Next generation maps

Many misunderstand what we’re creating with SplashMaps. After all, shouldn’t fabric go the same way as paper in the relentless march of technology? Well, just check our 5 top trends that will shape the next generation maps. You may think differently. This week I met the people who are putting the new tech to work.

Rigid is so last year

Samsung’s widely publicised failing beta test of the ‘Fold’ screen phone gives a glimpse of a more flexible future. Until now glass fronted phone displays had become the standard, differentiating only on size and perhaps miniscule differences in resolution.

The “Edge” and now the “Fold” show that flexible displays are an established trend

Flexible and wearable

The fold sits solidly on a trend line that links the very first touch screen phones of the noughties, through curved and edged displays to the much more flexible and wearable interfaces we’ll all use in the 2020s. Welcome to our first trend…

Trend 1: Making fabrics smarter

The key, of course, is fabric, or Functional Electronic TexTiles (FETT) to be precise. Last week I was invited to see the outcomes of recent joint work on making fabrics smarter between Southampton and Nottingham Trent Universities.

This FETT “piping” is used in sports clothes and shoe laces.

Incorporated into yarn

Woven and knitted cloth housed sub-millimetric silicon chips, encapsulated against harm and incorporated into yarn. The chips glow, calculate, sense and even generate electricity in this already proven science.

Already inspiring fashion

Sure, this is early stuff still, but the technology is already inspiring fashion students. Inside Nottingham Trent’s plush demonstration suite; Cycle jackets illuminated, running shoes coached, and bluetooth enabled jackets gave you that apparently “device-free” look.

Scalable manufacturing

UV cured encapsulation, then yarning and weaving, all tried and tested

More impressive still, the joint team demonstrated a scalable manufacturing process, rigorous physical load and wear testing and even threw these robust products in the washing machine!

A well stocked pipeline of electronic fabrics at advanced stages of development

Access to maps relies upon fabrics!

So, is there a need for fabric maps? Believe it or not, in the future access to maps (not to mention everything on the internet) relies upon fabrics. So why not get ahead of the curve & buy a fabric map now?

Trend 2: Maps made in collaboration

Your interests shaping its features

You won’t expect a map of the future to tell you just one thing. In fact, the map will become a gateway to the internet with your interests shaping its features. But this will take a lot of collaboration between all mappers and all other content providers. Right now, old fashioned licenses mean we don’t see many maps made in collaboration at all.

A well-paid lawyer making life difficult

Well-paid lawyers

SplashMaps now has 15 different licensors we draw upon to create familiar maps all over the world. All have different terms, reporting cycles, restrictions and even definitions cunningly worded by well-paid lawyers.

So it was great to see Bloxstore, the brainchild of seasoned geo-nerd Graham Vowles, launch at GeoBusiness this week. The team’s solution is ripe for the next generation of maps and other content. decommissioning sign-up and key-in your terms from a menu and your IP is there to share.

Trend 3: Attack of the drones

Beats satellites

Learning the latest from the Ordnance Survey team, Paul Cruddace and Mark Stileman

Ordnance Survey appears to lead the charge with a drone flying at high altitude for 9 months at a time taking 15cm resolution imagery of the ground below. Once in service in 2021, this certainly beats satellites in terms of the richness of data and crispness of image.


But the main advantage from drones is their versatility. Drones capture images of the sides of things, of covered things and of really close detail as and when needed. Of course the Gatwick incidents highlight the inadequacy of our laws and technology to police them, but these short flight, low level spies are already contributing to maps and projects.

‘Pretty soon’, says Graham Brown, CEO of ARPAS, the UK association for drone operatives, ‘we’ll see autonomy in their operation as drones use their on-board sensors to avoid collision when following a target or navigating a pre-planned programme’.

For more on drones check out our co-sponsor of Geomob, Flock.

Trend 4: Massive data

Surely we’re beyond “big data” when we’re looking at imagery. But in the arena of “massive data” we find neat solutions like Photodocufy.

Will: ‘data can be that big… and we can still give you access to it super quick’.

Will Tompkinson demonstrated a number of projects where enormous 360-degree images are helping in disaster recovery, site planning and building. The cloud-based solution ‘automagically’ stores all the images into an archive accessible by epoch, making an invaluable resource – not just for the build – but in running and eventual decommissioning of facilities.

Trend 5: Towards the 1:1 map

When will we be able to see a replica of our surrounds entirely made of data? With all the imagery from a number of sources, this may be one of the most exciting trends at GeoBusiness this year.

St Pauls, London using images & lidar height from Bluesky, then modelled in Skyline 3D

I met Dave Loescher from Skyline who showed me an incredible 3D model of London. Imagery collected from some of the sources discussed above is meshed together with the terrain and building models to make a photo-realistic 3D version of the city. I still love panning around and checking out the different perspectives. There’s undoubted use in all ‘line of sight’ applications, games and all manner of local government uses.

Beyond the pretty picture…

However, the model is data, and underlying this is a Mastermap of sensibly divided chunks of land (building, land parcels etc.) against which any data can be associated. This gives a glimpse of that future map where interrogation of deeper intelligence is at your fingertips.

The future?

Futurology is not 20:20 vision, but if we follow the trends the map of the future is clear. The next generation map will be more versatile to suit our lifestyles, almost infinately detailed, much more collaborative and there at our fingertips with perhaps just a light gesture or unfurling of a fabric interface.

David Overton has worked with all European national mapping and cadastral agencies and was Innovation Manager at Ordnance Survey. His views and experience are fully representative of SplashMaps 🙂

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