Cambridge University comprises around 200 faculty, departmental and related institutions on 10 or so sites (several of which are rabbit warrens of building over centuries) and distributed in and around the whole city of Cambridge. It shares a biomedical campus with Addenbrooke's Hospital currently expanding by 50% and most years see several new buildings erected and departments move premises.
The University manages over 700 properties. It has 31 independent colleges each of which occupies sometimes two or three sites around the city and a few of which are as large as an entire campus University. It has over 17,000 students and over 9,000 staff (not counting those employed by colleges) and innumerable visitors.
They all need to find their way around.
So, since September, on behalf of the University's Computing Service, I have been cycling and walking around all the University and College properties, measuring and photographing, and entering the data into OpenStreetMap with a view to potentially replacing the University's existing online ( http://www.cam.ac.uk/map/ ) and paper maps. This is code-named 'project Drake' and continues until June 2012. It is a feasibility study, but the hope is that it will be proved sufficiently feasible that it can become a live system.
Of course, quite a lot of the University is already in OSM. Some colleges are already mapped down to individual trees; others are just an outline of the perimeter. Some University sites were missing altogether; others had been traced from satellite with no additional information and had errors that you might expect when viewing entirely vertically.
The University of Oxford already uses OpenStreetMap in its OxPoints project ( http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/oxpoints/ ). However, it is not at nearly the same level of detail - it merely uses OSM Mapnik tiles for presentation (I think). Drake will tightly integrate the geography in the OSM database with the institutional information from the University, and it will have its own rendering. There should also be an API - though perhaps not quite to the extent of OxPoints which offers 10 different formats.
What Project Drake is doing on OSM is
* adding all the necessary missing detail
* creating consistency across the whole University estate
* checking accuracy
* recording entrances to buildings and sites (none I have done so far
have had this level of detail)
* assigning identifiers ('ref=...' and 'operator=...') to sites, colleges, buildings and entrances (using existing University sources where appropriate) so we can link the non-geographical data in University databases to the geography in OSM, and to highlight the necessary features on the map and website. These IDs will also form the basis for a URL addressing scheme into the University's online maps.
And then there is a sizeable software component for creating the map tiles in the style to which they are accustomed, index, paper map and web site.
We're not attempting to map inside buildings (though there are interesting edge cases where long, wide, geographically significant gateways, and colonnades well within building footprints, have building entrances inside them, which we need to be able to locate). However, we are mapping buildings and their surroundings at a level of detail greater than any street/POI mapping I have done before.
I've published the tagging schema I'm working to, here: http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Cambridge/University_of_Cambridge
A couple of notable things to draw from it are:
* the University and the Colleges are private property, even though many of them allow tourists to visit at certain times. The paths through them aren't 'permissive' as had been widely tagged previously ('permissive' paths have formal agreements to allow general passage while not becoming rights of way; that's not the same thing at all, and the institutions are understandably sensitive about this).
* I'm naming buildings by their name. May seem obvious, but it has been common for buildings to be marked according to their occupier. It is very tempting to say this is the "Department of Psychology" rather than the "Sir William Hardy Building", but the latter is the correct name. Of course, I am also recording the occupier as well, both in the index that will drive the University map and in an OSM tag, just not the name tag.
GPS is not a particularly helpful tool at this level. Many of the central sites receive no appreciable GPS signal at all, and even where the signal is strong it is not accurate enough. Bing satellite imagery is exceptionally helpful, but it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking because it is a picture it cannot lie (and I've found many instances where this has happened). I will write a separate diary entry about this shortly ( http://www.openstreetmap.org/user/davidearl/diary/15400 ). The University's own material is often helpful (with permission, of course, and where it is not contaminated with OS copyright).
My main mapping tool though has been a 50m laser measure. I have a trolley on wheels on which I have mounted a white target, so I can measure building dimensions up to convex corners. Where buildings are generally orthogonal and orthogonal to each other, this gives very good results. Old buildings often aren't straight or aligned with each other, but even where a building is too new to appear on satellite, it is usually possible to locate it with reference to one that is.
To date, all the enclosed University sites except for West Cambridge and Addenbrooke's have had the Drake treatment, and eight of the 31 colleges - Clare College, Downing, Gonville & Caius, Hughes Hall, Magdalene, Pembroke, Selwyn and Wolfson.
Watch this space for more on this exciting project as it progresses.