (PND). CloudMade’s Hybrid technology does a number of things for SmartGPS:
- Enables the uniquely colorful, information rich user interface that is SmartGPS’ design signature
- Facilitates lightening fast search through a vast database of location content from a single interface
- Provides a single server-side database and API for content from a vast number of data providers including Yelp, Foursquare, OPIS (gas prices), PhantomALERT (speed cams), weather, Factual, OpenStreetMap, TomTom and more.
- Keeps an up-to-date copy of this data available on the SmartGPS device at all times, trickle syncing the local database via WiFi, a Bluetooth tether or a USB connection whenever available.
- Minimizes the use of local disk space on the device by profiling the user and selectively syncing only the content that the user requires
- Provides a singe on-device search API that delivers a single entity across multiple data providers. So when you search for a your favorite coffee shop on SmartGPS, you get a result that can include data from Yelp, Foursquare, Factual, OpenStreetMap and other sources
-Facilities on-device commerce, letting users upgrade to premium versions of datasets like PhantomALERT’s road safety dataset.
The Hybrid technology opens up a vast world of geo content that exists today, making it available to OEMs and developers building cross device experiences. But most importantly Hybrid is future proof. We cannot even imagine the type of geo data that’s going to be created over the next four years – no-one knows what will follow Foursquare, Yelp, Food Spotting. Whatever does follow, Hybrid will access, store, curate and make it available to your apps, devices and services.
Mapsafe: A Personal Location Cloud
“Mapsafe” is to your places what Evernote is to your notes. Use the Mapsafe API to save a favorite place, route, appointment, geo-tagged photo or any other location content on one device and it is automatically synced across all of the user’s devices. Using an intermittently connected device? No problem! Mapsafe’s intelligent synchronization let’s your users create, read, update and delete in offline mode and have the changes made next time the device is online. Want to share a location with friends? Mapsafe makes it easy. Want to capture user feedback and edits? We have that base covered too. Mapsafe uses the Hybrid layer to keep all of the changes in sync across a multitude of devices, screens and apps.
SmartGPS sports a number of very cool features that are enabled by Mapsafe:
SmartGPS is part of an ecosystem of apps, websites and devices that all interact with each other. A Magellan user planning a trip can research the best hotels on their tablet from the comfort of their sofa and quickly save the places they find to their Wishlist on the Magellan “Via” web portal. Powered by Mapsafe, their Wishlist is automatically synced with their SmartGPS. Throw away the pen and paper!
The Magellan Active group have taken their product even further with the help of Mapsafe. The Magellan Active website and developer API, let users store their runs, walks, cycles and associated GPS trace, heart rate, cadence and other fitness data in a Mapsafe powered cloud from where they can grant access to third party apps and services to access the data. For example, you could let a snowboarding website access your snowboarding data, let a marathon coaching services access your runs and let your personal trainer have access to the whole lot.
Cross Platform SDKs: A Developer’s Best Friend
The third new product we’re announcing today is a completely reworked cross platform SDK that provides a comprehensive set of tools for developers building location aware applications. To scratch the surface, here are a few of the features:
- Bitmap map tile handling
- Vector map rendering
- Hybrid and Mapsafe integration
- Sophisticated map matching
- Fast on device search
- Fast on device routing
- Turn by Turn Navigation with spoken route guidance
We built all of this in a portable C/C++ core and have native APIs for iOS (Objective-C), Android (Java and NDK) and Windows (C++) devices. Where you need to access data directly from a web service, we have HTTP APIs that are all accessible from the popular Leaflet HTML5 maps API.
From Here On
Whether you are a large OEM or new startup building On-Dash or In-Dash navigation, Fitness and Outdoors devices, a website planning your new maps portal, a logistics company planning your new truck and fleet solution, or an app developer building the next Foursquare, the kind of innovation you’ve seen from us over the last 4 years is only a taste of things to come. We’re can’t wait to build the future with you. If you share our excitement, get in touch. Leave a comment, drop us an email. We’d love to talk and we’d love even more to do business with you.
Many people have been asking me lately, about what is happening at CloudMade and where our business is going.
So, as I always love talking about CloudMade, here is the high level view.
We have a lot of extremely exciting activity going on with products in particular (both launched and launching soon) that use our core technologies on the device and inside the application. These are backed by the Hybrid Data and Mapsafe stacks which connect the cloud and the device together. These range from launched devices with major OEMs in Europe (i.e. Medion and others) to products we expect to hit the shelves soon (i.e. SmartGPS from Magellan). You will be able to buy and use the products in the USA and globally over the next six months. At CloudMade, we are very focused on the On-Dash, In-Dash, Fitness & Outdoor and Truck&Fleet markets with activities and projects in each of these areas. Our passion is about location enabled user experiences in these areas and we see a stream of very cool stuff coming.
Our internal development teams in Stuttgart and Kyiv are totally engaged in projects with our partners, and through these projects bringing these new products to life.
In the application space, we see continued innovation around the Leaflet open source project and in the use of both OSM and commercial data sets with our web services to create new and compelling consumer experiences. This ranges from small research projects to significant games to major transport agencies using our cloud to power their solutions.
As for where this is all going, I expect that, with our partners, we will continue to innovate and produce new user experiences in the embedded and application space that will combine the cloud and the real world in compelling ways. And along the way we will build a smarter Cloud and infrastructure that supports, enables and connects these solutions.
I look forward to sharing more with you in the coming weeks and months.
Today we’re releasing a new CloudMade platform. As well as building out new products, we’ve been busy making the CloudMade APIs that you depend on better, faster, cheaper and more stable. I’d like to share some highlights with you:
- >99.9% uptime on Map Tiles, Geocoding, Routing in 2012.
- Uninterrupted service delivery through 3 Amazon AWS outages.
- We continued pushing the envelope of AWS’ capabilities to reduce costs, improve speed and stability.
- Leaflet has hit its 0.5 release to become the leading HTML5 map library on the web. More big Leaflet news to come over the next few weeks.
- The global OpenStreetMap community now numbers over 1,000,000 contributors who are curating and creating the world’s biggest and best map.
In 2013 we’re passing the benefits directly to you. We have simplified our pricing and from the 1 March we’re rolling out new, lower priced services:
- Map Tiles: $25 per million tile transactions. First 500,000 free each month
- Geocodes: $15 per 100,000 geocoding transactions. First 10,000 free each month
- Routes: $15 per 100,000. First 100,000 free each month
All users – paid or not – get the great service you expect from CloudMade:
- 99.9% uptime SLA or 2x your money back
- 24 hour guaranteed email response times
- SSL for just $2 extra per million map tiles
Its been a great ride over the last 4 years at CloudMade. The developer community has built some stunning apps, websites and services. The CloudMade team are here to make the next 4 years even bigger and better.
Transport for London is one of the largest public transportation agencies in the world. Each day their bus network alone carries more than 6 million passengers. For those passengers, finding bus information just got a lot easier with the new “Countdown”website, powered by CloudMade. Try it out here.
The Transport for London portal uses CloudMade’s Map Tiles and Geocoding with a custom SLA and server installation inside our Amazon based cloud. The map style was created using the Style Editor and our Cartography Design services. If you like what you see, get in touch.
CloudMade has found a way to add value for people playing mobile games, generate additional revenue for game developers and create a very compelling way for brands to drive retail traffic and revenue.
Mobile games are a huge marketing opportunity
Millions of users are having fun playing mobile games every day. This creates a huge marketing opportunity for consumer brands.
Banners are not the perfect solution
The only way brands and game developers are really taking advantage of this huge marketing opportunity is through banner ads adopted from the web. The banners do add revenue for game developers, but most gamers don’t like seeing banners in the middle of their game. In addition, the banners are rarely the right tool for consumer brands and retailers to achieve positive branding, retail traffic and an increase in revenue.
We need to find a tool that ensures that game developers make money and that brands get a great marketing tool in a way that people playing mobile games love.
CloudMade has solved this challenge by talking to leading brands and top game developers and building a service that meets their specific needs. The solution we have come up with is Sponsored Locations.
We look forward to talking to you too
If you are a game developer or a consumer brand that we have not yet talked to about tailoring Sponsored Locations to YOUR needs, we look forward to connecting with you soon. In the meantime, you can learn more about Sponsored Locations here.
There’s one more thing to consider: CloudMade developer community has a lot of talented people in it that could help with the development of the library, but so far Web Maps API was not a part of our open source efforts.
Leaflet is built from the ground up to work efficiently and smoothly on both platforms. It’s very fast, lightweight while still having a strong browser support, and really easy to use. It also has a clean, simple and readable OOP-based code, and it’s hosted on the world’s best open source collaboration platform — GitHub, so contributing is a snap.
It’s still in the beta stage of development, so it lacks a couple of features and has some rough edges, but it’s moving fast — try it and give us some feedback, either by tweeting to @LeafletJS or reporting bugs and discussing features on the issues page.
Find out more on the Leaflet official website.
This is a repost from my personal blog.
I’m starting a series on explaining how and why CloudMade uses Python. The following one explains why we ditched OSM’s stack in favour of in-house solution.
It’s been almost 2 years as CloudMade has ditched mod_tile and renderd as main rendering solution in favour of in-house solution. As the principle designer of the said alternative, I must say that this decision led to higher development pace. This article will try to cover the general architecture approach, reasons of decisions made and short comparison to other rendering alternatives.
Before The Switch
As some of you might know, CloudMade has its roots in OpenStreetMap and it was quite natural to adopt OSM’s software stack to have something to start with. But as CloudMade grew, the needs and requirements changed rapidly and the task of supporting and developing mod_tile became more of a burden, the decision to switch to more high-level language as the main was made. The language of choice was Python, due to its generous set of already existing spatial libraries (e.g. Shapely, GeoAlchemy, Mapnik bindings, etc), ease of deployment and its simpler support for cross-platform development. And, well, I knew it better than Scala, Ruby or Perl at that moment. Here goes a list of our tasks with mod_tile and renderd that we found easier to implement with Python:
- Variable priorities
- mod_tile has the notion of “dirty” and “general” requests, with dirty requests having lower priority and thus having the property of being rendered when there’s little-to-none on-demand rendering required. While this seems enough for most applications, it does has its warts, as it makes the priority system overall less general. What this means in practice, is that every time we need to add some special priority (i.e. in case we need to health-check system by forcing rendering) we get into adding quite a lot of code, rather than changing the “priority” property of the request. It might seem silly, but off the top of my head I can remember that we have at least 6 different priorities now
- Replicating cache
- When it comes to scaling rendering and serving of tiles, the simplest solution that comes to mind is adding more servers. It’s as simple, as pushing several links in web interface or even using automated process and Amazon Web Services API. But when you add new server with rendering stack installed you lose all the cache that has been on other servers and furthermore all the instances don’t share cache, which makes the cacheto use system less effective. There’re several solutions to this issue, each of them making use networking or database libraries, programming against which is tedious task in C (and C++).
- Being tied to Apache
- mod_tile is an Apache module, which makes it less interesting if you look at it from “commodity server” perspective. Having to program against a monster that is Apache, using its APR library is one giant leap into full-blown programmer depression. The autogenerated documentation make the matters even worse. And two last things about Apache are its comparatively slow serving of static files and complicated configuration scheme. One might say that Apache might be winning in other parts of comparison, but the things that have been mentioned were essential to our rendering services.
These were the main reasons to switch, as mod_tile and renderd didn’t seem like the right thing for CloudMade. Of course, there were a lot of others, more and less subjective reasons, but having even before mentioned ones, it was enough to seriously consider a switch.
With all the warts of the existing system and requirements for the future in mind, we decided to move on with the new approach. There were several things to consider in our system:
- This was our main goal — thoroughly decoupled system, where every part does one thing and does it good. This makes scaling much easier, but also incurs additional penalty on the amount of code, because of the need to write communication utilities. This also makes the system as a whole seem much more stable, as every other part of the system can work as a replacement in case of failure. Of course, the price is having network overhead and supervising system parts.
- Handling styles
- One of the main CloudMade web-services is the style editor, which gives ability to edit map styles using WYSIWYG technique. Handling thousands of Mapnik styles wasn’t something any existing system was prepared for, so unique way of doing exactly this had to be devised. Of course, this meant that style state in every part of the system had to be consistent at any given moment of time, making this even harder to accomplish.
- Cache expiry
- To minimize load on the system, as much cache as possible has to be available. But for rapidly changing OpenStreetMap data, having all tiles cached for month wouldn’t work and at the same time rendering all images on the fly would be an enormously heavy goal to accomplish. Whatever cache update approach is taken, unless there’s a hardware possibility to render maps on the fly, someone will be unhappy about cache expiry scheme.
- Health monitoring and high availability
- In order to meet requirement of having usable web services, one of the most important things to consider is having as high service uptime as possible. Without having health monitoring which knows about state of every part of the system the said objective is almost unreachable. Of course, the ideal can not achieved, but having a setup that covers at least 80% of the nodes would satisfy our needs.
The system that’s currently in use at CloudMade has been developed with exactly these goals in mind, with minor additions and subtractions along the way. To summarize, the goal was the system where every part has a maximum level of independency from every other while succumbing to the general goal of having fast and easily-deployed rendering stack.
To Be Continued
I’ll continue the talk about moving from mod_tile to our in-house system in follow-ups, where I’ll try to get into technical details, explain our shortcomings and issues that arised while developing.
Last week at Apps World Conference and Exhibition industry experts and newbies gathered together to discuss the current state and future of mobile applications development. Even the heavy London snow didn’t prevent 2,400 people from attending the show, and it turned out as two excellent days of networking.
With three simultaneous streams (Developer, Marketing and TV, Handset and OEM) the Apps World event aimed to address the entire app ecosystem, and the challenge of development, design and delivery of apps across multiple platforms. Nick Black, CloudMade Co-Founder and Head of Products, spoke at the conference on how location is helping to create and monetize outstanding apps.
CloudMade also exhibited in Developers Zone where we were busy meeting with new and existing developers.
We are always looking for new ways to meet with developers and understand how we can help you build better user experiences and increase your revenue. You can help us by sending information about any interesting events you plan to attend to email@example.com