OpenStreetMap all grown up and serious..

sotm09At last weekends State of the Map (SOTM) conference is was clear the the OpenStreetMap project is growing up and trying to position itself at a real alternative to commercial geodata suppliers and not just a fun project for people who love maps and making them.

Perhaps it is the experience of Cloudmade or the numerous iPhone application developers using OpenStreetMap that has brought the necessary focus on the boring stuff of data quality, consistency and currency.

To actually use OpenStreetMap in many applications there needs to be improved data attributes, as Steve Coast himself noted even where there is near complete coverage of streets, such as in London for example, many of the streets are not attributed with street names. Given a focus on fixing this particular aspect, such problems are relative easy to solve, but the key point is that the project leadership now recognises that a guiding hand is needed to help the community complete the task.

In terms of spatial accuracy Muki Haklay has made a specialism of accessing OSM data quality and his latest results presented at SOTM suggest that using the UK as an example, OSM data is better than the equivalent business geographics product produced by the OS, and in some cases comparable to OS MasterMap ITN data, a product that costs over £100,000 per year to license .

Alongside the increased awareness of the importance of data quality, the other clear indication that OpenStreetMap is getting more business like was the dedicated business track day, and the long needed work to produce a new “fit for purpose” license for OpenStreetMap data in the form of the new ODbL.

Some may not like aspects of the new license (myself included) but the awareness of the problem and the willingness to address it shows that the project has reached a real level of maturity. The licensing of community sourced geodata is still novelty, we now have the mirror of a GPL like license for geodata, others licenses I’m sure will follow.

If there are still people out there than believe that community generated geodata is just a joke, its time to wake up!

OpenStreetMap, Google’s MapMaker and Tele Atlas with is Map Share programme in different ways all demonstrate that spatial data capture from the bottom up is a valid alternative to traditional mapping agencies / data providers and is in many parts of the world the only practical solution.

Congratulations to the local organising team for putting together another great conference !

Written and submitted from home, using my home 802.11 network

4 replies on “OpenStreetMap all grown up and serious..”


There is no doubt that community generated geodata is a reality and it is not surprising that quality issues start to be a concern for some people and it actually shows that these data start to be used by people!

A student at the last International Symposium on Spatial Data Quality actually said that he measured the spatial accuracy of some data from OpenStreetMap and noticed that they were much better than some governmental dataset sold in his country!

The main issue yet with data from Open Street Map is really on the heterogeneity of the coverage. If you live in London or New York you can get great data but try to go away from the main centers and in some remote regions and it gets quickly terrible. It may just be a matter of time but this is something relatively new as we were used to government data that had the same requirements (outside of updating rate and sometime accuracy) for an entire country, while this gets very heterogeneous.

We are then going in the right direction but these data should still be handled with care for important uses…

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