Making An Impact With OpenStreetMap


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OpenStreetMap was started in 2004 with the grand intention of mapping the world from scratch, free from the copyright encumbrances of conventional maps, restrictions which were holding back the development of geographical information on the internet. Founder Steve Coast had the vision that ordinary people would be their own surveyors, using recently affordable GPS technology and a lot of pedal power. And 300,000 people did just that.

The aim was not simply to repeat what others had done commercially, but to effect a change in attitudes from the big players, many of them governments. One of the most conservative was Britain's Ordnance Survey. They charged huge amounts to use maps in online applications making business models non-viable.

Ordnance Survey pooh-poohed the idea that ordinary people could collectively produce anything comparable to their efforts over a hundred years. At conferences they would hold up maps of London showing theirs compared with OSM. The first time, there was just a skeleton on OSM. But each time after that there was less and less difference.

Using GPS, bikes, cameras and foot leather, OSM now has the level of detail in many places to rival and in some cases exceed what Ordnance Survey can provide, in just six years.

And change it has produced. In April 2010, the British Government released Ordnance Survey data to 1:10,000 scale and less on much the same terms as OSM. Many maps were freed from the tight embrace of Government. Result!

In some ways this was an amazing achievement, a vindication of OSMs goals. But in some ways it was also a bit of a let down: why would we finish our map now?

I joined OSM six months or so after mapping started in earnest, in September 2006. Increasingly frustrated by the difficulty of publishing maps in Cambridge Cycling Campaign's newsletter, I set out to make an alternative. It took three months, and along with Chester was one of the first cities in the UK to be mapped to street and point-of-interest level. Since then, with others, I've mapped most of our County and elsewhere.

But while in Cambridge our maps are a matter of cost and convenience, in some parts of the world maps may be a matter of life and death. These are often the places where maps are least adequate. The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) was set up to see how people could help. Mikel Maron is the inspiring and inspired mapper behind this effort. Using often remote sources, they mapped Bagdhad during the war and Gaza at the time of the Israeli incursions. The project is best known for its work during the Haiti earthquake in 2009, where timely crowd-sourcing most definitely saved lives. Perhaps the most inspiring project is, however, the mapping the shanty city of Kibera on the edge of Nairobi, Kenya, at the time a blank on every commercial offering yet home to a million people.

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Making An Impact With OpenStreetMap

  1. 1. Copyright © OpenStreetMap and contributors, licensed CCbySA2.0
  2. 2. A grand project to map the worldUsing volunteer resourcesFree from the restrictionsimposed by conventional maps
  3. 3. TechnologyCommunityLicense
  4. 4. 2004 Founded by Steve Coast2005 Servers and primitive software2006 I joined. Cambridge desert.2007 First OSM conference2008 TIGER data2009 Haiti earthquake2010 Ordnance Survey released2011 Cambridgeshire 98% “done”
  5. 5. What’s the problem?All to do with copyrightCan’t reproduce a mapCan’t access raw dataThe ‘derived work’ problem
  6. 6. The licenseTerms of use central to projectCCbySA2.0OdBL1.0Freedom to do what you wantBut you must share…… and attribute
  7. 7. How is it done?Burn rubberSanitise and connect dataUpload dataUse data
  8. 8. The technologyAffordable, accurate GPSCollect a journeyMake notes about featuresCombine them in an editorUpload to OSM
  9. 9. The technologySatellite, aerial photographyReference existing map(walking papers)Data sets
  10. 10. APIRESTfulUpload/download XML filesVia conventional HTTPRemote database
  11. 11. Using the dataData model: vectors, not rasters (points and lines, not pictures)To make a picture, render the vectorsDifferent renderings for different applicationsNot just pictures• Tactile• Voice• Routing (CycleStreets)
  12. 12. Simple data modelNode: point location on planetWay: ordered sequence of nodesRelation: abstract group ways/nodesTags: properties of node/way/relationarea: closed loop of nodes
  13. 13. Simple data modelNode: post box, junctionWay: linear features – roads, riversRelation: bus route, turn restrictionsunique IDTags: “this is a B-road B1302 called `High Street’.” highway=secondary; ref=B1302; name=High Streetarea: car parks, buildings, parks
  14. 14.
  15. 15. Community300,000 mappers~10% active in any monthCollective endeavour“Surprising ways”
  16. 16. Enabling and promoting changePushed Government into open dataProjects involving disabilityHumanitarian OSM Team (‘HOT’)
  17. 17. Open geo-data in the UK 2004 Ordnance Survey only game in town… 2005 OS pooh-pooh the idea the 2006 “ordinary people” could 2007 make maps… 2008 OS starts to get nervous… 2009 Govt announces open OS… 2010 It happens… 2011 LA’s no longer have to pay…
  18. 18. First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. (Ghandi)(Still not solved the derivation problem)
  19. 19. A couple of thingsI’ve been ableto do locallywith OpenStreetMap
  20. 20. Cambridgeshire County Council, licensed CCbySA2.0
  21. 21. Cambridgeshire County Council, licensed CCbySA2.0
  22. 22. Maps for disabilityBlind and partially sighted: renderingsWheelchair accessibility: the dataLimited commercial imperativeLimited dataCostly to source DIY maps
  23. 23. Tactile maps
  24. 24. Amenities, kerbs, pavementsCopyright © OpenStreetMap and contributors, licensed CCbySA2.0
  25. 25. Humanitarian OSM TeamSet up to respond to crisesLargely initiative of Mikel Maron Photo: Harry Wood CCbySANow constituted
  26. 26. Baghdad: experimentCopyright © OpenStreetMap and contributors, licensed CCbySA2.0
  27. 27. Gaza: relief organisationsCopyright © OpenStreetMap and contributors, licensed CCbySA2.0
  28. 28. Haiti: emergencyCopyright © OpenStreetMap and contributors, licensed CCbySA2.0
  29. 29. Haiti: emergency
  30. 30. Haiti: emergency
  31. 31. Kibera: community projectCopyright © OpenStreetMap and contributors, licensed CCbySA2.0
  32. 32.
  33. 33. For me…Brings together interests in one place• Cycling• Photography• Design• Cartography• Technology
  34. 34. For the world…Brings together technology – community – licenseto make maps that allowinnovation in unexpected waysPuts maps in the handsof ordinary peopleDemocratises accessto information