Coleman McCormick from SpatialNetworks spoke to the viability of OpenStreetMap (OSM) data for commercial use this morning at the State of the Map conference. He related that data used to be a heavy effort that took a great deal of time to find, but now with OSM quality increasing, it’s become an easier problem to solve, saying, “when we can’t find data, we go to OpenStreetMap.”
Data collection has been something that SpatialNetworks has been involved with for ten years, and now they have been focusing more on mobile applications with Android, iOS, and Web mapping applications of their own. Maptual is a product that they have built to put out proprietary data that they have collected, with Maptual:kabul focusing specifically on that city in Afghanistan.
Fulcrum is a new product that SpatialNetworks is getting ready to make public for data collection and field surveying. OpenStreetMap provides a data source that is low cost, flexible, current and localized for this product so that the user can build upon it. The opensource software that OSM is built upon has also been leveraged for the product.
SpatialNetworks does a lot of data collection overseas in the developing world. The quality and depth of commercial data isn’t standard, with low detail in rural locations. But with OSM data they can contribute data that can be built upon with greater detail as the mapping work continues. The ability to go offline with maps is critical to the kind of data collection work that SpatialNetworks does and enables. Pulling data from other providers, such as GoogleMaps, isn’t possible without violating use licenses, but it can easily be done with OSM.
Among the other benefits of OSM, according to Coleman, are:
- Beautiful cartography where you’re not stuck with specific styling as defined by a development sites.
- The dataset is getting huge, and is growing
- There’s the ability to contribute and share to build upon the quantity and quality
- OSM data quality is good now for a wide number of use cases, and continues to improve
The commercial use of OSM data provides validation of the data, that will only improve the commercial viability over time.