History beats Geography at Geomob

History Beats Geography:

The Scores

History topped the tables with excellent presentations on where geographical names came from and our nation’s obsession with Iron Age Hill Forts.  The scores tell it all…

Place names 20

Hill forts 10

Fuzed 8

Signal Box 7

Kolo 4


The GeoMob and guests from GeoComm

Geomob is a regular visitor to Geovation, Ordnance Survey’s innovation centre in Clerkenwell, London, a venue increasingly packed with exciting new businesses. For our 4th visit, and thanks to some great coordination between Ed and Rollo, the attendees included AGI members and organising committee who were in London to take part on the geocommunity event in the same week.

Sponsor and future event News

Ed Freyfogle introduced the whole event, announcing a new sponsor and future events. In January Geomob will take place in London again. He’s seeking inspirational speakers (venue yet to come).

The network of sponsors has expanded with new business, Carto, an open source GIS visualisation platform, introduced at this month’s Geomob.

Stephen Feldman announced that FOSS4G is at Geovation, March 8-10 2018. Be there or square….

David (SplashMaps) encouraged all to use their geomob discount (geomob) and get their Christmas shopping done early!

Who was there and why?


With only a month since last Geomob, it being half term for some and there being a GeoCommunity conference in the same week, it was no surprise that the Geomob audience was quite a different crowd. So who was there and why? In fact during the day I’d met no less than 4 former bosses and at least 3 former collaboration partners from the European projects I once managed!

Meeting Ed Parsons at Google London earlier in the day

A distinct change in dynamic was apparent. Overall the audience seemed more tolerant of the usual irritants (lack of knowledge, lack of technical explanation, lack of ideas or business plans). Questions were few and the voting was unusually balanced (normally at least 1 presenter scores zero).

Daniel Benton – Place names through History

History beats the geogeeks this time!

Ever wandered why place names are spelt the way they are?  Looks like the Geomob crowd do, as Daniel Benton’s presentation won the coveted AtoZ SplashMap and a goodie-bag from our excellent hosts at the Geovation hub.  The answer lies in the many conquests and invations of the British Isles thousands of years ago.

Daniel demonstrated how our river courses are easily identified by mapping by place names. It’s probably obvious that a search on place names containing “on Thames” would equate data points marking the meanders in the Thames. But it’s less obvious that these names are the most ancient and largely based on the Celtic names from times before any of the great invasions of Britain by Roman and Norsemen.

Place names give clues to their invaders

Beyond the logic of the most ancient names relating to rivers, Daniel went on to demonstrate relations between place names and the shared histories across Europe. These can be inferred by the different versions of ancient languages used. For example, successive settlements by the Vikings produced place names with endings like bury and by. By identifying different dialects between Denmark (names ending “toft”) and Norway (e.g. Thwaite”) one could build an accurate map of where both invaders settled.

Linguistic issues for the invaders often left clues to who settled in which town. French issues with pronouncing old English “ch” made a clear north/ south divide for villages called “carlton” or “Charlton”. Likewise, back in France, only 3 locations in the whole country contain place names with the letter “k” in them.

Only 3 French regions have village names containing “k” – A clue to the past?

Daniel had used geonames.org as the source of names. Free to use but lacking alternative names, my later recommendation was to use EuroGeonames. Though proprietary, it comes from the combined data of the national mapping agencies across Europe and contains all the translated versions and alternatives for the place names including those in minority languages.

John Pouncett– History of Hill Forts, Uni Oxford/ Uni Edinborough £950k project

Capturing data is expensive, but don’t forget the service budget!

John’s Hisotry of Hill Forts was a tail of over-funded data collection and underfunded services.
The data collection task was to account, in miunte detail, an atlas of all the ancient Iron Age Hill forts in the UK and Ireland.
In the process, humble Archaeologist, John, (okay Doctor of Archalology at Oxford University) claims to have changed the way the ancient academics at Oxford handle spatial content. He opted for Arc GIS (no seething sounds at all from the audience!) to make it available online, simply & sustainably.
The capture and explanation of all 4000 sites in the UK swallowed £950k of funding, leaving nothing for a service to carry out the promise of making the content available to anyone for anything.
And is there interest enough to justify a service? An unprecedented 26.7M hits on launch prove that there is. The service collapsed as it was all run from a single Apple server.
The press loved it and the story of the Hill Fort Atlas ran in all the newspapers, eliciting some great responses including one tweet blaming John and team for exposing all Britain’s secret defences, “now we’re completely exposed for the next Norse invasion”.
John’s now praying for more hardware and some more strategic thinking. He needs a reliable service to serve the vast quantity of text on each fort to a surprisingly vast audience. Even now he gets 1000-2000 visits per day. #jealous!!! Naturally I proposed we could place a SplashMaps advert on the site 😉

Toby Webb CEO– Signalbox

First on the stage this evening was Toby Webb of Geovation business, Signalbox, offered precise location for public transport.  What does that mean? It’s a platform that can, for example, pin point an individual via their phone on a train travelling at 100 miles per hour – even if they’re travelling underground!  This does for public transport what “Waze” and Google do for the road network with their crowd sourced probe data.  Check the video of how this works here.

Signal box; bringing probe style services to public transport.

The dream is to provide the user exactly the information they need when they need it. So how is positional accuracy so important?
If you know current destination, where they are and predictions of what’s coming next, you can hyper personalise. For a transport provider, this means providing the delay information in a timely way (“Whoops! We’re going to delay you; you won’t have much time to switch platforms at the next station” etc.).
Working with CASSA, Department for Transport and others Signalbox presents a cross platform (iOS & Android), easy to integrate technology for app developers that has full UK coverage of the train, underground and bus networks.
The example app created demonstrated how the technology (available next year) can adapt to know exactly the view you, as a traveller, need from whatever mode of transport you’re on at whichever stage you’re at!
It looks like useful underlying technology, and without reliance upon any beacons or fixed infrastructure should be quite extendable to many other markets. The big question was “who would build the apps?”, to which there wasn’t really an answer.

Ryan Peggs- Fuzed

Doing the grunt work in making disparate services compatible in their platform

Next a confident, no-flies-on-this style presentation from Ryan Peggs. Fuzed is a platform to connect business provisioning and location orientated information in a platform designed for app developers.
Apparently the key questions asked by us humans are about detail, actions and transit. Fuzed addresses the problem that the answer to our queries often comes from many different sources in many different and incompatible formats. So Fuzed now sits in the middle between provisioners of service and the use, managing the affiliate agreements and output key services in a single format.
Detail – comes from yelp, Wikipedia, and soc media for example
Actions – hotel providers like booking, ticketmaster etc.
Transit – (who are they using?) Uber, moovit etc.
There’s great focus in what this young team are doing. And some very credible responses to the toughest questioning in the evening. Every booking is marked with their identifier and also note the suppliers link too.

Kolo – Mojmir Novakovic – assiging location to tourism urls

Looking for help

As he concluded, Mojimir is at the early stages in a project that aims to show everyone what makes any place interesting. Certainly there was lots of high level ideals proposed in his presentation. “It’s all about the knowledge and interest, ” was Mojimir’s mantra.
Kolo connects urls of what’s of interest and applies a location. The approach with the existing service was expanded by reaching bloggers (sailors for example) and other influencers. But the idea was too simple to interest a broad audience, or even the hosts of their sites.
Now Mojimir understands that Machine learning (ML) is clearly the route to go and that a big data preparation and a big learning exercise is needed. This is a little after a number of other geomob presenters have reached the same conclusions and gone some way to solve the same. Kolo throw their faith behind free tools, e.g. Google TensorFlow. The idea is early stage and Kolo came to Geomob looking for ideas. Where better?

Finishing off with Geobeers!

Comments are closed.