Mapillary's Rhythm

Over the past few years Mapillary has matured into a worldwide repository of street-level photos. Take a quick look behind the scenes and see how millions of photos are flowing into the system.

Mapillary is a huge photo repository full of interesting patterns waiting to be explored. Looking at the map is an excellent proof of this. More and more areas are glowing in green and all continents (yes, even Antarctica!) are covered with photos at least to some extent.

But what does this all mean? You might have seen our achievements of 1M km, 10M photos, 100M photos. These are unbelievably big numbers. However imporant measures of our success numbers like these are, we're really keen to answer the question: where?

Where are these photos coming from? Where are the areas Mapillary can help you? Because our mission remains: to cover the world with street-level photos and also to give you the ability to explore the world and answer all sorts of location-related questions you might have. This post aims to shed some light on questions about where Mapillary is active.

Mapping the global rhythm

Over the course of years, we've seen a lot of photos from all around the world. With this data, it's possible to map what I call Mapillary's rhythm. This rhythm tells us how the spatial distribution of photos changes over time. Below is a map visualization to help you put those big numbers in a context and see where all these photos have been coming from for a given day.

You can see many different kinds of areas, like the ones that are constantly or periodically active. Areas with a successful local campaign also show up over a shorter period of time and then fade away. Under the map is a line chart showing the total number of photos in our system. All in all, there are multiple aspects to look at on this map. Let us know what you notice!

Controls: Drag the time slider to move to a given day. Hit Play to start an animation. Press the Stop button to make it stop.

Seasonal rhythm

There's even more to it. You might have noticed flatter areas in the line chart, meaning that photos are not always coming in with the same intensity. And the reasons? I still remember trying to figure this out so hard for the first time just by looking at all sorts of raw data. Well, I'm happy to report that the reasons are sometimes (like in this case) very simple.

Mapillary is bound to geography at so many levels and what I did not consider here is seasons! The majority of our awesome community resides in the Northern Hemisphere. Less daylight during the winter months eventually limits the ability of our contributors to go out and map. With that said, we're expecting huge amounts of photos flooding in when spring and summer finally arrive. And to free myself from the shame of not thinking of the obvious, here's a winter sequence from one of my favorite spots showcasing my winter gear, a t-shirt. (Compare this to another sequence taken on the same day with a very different scenery.)

Daily rhythm

Another interesting pattern is the daily rhythm of photos mostly influenced by the amount of daylight (yes, I figured out day and night in different parts of the world all by myself!). Here, not surprisingly, we observe more photos coming in from areas where there's still daylight and everything is shifting from East to West throughout the day. The animation below gives you an idea about the pulse we're getting from all over the world on a regular day in October 2016.

The majority of photos are taken during the daytime, with a few exceptions. Night photos can also capture interesting details of a place but they are more difficult to take with good quality due to low-light conditions. Nevertheless, the animation reveals that a regular day at Mapillary (the timestamps are UTC) starts with photos taken on the US East Coast as well as Japan, Australia and Oceania, and slowly makes its way back to the Americas, passing Asia, Europe and Africa in between.

Overall upload locations for that day (once completed) are marked with green dots while uploads for a given 5-minute period are shown with red circles.

As you can see, Mapillary clearly has a rhythm of its own, be it global, seasonal or daily. We continue to be excited about our mission to cover the world with street-level photos and to help you solve your problems with our tools and this data. Don't forget to share your thoughts about the rhythm. We'd like to hear what exciting patterns you've noticed.

Happy mapping,

/Levente & the Mapillary team

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