Introducing OpenStreetView

Posted by mvexel on 15 August 2016 in English (English)

After almost a year of thinking, development and testing, the OSM team at Telenav is ready to present OpenStreetView to all OSM mappers! OpenStreetview (OSV) is the free and open street level imagery platform designed 100% with OSM and mappers in mind.

We officially presented OSV to the OSM community at State of the Map US where we had a 20 minute talk and a booth where we gave away crazy little remote controlled cars to everyone who signed up :). The cars were gone quickly – almost half of the people at SOTM US signed up! - but you can still see the talk thanks to the great SOTM US organizers who had all the sessions professionally recorded. If you have 20 minutes and don't like reading, watching that video is going to be the best way to be introduced to what OSV is and how you can use it to improve OSM. Or if you are coming to SOTM in Brussels, you can come meet our team there (more remote controlled cars? Who knows!) and attend the workshop.


The OpenStreetView booth at SOTM US

If you do prefer reading, read on! I wanted to quickly introduce OSV, what the components are, why we believe it is the #1 choice of street level imagery for OSM, and of course how to contribute and use it.

OpenStreetView components

OSV is a web site,, free and open source mobile apps for Android and iOS, a specialized Map Editor, a plugin for JOSM, and of course a back end server. Support for iD is also planned.

The web site is where you go to explore imagery from all over the world, see leaderboards and your own profile and trips. To see your personal stuff, of course you will need to sign in. Your OpenStreetView account is linked to your OSM account, so you don't need to create a separate account. All we store when you sign in for the first time is whatever is public on OSM. (If you want to check what that is, go to, changing 8909 to whatever your OSM ID is -- unless you want to see my details.)


The apps are free to download from the play / app store. For Android, you can also download the APK directly. With the apps you can capture trips. They are optimized for driving but also work well for biking and walking scenarios. Apart from recording trips, you can also upload your trips to OSV. This will happen automatically when you enter WiFi, if you want. Finally you can review your local and server trips and see your profile. Even if you have not logged in on the web site, you can log in to OSV with the apps, also through OSM OAuth. Either way, this will create an account for you on OSV.


One thing that is really specific to OSV is that you can link the app to an OBD2 dongle in your car. Those are little devices that read from the OBD2 port in your car. Almost every car has one. (Challenge: find yours!). The dongle reads all kinds of diagnostic info from the car and broadcast it over Bluetooth or WiFi. They cost around 20 Euros. A list of OSV compatible ones is on the OSM wiki. (Ehm, a very small list so far. If you have a different model, please add your experience!)

obd2 dongle

OSV will read the speed and curve to improve the accuracy of the GPS signal that is recorded for your trip. It comes in extrememly handy when GPS reception is poor or lost altogether, for example in dense tree cover or in tunnels. The dead reckoning provided by the OBD2 unit will maintain proper alignment to the road. Here you see what that means when you are driving through a tunnel (blue = GPS only, signal lost, red = with OBD2 connection).


The OSV apps also have sign detection built in. So this is not done on the server but at 60FPS on the client! This means that it will detect speed limit signs, and more to come, in real time and can warn you if you are speeding. This warning feature is almost ready and will be in one of the next builds. (We update the apps very frequently.)


The JOSM plugin is in an early beta stage. Right now it will simply display the locations of images on the OSV server, and you can click on them to show the image in the OSV panel. Basic functionality, but it works :) and we hope that you have ideas (or even code) to improve it.


Speaking of ideas, we already have an active community reporting issues and suggestions on Github. This is the best place to let us know of any bugs and ideas you have about any part of OSV. Github is also where all the source code for all the components mentioned here is located. Almost everything in OSV is open source, and if it is not we are looking at how we can make it open source.

If you do not like Github or do not want to create an account there, you can also write to with your ideas or bug reports. We are also on Twitter as @openstreetview and we are getting on Facebook and Instagram if you're into that kind of thing.

If you check Github, you will see that we also have upload tools for your existing Virb / GoPro and other action camera images. These are Python scripts, but we also have a GUI tool that you can just drag and drop directories onto to upload. This is in early beta but if you want a copy, let me know.


There are two components that I have not mentioned yet: the Map Editor and the back end. I want to save those for a separate post that I will write soon. Here is a screenshot of the map editor:


Why OpenStreetView?

We think that OpenStreetView is the #1 choice for street level imagery for OSM. Not only because it is almost completely open source. You also remain in full control of the data you upload to OSV. You can always delete individual photos, trips or even delete everything and remove your account if at any moment you don't want to be a part of OSV any longer. This option is on the web site, no need to email anyone or submit a request.

Another reason is because we are building a platform that is very tightly integrated with OSM. This is obvious from the way we handle user accounts: log in with OSM, no separate account. But also deeper down the integration with OSM is tight: we map all trips to OSM ways, so we can link back and forth between trips / images and OSM way objects. This opens up all kinds of interesting possibilities, and I want to spend a separate post on that as well.

For now, it would be cool if you would give OpenStreetView a try. Download the app for your phone, sign in and start capturing. Tell us about your experiences. Explore what is already there. And most important please use it to improve OSM!

Note that OpenStreetView is not a project run by OpenStreetMap or the OpenStreetMap Foundation. It is maintained by Telenav, where I work, for the sole benefit of improving OpenStreetMap.

Comment from Nakaner on 15 August 2016 at 21:26

Does/Will OSV offer a dump of all its photos available for download via HTTP or Torrent (like the OSM planet dump)? Or is it a data grave similar to Mapillary? (I have read at your blogpost that I can remove my data, but I want to get all photos of OSV) :-))

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Comment from mvexel on 15 August 2016 at 22:39

Hi nakaner, We don't have the intention at all of making OSV into a data silo. Right now we do not yet have an easy way to download everything. I will post an update when that changes.

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Comment from yvecai on 16 August 2016 at 09:21

What is not completely open-source in OSV?

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Comment from mvexel on 16 August 2016 at 15:12

yvecai - at the moment: the backend, the map editor and the image recognition component in the apps. Some of this has to do with third party licenses that we need to figure out. We are looking into open sourcing the remaining components.

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Comment from Narigondelsiglo on 16 August 2016 at 17:03

I'm from Argentina, and here I can buy Obd2 Elm327 unit, which is Android compatible. Do you think it's worth to buy an OBD2 interface to try the app? I would like to have the code to know what's happening and to add/fix features to make it work with this dongle...

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Comment from mvexel on 16 August 2016 at 17:37

Hi Narigondelsiglo, the Android app right now only supports the Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) protocol, so unless the dongle specifically says 'Bluetooth LE' it is probably not (yet) compatible. We are working on 'normal' bluetooth support. Wifi dongles should also work.

You definitely do not need OBD2 to use the apps in any way. It just helps enhance the trip trace. The apps work perfectly fine without the OBD2 dongle.

If you want to check out the relevant source code, is probably a good place to start.

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Comment from metatech on 16 August 2016 at 20:03

Hi, I am will probably start contributing to OpenStreetView or Mapillary soon. OpenStreetView sounds nice, but it looks more restrictive than Mapillary (attribution to "©Telenav" for instance). Can you please explain the reasons why you did not join forces with Mapillary, but created 2 competitors instead ? In other words, was there any limit that prevented from enhancing Mapillary ? Thanks, metatech

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Comment from mvexel on 16 August 2016 at 20:27

Hi metatech. Those are good questions.

You can compare restrictions side by side and I think you will find that OSV is less restrictive. Both have CC-BY-SA on images, so attribution requirements are the same. Unlike Mapillary, OSV does not have a 'private' walled garden of images that OSM does not have access to, nor does OSV place special restrictions on commercial use (in line with OSM which does not do that either). Also, OSV allows you to easily delete your account and with that, your uploaded images. Please check but I don't think you can do this with Mapillary either. Also OSV has LGPL on most of the underlying software. See the comments above.

As for competitors vs collaboration, I think having two players in the field should result in a better outcome for everyone. It keeps everyone focused on the shared objective, which is to create a truly open street level imagery resource for OSM. We are happy to collaborate with anyone if it supports our that objective. We made an attempt to collaborate with Mapillary for one of our previous initiatives (the ScoutSigns plugin for JOSM) but that didn't work out so great. That is in part what sparked the idea to start OSV in the first place.

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Comment from Ziltoidium on 17 August 2016 at 10:12

I am from germany and used the skobbler app once. Then scout / telenav bought it one day (at least i think so). App development was stopped, never updates, no communication. In the US apple appstore i saw there is a new navigation app from telenav. Also called scout, different logo. But this is not available in germany i think. For me personally i wasted money, got never any response to bug reports, no updates, no alternative app replacement. After this disappointment with telenav i feel not like contributing anything. Just some neutral critics (trying to be neutral). In the past it was not very community friendly.

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Comment from jesolem on 17 August 2016 at 12:52

@metatech Good questions!

@mvexel Your statement about Unlike Mapillary, OSV does not have a 'private' walled garden of images that OSM does not have access to is not correct. ALL Mapillary photos are available for OSM free, forever. The 78M photos you see on are ALL available and these are all Mapillary photos. We do have the option for a client to have private photo repositories (compare to your private repositories on GitHub) but these photos belong to the client and we do not "have" them in the license/ownership sense.

Mapillary is an open platform for all people and organizations with an interest in contributing and using street imagery. See my thoughts on Mapillary and OSM if you want to understand the thinking. The API is open, the images have an open license, we give all images and data to OSM.

Currently we have over 250 integrations where people are using Mapillary for map editing, research, travel blogs, and more. The three top ones are all OSM integrations:

1) The Mapillary JOSM plugin
2) The iD Editor
3) Mapbox' OSM navigation tool

Telenav could have used Mapillary for editing OSM just like Mapbox and several other companies do. For free, forever.

@mvexel The failed ScoutSigns attempt failed because you downloaded the result of over 1M traffic sign API queries to Telenav servers, outside of OSM, and not because of lack in commitment to OSM from Mapillary's side (which is what you're hinting at).

(Disclosure: I am one of the founders and the CEO of Mapillary.)

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Comment from mvexel on 17 August 2016 at 14:57

@Ziltoidium Skobbler GPS Nav is still being updated, not super frequently but development has not come to a stand still. It's still the same team in Cluj, Romania that is working on that too, so little has changed there. I also use OSMAnd , Navmii and other OSM based nav apps, and I think Skobbler is still a good candidate among these. If you have bug reports that went unanswered, I apologize. Email me if you want to follow up.

@jesolem I am happy to stand corrected with the private images, my hope and expectation is that we serve the same objective. I must have misinterpreted your legal terms, where it says

Mapillary Photos are available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0). With Mapillary Photos we mean the publicly available street level photos.


We are under no obligation to publicly display Content that is posted to private repositories.

My apologies!

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Comment from hbogner on 17 August 2016 at 16:11

@mvexel @jesolem I would like to be able to upload photos taken with each app to both Mapillary and OSV. It's not practical for me to manage 2 phones recording images each for it's destination. I'm going to keep taking pictures on my trips, and I'll try to upload to both services if possible. Please Mapillary and OSV, find a way to cooperate ;)

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Comment from Ziltoidium on 18 August 2016 at 05:17

@mvexel latest skobbler update was almost one year ago on 2015-09-22. Map updates came at that time only each few months. As we added so much house adresses and buildings in our region, it was sad to see came so much later to the app. But that´s not the topic here. I use meanwhile my Garmin Oregon for car routing, not perfect (no voice, small display), but that´s ok. Don´t need it too often. But therefore i am not dependant on anyone and generate fresh updates whenever i want by myself. (That´s great about OSM). That way my smartphone can be used for other services while driving, like taking pics.

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Comment from Andrzej31 on 18 August 2016 at 08:49

According to this presentation, OpenStreetView seems to be good software :)

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Comment from Richard on 18 August 2016 at 14:43


The API is open, the images have an open license, we give all images and data to OSM.

But the metadata is not open. Yes, you can download photos of a random motorway somewhere; but without knowing where it is (i.e. the location metadata) then it's fairly useless.

You do permit this information to be used in OSM, which is terrific - just as Bing and Mapbox do with their aerial imagery. But until the metadata is available openly, Mapillary isn't open like OpenStreetMap is - it's more like Google Map Maker, where contributors send their work to a third party, but only that third party can use the results. That's why OpenStreetView is exciting as a truly open solution.

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Comment from woodpeck on 18 August 2016 at 14:57

I'd say an imagery platform like this is really open if it lets me do things like: * write a bot that analyses all imagery in a country and tries to auto-detect which roofing material is prevalent in which area * test a new street sign recognition algorithm against all images that are taken along streets * find images of this area that have snow on them * fork the whole thing and run it myself because I don't like the guy who runs it

I'm not asking for server capacity that implements these things for me, and I understand that making terabytes of imagery available for anyone who asks is a challenge, but I need the data to be free and open and accessible enough to allow these use cases. If the provider of the service reserves these use cases to themselves and installs themselves as a gatekeeper between me and the data then the platform might still be a great tool (like e.g. the Bing aerial imagery is for OSM) but certainly not open.

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Comment from jesolem on 18 August 2016 at 18:15

@Richard True and valid comment regarding metadata and we are looking into options there. As far as I can see there is no license granted for metadata on OSV either and with no API for the metadata, how are you going to get it?

@hbogner I hear you.

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Comment from aldobelus on 21 August 2016 at 14:23

I think this is a real great job and I can't wait to start to contribute!! Thank you very much, for being so good workers and do it for all of us.

I only want to make a point. It's not preferable to not propose communication through Facebook, being us people who want a free world? It's only my opinion, maybe I'm wrong (but I thing I'm not...).

Greetings and a big hug!

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Comment from aldobelus on 21 August 2016 at 15:04

And I can find the app at Google App Store -or whatever its name is now- but not at F-Droid... I expect too much from ourselves? Isn't it about free software -as in freedom- that we work together?

I have seen at this page two references to hard proprietary software already. One, Facebook (and the other classic brands, same style: Google and so on) and, now, brand logos about Android and App Store from Mac. No F-Droid, no GnuSocial, Diaspora or else? Shouldn't we offer a wider vision about what the web and free data is, what it offer to us?

Always you consider what I say coming from my deepest admiration for your work and dedication. I try to contribute so the community do things better.

Greetings again.

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Comment from Stokestack on 21 August 2016 at 17:19

Why has this site DISABLED ZOOMING on mobile browsers?

Why deliberately break crucial browser functionality that has been standard for many years?

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Comment from mvexel on 21 August 2016 at 17:52

Hi aldobelus -- I agree we should make this as open as possible. We are working on F-Droid, the direct APK link is in the blog post so you can circumvent Play Store that way if you want. Or compile yourself from the source.

I am not a big fan of Facebook either but especially in the USA community quite a few people use it. I would not post anything to Facebook exclusively without also letting the community know via the diary or talk.

Stokestack, the web site is not optimized nor tested on mobile, but there's nothing deliberate about it :) If it bugs you, why not submit a pull request (or at least an issue) on github?

@woodpeck -- I agree that we can definitely be more open still. We are working on ways to make the data more accessible (bulk download, API) but there is a cost associated with that so we need to be a bit careful with rolling that out. There is no intent on our side to lock in the data that belongs to everyone.

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Comment from Stokestack on 21 August 2016 at 18:04

It is deliberate, because by default zooming is possible. I'll file an issue.

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Comment from vr00n on 21 August 2016 at 19:25

Does the OBD device collect accelerometer data to determine ride quality by any chance ?

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Comment from mvexel on 21 August 2016 at 21:14

vr00n - yes, interesting! That is an idea we have actually been tossing around internally as well. The phone itself could probably be a good sensor for that too. (I am assuming you mean detecting vibration as a proxy for road quality?)

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Comment from tiguillom on 22 August 2016 at 09:31

It would be better if the android app would avoid triggering alert if google play services are not installed. If we use µg UnifiedNlp for example

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Comment from Richard on 22 August 2016 at 09:59

@jesolem "As far as I can see there is no license granted for metadata on OSV either and with no API for the metadata, how are you going to get it?" Well, we shall see! Martijn's comments here and elsewhere lead me to think that the intention is to offer it openly, and with the project less than a month old I'm not going to call them out for not having implemented everything yet. If there's no progress six months down the line then yes, of course, I'd be less inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.

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Comment from mvexel on 22 August 2016 at 19:15

tiguillom: This is over my head :) but could you file an issue on Github?

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Comment from mvexel on 22 August 2016 at 19:15

tiguillom: This is over my head :) but could you file an issue on Github?

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Comment from aldobelus on 23 August 2016 at 11:51

Hi mvexel, thanks for your quick answer. I'm wondering about the F-Droid app... why not right here , where anyone can see the other ones?

And, about the social networks, why not to write at this post too: "and at Diaspora, if you're into that kind of thing..."? It's maybe because you haven't a profile there, because you don't want to spend time but with the proprietary ones? = (

I'm not criticising, I only want to make you pay attention over our brother-sisters free software developers, to treat all our works as a whole for the people who watch the FOSS from outside. If the people can see that, wherever they look, there are beautiful projects working in the same direction (freedom), maybe they understand that this is working well and many people think this is the best way to use the Web, the data and the electronics that surround us. And, this way, I think we will be more and more people doing the same: free software for a free society. Ain't it great?

I'm sorry if I don't explain right myself, english is not my first language... Thanks for your time!

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Comment from mvexel on 24 August 2016 at 21:04

aldobelus -- I am not a huge fan of Facebook myself, but the goal is to get a lot of people involved collecting imagery for OSV (and therefore OSM). I have looked at Diaspora but there seem to be very few users. Anyway I did activate my account there and will monitor / share on that network whenever I get a chance.

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Comment from mvexel on 24 August 2016 at 21:05

Because this post is getting a lot of visibility from outside the OSM community through Hacker News and some news articles, I am going to include a line at the top to stress that OSV is not a project run by OSM or the OSMF, just to make that absolutely clear.

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Comment from descilla on 25 August 2016 at 02:03

@jesolem I'm a Mapillary contributor since early 2014 (and nearly reaching 400k committed images). So I really believe in Mapillary but I also think releasing OSV was good.

On this way you may get Mapillary sharped and improve it a bit more than in the past. My major reason for committing images to Mapillary is to use them for improving OSM data. I am sure a lot of the other (maybe the most?) Mapillary contributors have similiar motivations.

So get a deeper look into the comments above instead of battling with @mvexcel.

In general there are a lot people who wish more openness. In detail I've also a few opinions about that:

  • I want full resolution images. Why are the (downloadable) images limited to 2048px? Besides the resulting really poor 360 degree image quality (maybe you should limit the height to 2048px and not the width) I want to see details (like smaller letters on signs) when I use the imagery for mapping. Note: Ok you have introduced the "download original" button for own images but I want full resolution images through the API and for all images (you can watermark it of course).

  • I want to submit sequence-changesets through API. The sequence editor on your website isn't that usable as I want to (not even the new one). So I was trying to change sequences through JOSM-Plugin but no way: I'm only able to edit images before uploading them. I was reading your API docs and it looks like this feature is not possible through your API.

  • Another sequence-changeset related problem is caused by your review process. It takes too long (except the blurring review). I committed a few changesets six weeks to two month ago and I'm still waiting ( I wan't to use the images for OSM mapping before they're outdated.

  • In general: Why do have images I took and uploaded to your platform to pass a review process? For (un-)blurring changes this is maybe OK but for the other stuff?

  • A friend of mine (I told him about Mapillary) accidentally uploaded a few images of the inside of his car. He asked me how to delete them. I told him: "You have to go to >>>legacy<<< and [...]". (But in real this is only "hiding" them not deleting them but why?)

Further you my have to invest more capacitiy into your app development. I've told a lot of people about Mapillary and at least a few uses it frequently. But they are often confused about inconveniences of the mobile apps. Like and and ...

And of course I want this fancy OBD2 stuff in the Mapillary App, too. ;)

My post maybe sounds very bad but all my notes are smaller detail issues and in general Mapillary is a great service and I fully support the claim to be a neutral provider of geo images.

As a CS student I especially love all this image processing and AI stuff (and the blog posts about that).

Greetings from Germany descilla

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Comment from jesolem on 26 August 2016 at 13:16

@descilla Thanks! Good comments. Quick replies and then I think we can move Mapillary feature discussions outside Martijn's announcement post, to the Mapillary forum or issues.

  • Real delete instead of hide is in the works, we needed new web and backend first.
  • There is no review on images, but I think you mean edits to images, this will change soon.
  • Change sets are in a new backend system now and the backlog will be cleared soon. too many upgrades this summer.
  • There is a branch with editing and change sets from JOSM (the APIs are there from the Mapilalry side), hope that will come out soon too.

Thanks for caring.

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Comment from Jekader on 28 August 2016 at 21:57

Very nice start, this already looks much more open than Mapilalry. Hope it gets more open eventually. I'm sure a lot of OSM contributors would be more willing to submit data if anyone could dump the whole dataset and create a copy of the API (i.e. what OSM offers). I understand that it's technically much harder to organize due to the potential size of the dataset and privacy concerns. Luckily we have technologies at our disposal that can help make this possible!

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Comment from Natureshadow on 22 September 2016 at 21:11

I also just tried to get the app for normal Android, but I can only find it for Google Play devices. As you claim that it is available for Android, can you point me to a download for it?

Even better, could you point me to the source code of the Android app, so I can build it for F-Droid?

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Comment from Natureshadow on 22 September 2016 at 21:16

OK, found the latter.

Let's see whether we get the app on F-Droid…

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