Recently Directions Magazine caught up with Steve Coast, founder of OpenStreetMap and Head of OSM at Telenav, to discuss why OSM “became the preferred mapping platform and primary data source for a growing list of companies around the world” (for the entire article, please click here).
Founded in London in 2004 by Steve Coast, OSM is a global crowdsourcing project that aims at creating a free world map. Today OSM is counting more than 2 Mio. registered users, of which more than 45,000 are contributing on a regular basis. But is OSM able to take on commercial map data providers yet? Let’s have a closer look at its benefits and drawbacks.
First of all, the map data is very detailed and rich. Whatever is relevant to the people living in a certain area is included in the map. And this does not only apply to the street network, but goes far beyond this, including hiking trails, parking sites, ATMs, etc. Then, as mentioned above, OSM is a global project and thus provides map data from all over the world, with both localized and translated city and street names. Granted, the richness of the data is greatest in Western industrial nations but the coverage in less tapped parts of the world is still as good as or even better than what many sources of proprietary map data have to offer.
At this point it is important to mention that a high degree of detail and accuracy is only one side of the coin. The map’s maintenance represents the even bigger challenge to commercial mapping companies. It’s not enough to collect the data once, but you rather have to keep it up-to-date, which is extremely cost-intensive. Our environment is constantly changing: New buildings and roads are being constructed and street courses are modified. The OSM contributors know their vicinity very well and as soon as something has been altered, those highly committed volunteers will adapt the map accordingly. A huge number of continuous edits guarantees that the map data stays fresh.
Last but not least, there are almost no limitations when using OSM map data. It is free and open and can be customized to a very high degree, allowing users to create their own map – not only in terms of style but also content (i.e. showing only what is relevant in a particular use case).
The attentive reader will have noticed by now: We are very confident that OpenStreetMap will increasingly become the map of choice. We have already chosen OSM as a bedrock of our Mobile SDK and Web API. For further information and to get a first impression of how our technology puts OSM’s strengths to full use, please go to http://www.scoutgps.com/developer.