OpenStreetMap Gets Unprecedented Level of Detail via Collaborative Editing

Mapping solutions are a logical bridge between the virtual and real world, allowing people to find physical addresses, directions and other points of interest from applications and the web. The limitation so far has been that users and developers usually have to wait for the big players like Google, Yahoo and Bing to add the relevant information to their maps.

OpenStreetMap, is succeeding in this space by allowing its maps to be collaboratively edited, making it a kind of “Wikipedia for maps” (see our earlier coverage on this project here). The results have been quite impressive, as TechCrunch reported:

The number of contributors to OpenStreetMap has grown steadily over the years. A year ago 110,000 individuals had added or edited data. Today it’s up to 245,000 individual mappers. An average of 7,000 edits an hour are made to the data.

The project only started in 2004, and most of the data has been added over the last couple of years. Perhaps the most stunning case study is Germany. In 2007 it was a blank canvas. Today, the level of detail goes far beyond what any other service provides. It includes all major points of interest (even trees are now being added by users), the entire road network and turn by turn navigation:

This project in turn is enabling companies like CloudMade to build on top this increasingly valuable and useful data set. And to clarify a few points from an earlier version of this post Harry Wood notes that:

The OpenStreetMap project allows companies like CloudMade to build commercial services on top of their dataset (OpenStreetMap releases its data with an open license which permits commercial use) CloudMade have some great products, but they do not own or control OpenStreetMap. The project is overseen by a not-for-profit foundation organisation, and has no direct commercial ties with CloudMade or any other company. This is an important distinction. OpenStreetMap is a massive project with thousands of volunteer contributors, all working towards the goal of free geo-data for all. We have come together as a community to help build something great which everyone can benefit from, and anyone can join in.

If you compare OpenStreetMap with commercial crowd-sourcing systems such as Google MapMaker, you may think there’s not much difference. But there is huge and fundamental difference. When you contribute to OpenStreetMap you’re not working to give data to some company for free. The data is openly available for all.

With the CloudMade Platform developers can get in on the action with a number of platforms and APIs including:

  • Navi Studio: A suite of tools that makes it easy to build fully featured turn-by-turn navigation applications on any mobile platform.
  • iPhone SDK: Create the next App Store category killer! Add customized maps, forward and reverse geocoding, vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian directions to your app.
  • Mobile SDKs: Add customized maps, forward and reverse geocoding, vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian directions to your J2ME, RIM or Android app.
  • Web Maps Studio: Web designers and developers - create map based experiences that combine customized map styles with dynamic content from the the Data Market Place and the geo web.
  • Specialist Tools: Advanced developers can create their own unique apps and experiences. Get direct access to CloudMade’s web services for use in your own web, mobile or desktop apps.

To get started developers can get an API key, which can be obtained from here. As we reported back in December 09, some of this data comes at a price, but the volume of data may provide your application with a competitive edge. You can find a number of mashups in our CloudMade API profile, and can find more about OpenStreetMap at our OpenStreetMap API profile.

Be sure to read the next Mapping article: Google Maps API v3 Adds KML, Traffic, and Bike Routes