March 18, 2011

Metadata for Greening Events

Filed under: General,Tools "greening" physical events — Phil Cross @ 3:50 pm

The technical side of the project involved developing a web site that would provide events delegates with information about greener modes of transport to the event location. In addition to this, we provided carbon footprint information for their journeys as well as a car/journey sharing application.

The intention with the first two approaches was to show how relevant information could be generated and displayed in a user friendly manner through the use of mapping technologies in an automated manner. We chose to use the Google maps API with Street View and Directions to demonstrate how mapping and direction information can be generated solely with the use of location coordinates entered by an event organiser. In addition, we created a Google maps interface to allow generation of location and possible route start point coordinates (e.g. railway/bus stations), also using a mapping interface based on the Google Maps API.

We would have liked to have had a similar API using event coordinates for generating carbon footprint data for different journeys to the event location but could not find a suitable service we could use. However, it is clear that such an API could be created or licensed from other services that currently provide carbon footprint services through a web interface.

The system added additional metadata to that normally required for events (such as dates and times). These included the coordinates of the event location and coordinates for various local ‘start points’ for routes to the location. For the events used to trial the project web site, where the events were based at Bristol University, the start points were Bristol Temples Meads railway station and Bristol Bus Station. The idea was to generate routes from these start points to make it easier for delegates to choose to come to the event by train or bus, and walk or take buses to the event from the train or bus stations.

The coordinates generated routes using the Google API and we also took advantage of the use of  way-points to allow an event organiser to have more control, if desired, over the routes generated. This is useful since automatically generated directions do not always follow a sensible route, and an event organiser might wish to suggest a route that passed through more interesting areas from a tourist point of view.

Another approach taken for generating more customisable route information was to use the Google Earth KML XML schema. We experimented with using GPS enabled smart phones for generating these, by having someone walk or cycle an intended route (with the ability to take useful photos on the way, which would be assigned to markers on the route), but found it easier to simply draw the route using Google Earth itself. Once a KML file was created, it could be served up by the project web server to Google  to enable the generation of an overlay via the Google Maps API.

We therefore demonstrated in the project that basic metadata about an event, entered by an event organiser via a simple interface, could be used to generate maps, route diagrams and sets of directions for encouraging event delegates to choose more sustainable means of travelling to their destination.

The system that we used for running this web application was based on the CREW events application that uses event information encoded as RDF. We extended the schema used to describe the event to include references to route start points and way-points and to KML files. The information entered though an administration interface by an event organiser was then exported in this format to the application that generated the web pages.

This approach shows that it would be possible to produce re-usable sets of metadata about event locations, which could be created by conference and event providers and imported into conference management systems to automatically generate information of use to delegates – in particular information that would encourage sustainable travel options.


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