MapThePaths Android app


Download it from Google Play here!

MapThePaths has an accompanying app. The app helps you find the locations of council RoWs and RoWs already on OSM while actually out surveying, helping you locate where there are missing paths or paths without a designation tag on OSM. It also allows you to record a tagged GPS trace in which you can tag sections of the trace with the path designation and surface type.

Map key

The colour scheme used is as follows (thicker lighter lines are council data and thinner darker lines are OSM data):

Using the MapThePaths app

What can you do?

The app allows you to:

View mode

You can select the mode ("View" or "Live OSM Edit") via the bottom navigation view on the app. "View" mode is the default. It provides a view much like the MapThePaths website itself; it shows council RoW data (in thicker, lighter lines) overlaid by OpenStreetMap data from the Freemap server (in thinner, darker lines) coloured according to RoW designation. Thus, "view" mode allows you to easily identify which RoWs are missing on OSM and which are lacking a designation, as paths without a designation will appear in grey. To view the data you must select "Download council and OSM data" from the menu system.

You can use "Live OSM Edit" mode, below to add a designation but do not copy the council data , as not all councils license their data in a way which is compatible with OSM. Instead, add designations only via on-the-ground observation.

Note that the OSM data in "View" mode is not live OSM data. It is OSM data provided by the Freemap server, which is normally up to a week, sometimes two weeks, old. So it is possible that an apparently-missing footpath has been surveyed in the meantime. You can use "Live OSM Edit" mode to check the live OSM data to be absolutely sure.

Live OSM Edit mode

"Live OSM Edit" mode allows you to change the designation of a path. It works with live OSM data from the OSM API, so you must select "Download live OSM data" from the menu first and you must login to OSM (via the "Login to OSM" menu option). Use your normal OSM account.

To change the designation of a path, long-press on it. A dialog will appear with different designation options, listing the various RoW classifications plus permissive path (the latter can be useful if you discover that a path has permissive access). This will be updated live on OSM as soon as you select the new designation.

Adding notes

When logged in, you can also add notes for other mappers, e.g. make a note that a hedge is either to the left or to the right of the path. The note button is available in both "View" and "Live OSM Edit" modes.

Performance issues

The app uses a forked version of the Ordnance Survey OpenSpace SDK for Android (see here). Paths are added to the Ordnance Survey Vector Map District base layer as vector lines; performance can be poor if you attempt to use the app in an urban area due to sheer volume of data. I found that on a Nexus 5 it is slow in urban areas but on a Nexus 9 tablet, significantly faster. Please note that the app is not optimised for urban areas, its intended use is in the countryside. Small towns will be fine though (based on tests in Southampton and Romsey).

Recording a tagged GPS trace

MapThePaths also allows you to record tagged GPS traces. Press the red "record" button to start recording. GPS traces are tagged with the path designation (public footpath, etc) and path type (grass path, track, etc), which can be selected from the dropdown lists at the top of the screen. When recording, press the black "stop" button to stop. You can then upload the trace to the MapThePaths site, and, optionally, OpenStreetMap (this can be selected via the settings) using the cloud icon on the action bar at the top of the screen. The intention is to encourage new OSM users to contribute traces of rights of way via this app, and tag them with designation and path type, and then to allow expert OSM users to download the tagged traces from MapThePaths, view them in JOSM via a plugin, and then create the OSM data in JOSM. However this functionality is not implemented just yet.

Waypoints

GPS waypoints are also recorded wheneve the designation or path type changes. These are labelled with the new designation and path type. This can assist you if you wish to use your trace to edit in JOSM later, as the waypoints will mark a change in either of these two path properties.

Saving the GPS trace

GPS traces are saved on the device in GPX format under the mapthepaths folder. The current survey is saved as mapthepathsCurrentSurvey.gpx; whenever you upload a GPS survey or select New track from the menu, you will be prompted for a filename to save the track as a GPX file. If you leave the filename blank, an auto-generated name with the track's timestamp will be used.

Uploading traces later

You can upload previously-saved traces to MapThePaths, and optionally to OpenStreetMap (as above), by selecting "Upload saved track" from the menu.

Bug reporting

The app has been extensively tested, however it is always possible that a bug may occur, If a bug occurs please email the developer, Nick Whitelegg on hikar.app@gmail.com, stating the latitude and longitude where the error occurred and what you were doing at the time.

Obtaining the source code

Source code is available here.

Privacy policy

The MapThePaths app will track your GPS location, in order to download mapping information for your current area and to allow you to record a route. Using the OAuth authentication system, the app also stores a unique "token" to identify you to OSM once you have logged in; this is stored on the device between uses of MapThePaths to avoid you having to login each time. Edits you make (whether adding a note, or changing the designation of an existing way) will be attributable to you on OSM. However, the app does NOT store your OSM username or password on the device. It is OpenStreetMap itself which validates your username and password.

GPS trace uploading: privacy issues

GPS traces are uploaded to OSM in Public mode, which means that other users can identify you as the surveyor of the track. To quote from the OpenStreetMap wiki, this means that "the trace will be shown publicly in Your GPS traces and in public GPS trace listings. Data served via the API does not reference your trace page. Timestamps of the trace points are not available through the public GPS API, and the points are not chronologically ordered. However, other users are still able to download the raw trace from the public trace list and any timestamps contained within."

On the other hand, GPS traces are uploaded to MapThePaths completely anonymously, so if you only upload to MapThePaths, no-one can identify the trace as belonging to you. However, timestamps are recorded on MapThePaths.

You should also read the OpenStreetMap privacy policy; see here.