When I started the OpenStreetMap (OSM) project in 2004, I had some ideas of how it might grow – and many ideas for how I wanted it to grow – but I never could have really predicted where it actually would be nine years later.
It has been super fulfilling and fun to watch a project, that started out as one English guy (me!) riding around on his bike with a GPS and wires dangling to a laptop, advance into something that more than a million users (and doubling every year) actively contribute to and that major brands are now adopting globally.
If I’d only known this in 2004, I may have invested in a nicer bike.
Is it too cliché to say that I am a lucky man to be able to combine what I am passionate about with what I do to pay my mortgage?
Today, my luck continues as I share with you that I have joined Telenav to lead OSM growth and development in its Scout navigation services. I have watched Telenav for a few years now as the company has invested in the OSM community and has developed technology to help improve data across the country. It was fascinating to observe over time how the team developed the technology that allows OSM to work well in a navigation environment – a task that is much more complicated than just providing a display map. Moreover, the community benefit of adding billions of GPS data points into the map editing process is exactly how I had hoped that the crowd-sourcing process would evolve.
We are in a new era. Community-based content is quite the norm rather than the outlier. Organizations like Wikipedia have demonstrated that crowd-sourced content can be just as good as commercially licensed content and, many times, even better. The beauty of community-based mapping is, of course, that there are no limitations on the detail that can be added and updated for every city across the globe – down to how many trees are on each individual street. True, drivers may not need this level of detail but they certainly depend on accurate street and business information. If you combine that with other community content like traffic updates and construction alerts, it is easy to imagine how open, real-time, crowd-sourced information could dramatically impact your experience each time you get into your car.
And that’s what I am now set forth to do at Telenav – imagine with the team all of the possibilities of OSM and navigation and then focus on bringing them to life.
I feel a little like I did back in 2004 when I set out with my bike, backpack and GPS to map my first road – not sure exactly what lies ahead but excited for the possibilities.