Steve Coast paints a picture of hundreds of hobbyists driving the streets of the UK and creating useful, current, and freely available map data which rivals today's commercial offerings. OpenStreetMap (OSM) uses the trace files from consumer grade GPS receivers, and aggregates the data into a high resolution, wiki-based geo database which is used by several interesting projects, including Linux-based driving direction applications, postal code data mapping, and Web 2.0 style mashups.
Users submit GPS trace data and use landsat satellite imagery to create maps collaboratively, which are then distributed freely under a Creative Commons license. OSM has been running since early 2005 and its diverse community of over 1,300 users is mainly based in Europe, where maps are generally owned by national governments and not released into the public domain. However, efforts are underway to add data from the United States which will include the TIGER/LINE data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
OSM has partnered with many organizations, such as a courier firm in London which tracks its couriers with GPS units. This GPS data is submitted to OSM regularly and helps to create highly accurate maps of the London city streets. OSM's central task is to generate freely available geodata but many of its core concepts, such as allowing map editing to the full degree, will become mainstream as users demand more access than simple pins and lines on top of copyright restricted map data. The potential for community-edited maps is huge and this talk charts OSM's past, present, and future.
Steve Coast is a freelance hacker based in London who studied physics and worked for several departments in University College London. Since then, Steve has worked in a variety of computer firms, including Wolfram Research, X-Refer, and Computer Exchange. He's been published in books, including Digital Information Graphics, and Google Maps Hacks . His current focus is on OpenStreetMap, an editable wiki map.
This free podcast is from our Where Conference series.
Photo: James Duncan Davidson/O'Reilly Media