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  • Satellite Evolution

Outdooractive UK expands cartography team, developing digital mapping customised for hikers

Hyper-local positioning and near global, high-speed connectivity are set to revolutionise the way mapping is made available to outdoor enthusiasts, according to Craig Wareham, CEO of Outdooractive UK Europe’s largest digital outdoor tourism platform. Craig, previously a pioneer in the use of off-road sat-nav technology on mobile phone platforms, is now building the company’s inhouse cartography team to capitalise on predicted advances in digital mapping and satellite technology.

Hiking with Outdooractive

He says: “In the next 4 years constellations of low-cost satellites, such as those being developed by OneWeb, will add positioning, navigation and timing to their capabilities and provide greater precision than can be achieved with GPS. This when combined with near global earth observation and improvements in connectivity will enable new types of functionality for outdoor adventure apps.”

Digital Cartographer, Callum Reay, is the first appointment for the new team. He is building collaborations with map publishers who want to leverage the Outdooractive platform to reach a global market, while reducing the cost of maintaining their own digital assets in this time of change.

Callum developed his cartography skills in landscaping mapping of glacial environments and is now looking at sports data.

“Digital Cartography means fusing elements of traditional map-making with the power of geographic information Systems,” says Callum. “By working with specialist map providers such as HARVEY Maps and Ordnance Survey, we can develop mapping for different activities. We use the detailed feature layer colouring and then stylise the GIS data to make it visually intuitive.”

“Hikers exploring the Lake District can easily plot a safe route using the Outdooractive interface, however the actual calculations that generate that route are quite complicated,” he explains. “My role is to source the best map data that underpins those calculations.”

Cartography screenshot Outdooractive

“This integration of different types of mapping means if you’re going biking, trail running or kayaking with the Outdooractive app, you will be able to select the optimal map layer for your activity. Winter and Summer layers provide information for mountain biking or skiing depending on the season.”

The Outdooractive app is available as a free option with basic mapping, a Pro version with Ordnance Survey and other topographic mapping, and then as the Pro+ with specialist mapping for particular interests and regularly updated weather information.

Callum is currently sourcing map data to inform the routing engine, he explains: “I’m always looking to speak to route providers, such as cycling networks or tourism boards about their geographic data, which is information with a map coordinate associated with it. I then visualise that using qGIS and integrate it within the Outdooractive platform, where it is combined with our global map maintained by our cartographic team back at HQ.

“Right now, as an example, I’m looking at the County Peaks, importing the highest peaks in each county – so these points have a geographic coordinate and a height and other information, and I can import them into Outdooractive using what we call Points of Interest. I then look for the best routes connecting to those points, so I might request existing routes from partners on the Outdooractive community, or I might speak to a data partner, such as Keswick Tourism Board, to get the best route for Scafell Pyke area.”

Outdooractive mapping is currently available to download to the phone with routes followed using GPS, removing the need for connectivity as this can be patchy in the mountains. In future, higher bandwidth connectivity will allow rapid update of mapping information and more accurate positioning systems will be available to provide accuracy within centimetres, further improving mountain safety. Outdooractive is investing in its team and platform to ensure it is ready to exploit these advances.


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