In a week from today, I was scheduled to give a short talk about the story of OwnTracks at Geomob. Geomob is a series of regular events for location based service creators and enthusiasts, which take place every few months in different European cities,

I believe Ed Freyfogle is the person who conceived these events originally, and I was very much looking forward to meeting Ed in person. He’s one of the people behind OpenCage, a company which provide reverse geocoding data and APIs, and we at OwnTracks like how OpenCage uses open data and have good privacy around their service. We use their data quite extensively with our vehicle tracking devices, and our Android app can use them as well.

What is reverse geocoding? Wikipedia explains it this way:

reverse geocoding is the process of back (reverse) coding of a point location (latitude, longitude) to a readable address or place name. This permits the identification of nearby street addresses, places, and/or areal subdivisions such as neighbourhoods, county, state, or country.

The Geomob event in Munich was cancelled due to the Coronavirus situation, and Ed suggested we chat and record for one of the @geomob podcasts, so we did. I had good fun and hope you’ll enjoy listening to our chat when it appears on an internet near you in a few weeks.

After the official recording was over, I was telling Ed how I love their OpenCageData service and how impressed I was recently when an update I submitted to OpenStreetMap was returned by an OpenCage reverse geo lookup just a couple days later.

Case in point I properly labelled a bakery at which one of my family members frequently stops. I realised the location had no name because I noticed our car stop there with an ignition off. I logged into OSM, located the position of the bakery, looked up its official name on the chain’s Web site, and added that to OSM.

the bakery

Just a few days later, I noticed on a Mattermost window in the background of my screen, that our car again stopped, and I was delighted to see the reverse geocoded data contained the description I’d edited. OpenCageData uses OpenStreetMap data, hence the connection.

car status

(Our cars produce OwnTracks JSON, and the reverse geocoding takes place server-side with a utility we created, called revgeod – a reverse Geo lookup service written in C, accessible via HTTP and backed by OpenCage and LMDB.)

How about you also sign up for the Geomob mailing list, and hopefully we’ll meet at one of their events as soon as the current situation has cleared itself up.

As I told Ed earlier: the slides for the OwnTracks presentation I was to give are ready. :-)

Further reading

geo and owntracks :: 19 Mar 2020 :: e-mail