Getting Started with OpenStreetCam

In this post, we would like to guide you in making your very first contribution to OpenStreetCam.

In this post, we would like to guide you in making your very first contribution to OpenStreetCam. There are already 190 million images on OpenStreetCam covering more than 5 million kilometers of road, so obviously getting started is easy enough that it can be done without much guidance 😁 But in case you do need a little encouragement to record your first trip, or just want to see how it works before you try it yourself, read on.

The first thing you want to do is download the free app. OpenStreetCam apps exist for Android and iOS.

The OpenStreetCam app in the iPhone app store

When you first run the app, it will give a quick introduction about OpenStreetCam. Flick through that to get to the main screen. Then go to your Profile, where you can log in.

You can create an OpenStreetCam account by logging in with your existing OpenStreetMap, Facebook or Google accounts. You won’t need to create a separate password.

After logging in through the platform of your choice, you will see your new OpenStreetCam profile 🙂

Your profile will look a little empty compared to mine, but we are here to change that! Let’s go out and drive some.

You will need some sort of phone mount in your car so you can point the camera straight ahead with a clear and unobstructed view of the road ahead. I use an iOttie brand mount (an older version of this one) but any mount that will hold your phone in landscape mode reliably will do.

You will also want to connect your phone to power. We have spent a lot of time optimizing the app, but the recording still drains the battery quite fast.

Okay, we’re almost ready to go. We just need to start recording mode so the app will start taking pictures as you start moving. Before you do that though, take a moment to scroll around the map looking for streets that have no purple lines. That means that nobody has captured any images there yet, so those streets are extra valuable. (You get 10x points for them too.)

When you’re done with that, press the blue camera button to start recording mode.

You may notice that the app mentions a thing called ‘OBD’. This refers to a port in your car that transmits data about the current state of the vehicle. Using a compatible OBD dongle, OpenStreetCam can use this for improved location accuracy. This is optional but gives you twice the points if detected! If you want to learn more, drop us a line.

The app will not immediately start taking pictures. Using your phone’s built in sensors, it will detect when you start and stop moving. As long as you’re stopped, no pictures are taken. This saves space, time spent uploading, and mappers wading through duplicate images of the same location.

In recording mode, you can switch between a big camera view and a small minimap, or the other way around. You switch by tapping on the minimap / mini camera in the left bottom.

As you drive, you will see your points increase as well as some other basic trip stats like number of pictures taken, space used, kilometers driven and recording time. As I mentioned before, roads that nobody has captured before are worth 10x the points. As you collect more points, you get higher up in the leaderboards and level up!

When you’re done driving, hit the record button to end the trip. You will now see a summary screen for your trip, showing where, how long and how far you’ve driven, as well as how many points you have collected on this trip.

Now that you’re done collecting your first images, it’s time to upload them to OpenStreetCam. This does not happen automatically by default (but you can go into settings to change that.) So as soon as you’re connected to wi-fi, go back to the app and go to ‘Upload’. There you will see the trip you just created.

You can tap on the trip to get more details. One cool thing you can do is ‘scrub’ through the trip.

Tap ‘Upload all’ in the top right corner to upload. You will notice that the file size is actually relatively small. That is because internally, the app compresses the images into a video stream that is unpacked into separate photos again at the server side, saving you time and upload bandwidth.

Once the upload is finished, you can go to openstreetcam.org and log in there. Use the same login method you used in the app, so if you used OpenStreetMap to log in on the app, use OpenStreetMap as your login provider on the web site as well.

Once you’re logged in, you can go to your profile to see your trip.

You can click on the trip to see the uploaded images. (Here is the trip I recorded for this demonstration.)

Notice that I should have wiped the snow ❄ off my car before I started recording.. 😬

Finally, I highlighted two icons you see on the lft hand side of your trip detail window. If you are in the U.S., you may see a number badges. They indicate how many street signs were recognized (the bottom one) and how many of those represent data that doesn’t seem to exist in OSM yet. That’s for a future post though!

Signs detected from my trip images. More on that in a future post!


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