So there I was taking a leisurely Sunday walk over the North Downs yesterday afternoon. Surrey in the sunshine is always nice and if you are on top of Ranmore Common on a good day, then I’d argue we almost give New Zealand’s grand vistas a run for their money.
Then suddenly, breaking the idyll and calm of the afternoon came a family crying out to me for help. A man had snapped his Achilles’ tendon and they didn’t know what to do.
Being a well kitted out geek walker I pulled out my electronic compass, pedometer, map, mobile phone and emergency jellybeans to offer the poor chap some sugar. Phoning 999 I then described our predicament and location to the call centre lady.
Me: “We’re on top of the North Downs, near Ranmore Common Road, close to the Boy Scout hut marked on Ordnance Survey map 123etc… and yes, he can breathe and is standing and lucid.”
999 lady: “Oh dear love, is that near the A24?”
Seriously, I couldn’t believe it – they asked me several times where I was. OK I know we were in the woods, but I was being very specific and surely the emergency services electronic map systems are integrated with the Ordnance Survey walking trails. Aren’t they?
If they’re not – what an obvious need for a mashup eh? Come to think of it, why weren’t the paramedics using some flavour of geo-location based service to pin point where we were?
Back in October last year I attended Yahoo India’s first open ‘Hack Day’ where developers were invited to mashup over maps, calendars or whatever they wanted. Tech staff were on hand (including David Filo himself) to encourage and coach throughout a single 24-hour block and the winner produced a map mashup app.
Specifically, the winner’s solution allowed detailed hand drawn direction lines to be placed over maps where no formal roads exist – something very common in India’s poorer areas. Precisely the kind of additional map detail that we needed yesterday.