Making lots of new data for the community: Mapillary

Posted by DeBigC on 21 May 2018 in English (English)

At the end of 2017 I was the biggest Mapillary contributor in Ireland, without really trying too hard and just using a front facing Samsung camera in my car and short diversions on the commute to and from work.

At some point around March 2018 my good buddy and OSM Ireland contributor Dave jumped ahead by about ten thousand images. I made a solemn (ahem... competitive, but sporting) promise/threat to get working on closing the Mapillary gap from me to him. I know, this sounds like General Buck Turgidson from the movie Dr. Strangelove....


I could see that other Mapillary users get more images out of a trip than me, so I set the phones to distance capture at 3m. Distance capture of course needs to be reviewed before being uploaded. Thinking about what I had learned about using Mapillary in Lesotho (mainly that you may not pass this way again) I decided to collect together my phone, the spare phone and the older android phones laying around the house and press them into service, pointing in various angles, which is another lesson from trying to map. A front facing camera on a road where there is a road clearance is next to useless unless all you want is road-signs.

After ransacking the house that gave me four working phones, so I needed to go to and I was pleasantly surprised that if you bargain you can easily get a reasonable second hand mobile phone for 15-20 euro (obviously caveat emptor). I bought two of these. I then went down to the discount shop and bought two cheap charging cables of 2m length for that they can reach from the cigarette lighter to any window in the car. I also realised that my emergency car starter has a USB port and two 12v cigarette lighter type ports, so without any additional purchase I also have a way to charge up three phones that have a depleted battery off an independent cell and without running the engine of the car.


I then deployed five of the window cups supplied by Mapillary and set off. I have to say this didn't last long, and in my opinion didn't constitute safe driving. So I figured out that taking another mapillary user to make sure that the phones were all capturing and set correctly is the only advantage here. I have been lucky enough to involve Tshedy and Fifi in several of the longer and more detailed trips.

I find the android Mapillary app sometimes has issues, two of my phones have effects where the captured images don't delete and then the capture randomly stops, sometimes crashing the app and sometimes not. I know this is a work in progress and will improve so that it can be more reliably deployed across a range of different devices. I had issues last year where a new phone basically didn't capture the exifs containing the co-ordinates and this was a big loss. The other thing is the more I use it the more work-arounds I figure out.

Now I am back on top, having recently passed the half million images mark (see below). All the way through this I have to remain focussed on the value that a street level image is to a mapper in terms of applying the correct tags to what's on the ground, be that a building, street furniture or a natural feature. Being top is only a temporary thing, there have got to be more clever solutions to the challenges I have overcome, and when that rocks in I will hand over the crown.


I sometimes have 3 but other times 7 angles on my trips. As a parting nugget of wisdom I have also realised a blurred image is better than no image if you are a mapper. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Ireland is a very small community when it comes to mapping and Mapillary. The way I look at it images taken now should be of ongoing value to mappers for the next few years, as Ireland doesn't have the urban areas and built environment mapped in detail yet on osm.

We have very bad weather here, which would mean at least 6 months of the year give the only option to be armchair mapping. When the sun comes out it is great to get out and about and capture it for others to enjoy, and map.

Location: 53.401, -6.264

Comment from spiregrain on 21 May 2018 at 15:23

Thank you!

Comment from tshedy on 21 May 2018 at 15:42

Mapillary is really helpful in mapping, especially detailing areas one is not familiar with. Welldone DeBigC

Comment from Lineo on 21 May 2018 at 17:44

Mapillary has really helped mapping areas where satellite images are not clear enough. Well done DeBigC for your contribution. You didn't just do this for Ireland but for Lesotho as well where a lot of your uploaded Mapillary images are used.

Comment from Lineo on 21 May 2018 at 18:01

It's a good thing to have an independent battery to charge the phones while doing mapillary walking since the car only charges while the engine is on

Comment from matsele on 21 May 2018 at 19:35

Good one :) DebigC

Comment from rorym on 22 May 2018 at 08:06

Mapillary/etc gets you things that aren't visible from aerial, so this is a great contribution.

Have you considered getting a 360 camera and putting it on your roof or something? They you'd get even more?

Comment from spiregrain on 22 May 2018 at 08:10

There's also this source now available in some areas (haven't tried Dublin): Bing "StreetSide", which is like a blurier version of Google StreetView, but it is available for OSM.

See here for details, some of which are in German.

Comment from Chetan_Gowda on 23 May 2018 at 02:10

Amazing writeup! @DeBigC Thanks for sharing your Mapillary and mapping story. It inspires others!

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