OpenStreetMap

State of the Map 2011 Summary

Posted by iandees on 29 September 2011 in English (English)

Some thoughts a few weeks after I got back from State of the Map:

Since this was my first State of the Map I don't have much to compare it to, but I felt like it was the year for OSM to dip into the "Trough of Disillusionment" and start moving up the "Slope of Enlightenment" (see [0] for the Hype Cycle). After Haiti and similar disasters surprised everyone with the flexibility and instantaneous usefulness of OSM, there was a lot of interest in trying to mold OSM into something that could be applied to other situations and give a similar result. At the State of the Map US conference last year we heard from tons of GIS departments that wanted to integrate their data into OSM. After a long while of not coming up with technical solutions to this problem, it seems like those users of OSM data have lost interest a bit and commercial entities have started to express interest.

MapQuest, Bing, and ESRI (among others) all had a presence at State of the Map this year and were showing that OSM data is useful to their fight against Google's surge in geo data. After a huge push earlier this year (http://open.mapquest.com, routing, map tiles, and other developer services/APIs all based on OSM data) MapQuest's interest in OSM as an alternate data source seems to have faded a bit as AOL is trying to find their way in a challenging market. Bing hired Steve Coast (the founder of OSM) earlier this year and has slowly rolled out support for OSM by hosting tools to help mappers create more data for OSM. Most importantly they also gave permission for OSM mappers to use the Bing satellite imagery while mapping. ESRI showed off their OSM editor plugin and related services.

As OSM data matures and becomes more complete, it seems like the focus moves from the mappers (there weren't any new announcements geared towards the mapping or developer community) to the data consumers: not only did the commercial entities I mentioned above express interest, but developers from firms interested in using OSM data in their products were there and discussed ways of making it easier to use OSM data. For example, Mike Migurski from Stamen came up with a way to create weekly dumps of OSM data on a metropolitan-area level [1] rather than forcing everyone to download the 18GB dataset that includes the entire planet.

We also heard from some researchers who discussed various methods of improving the existing OSM data, especially in the US. The holy grail of OSM (at least for places like MapQuest and Bing): complete address and routability is within reach and seems to be getting closer every day.

We just need more mappers!

[0] http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=1447613
[1] http://metro.teczno.com/

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