From the Cloud to our Amigos

What is AmigoCloud?

Whether it is at a geospatial developer gathering, Open Data hackathon event hosted by a Transportation Agency, ESRI User Conference or local / national professional GIS organization conference, this question always comes up.

AmigoCloud is a Mobile and Cloud GIS platform. The name comes from the idea that software should be friendly (i.e. easy) to use. This is easier said than done. We are constantly struggling with how to balance power and usability. I don't claim we have succeeded just yet, since this should be a never-ending iterative process. Certain users want simple point-and-click interfaces to do data collection, while others want support for concepts like topology or network editing. We want to make all mappers happy.

It is difficult to not be excited about all the advances so far. This past year, we have matured as a mobile and cloud mapping company. Our goal of bringing mapping to the 21st century is finally starting to come to fruition. In July 2014 we joined Code for America’s Accelerator Program.

In their site you can learn about CfA's mission:

Code for America believes government can work for the people, by the people in the 21st century.

We build open source technology and organize a network of people dedicated to making government services simple, effective, and easy to use.

This really resonated with us. The Government 2.0 movement is growing every day and is here to stay. One of AmigoCloud's raison d'être is to be part of that movement on the mapping side. So we joined.

And we are not alone.

This past year, several agencies and organizations started working with us to make this vision a reality.

Here is a video from a 6-minute presentation we gave at Code for America Companies Event, which shows AmigoCloud in the context of the current mapping industry trends.

Go ahead and take a look if you are interested. I can wait :)

In the past year, we have worked hard to build the mapping platform that we ourselves wanted. AmigoCloud is a fully self-contained mapping platform. We don’t depend on any proprietary mapping data (thanks to the wonderful crowdsourced OpenStreetMap project), rendering infrastructure, tile serving, mobile SDK, GIS analytics, etc. We believe in Open Source, so Postgres/PostGIS, Mapnik/Mapserver among many others are projects we just love. With the goal of being a good Open Source citizen, I constantly challenge the team to contribute changes upstream. In addition, we have other projects that we are preparing to Open Source soon, too.

At the same time, we recognize that Open GIS Systems should interoperate with all the popular GIS systems. Some of us are ex-ESRI employees and we do use ArcMap. In fact, AmigoCloud is an ESRI business partner. Besides synchronizing directly with Geodatabases, our system has ArcGIS Online integration.

Being open about integrating with both proprietary and Open Source systems has helped us tremendously.

This begs the question, so just how are people using AmigoCloud?

Our mobile application enables quick data collection of several GIS formats in both 2D and 3D in iOS and Android devices.

2D Editing 3D Editing

You can edit the GIS data via a web editor, too.
Web Editor

We have customers from within the US, all the way to India using AmigoCloud for data collection. In some places, we are enabling parcel mapping - for the first time - by supporting low cost devices. In other places, we are helping to keep track of mines and oil pipelines so that the chances of spills and eco-hazards are reduced and our environment stays clean.

Making sure that our software creates positive impact is important to us.

In addition, when paired with external bluetooth GPS/GLONASS systems, we can use iPads to collect highly accurate data (~45cm accuracy, or better, vs. the standard 5m-100m you get from the off-the-shelf phones/tablets). Here are some traces of GPS data that we collected using one of those high precision devices for a Golf Course demo we did:

Golf Course

It took only a couple of minutes to walk the entire course and collect thousands of points. If the point fell below a certain configured threshold of desired accuracy, it was thrown away.

But AmigoCloud is not just about traditional vector data collection. We started working with the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority to explore ways to enable cloud mapping technologies. We created a modern server-push API for them that can easily scale to thousands of requests instead of the traditional polling mechanism that is (sadly) so widely used.

VTA Realtime buses

Feel free to play with the live OpenTripPlanner prototype here.

From this API alone, VTA sends us 400,000+ geospatial records of vehicle locations per day. The insight that can be gathered from this data alone by using AmigoCloud tools is exciting.

For example, VTA (and anyone consuming the public API) can

  • grab raw location data: raw location data

  • create 20 meter buffers around their bus stops: buffered stops

  • and correlate that data (i.e. a geospatial join): geospatial join

The end result tells them the busiest bus stops from today:
group and count results

visualized results

Our goal with the AmigoCloud Mapping Platform is to enable data collection, analysis, and visualizations like this with just a few clicks. It is a long and difficult road ahead, but we are going to try really hard to make our vision a reality. In the meantime, we would love to hear from you and your needs for a cloud GIS, so don't be shy and drop let us know your thoughts!