Archive | openstreetmap

Telenav OSM Contest Winner Announced; New Contest Begins Today

As you might have seen, Telenav kicked off its first OSM editing contest last month and I’m excited to announce that the contest was a great success, with nearly 190K edits made over the course of the month. I’m also happy to announce that “bdiscoe” is the winner of the contest (with 145,713 points/47,563 edits total) and is now a proud owner of a brand new tablet. Congratulations, bdiscoe!

Thank you to all of the editors who participated in our first contest. If you didn’t win this time, we would like to give you another chance …

We’re now announcing a new contest, which kicks off tomorrow (March 12) at 9am PT and will run until 11:59pm PT on April 11. We will announce the winners at the State of the Map conference in Washington D.C.

This time, the prize will be much bigger! We are going to give away round-trip airfare, lodging, and admission for the winner to either the (1) State of the Map Conference EU in Karlsruhe, Germany, June 13- 15, 2014 or (2) State of the Map 2014 Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, November 7-9, 2014 (up to $2,500 value and the winner can decide which event he or she would like to attend). At the end of the contest, we will also randomly select another winner from the rest of the participants who will win a new iPad or Galaxy Note (their choice).

For this contest, we will be requiring editors to use MapRoulette and please note that you will still need to sign up on our contest page in order to register for the contest. Registration and all contest details will be available on this page beginning tomorrow morning.

Thank you again to all participants! We look forward to another successful contest. See you at SOTM US in DC!


OSM PLUS logoOSM PLUS is returning in 2014 after a super successful event in 2013 with 80 attendees discussing how to use OSM to solve business problems, sharing solutions and discussing the common issues that we face leveraging OSM data.

The event will be directly after the State of the Map (the awesome community-focused event), on the 14th of April in Washington, DC. Tickets are available now.

This year we will focus on discussion points and panels, bringing together the spectrum of users of OSM data to jointly figure out how to manage quality, fix the holes and efficiently leverage OSM while remaining respectful of the licensing issues that surround the project.

Why attend the OpenStreetMap Professional Large User Summit?

You’re professional. Professional users of OSM have different priorities to the Free and Open communities. You have expectations to meet and deadlines to make. You need a degree of certainty. Join us April 14th to learn how OSM can support professional use cases. Learn how others use it today in professional settings and discuss the future of OSM in your world.

You’re focused. You appreciate the community’s Open Data mission, but you need answers and facts. OSM PLUS is a forum for a select group of professional users to come together. It is a space for professionals to have open conversations about how to move the state of the art forward in open mapping. Space is limited!

You’re not alone. People like you will attend. Professional users of OSM data and tools are now everywhere. They have similar concerns, similar questions and a similar mindset. Come and meet them. Find out what they’re doing and look for areas of collaboration.

The Book of OSM

bookI’m tempted to celebrate OpenStreetMap’s first decade with a book about how it came to be.

Not a book about how to add a footpath or use the tools, but the history & design of the project. How did mapping parties start? Why does the data structure look like it does? How did the SotM conference start? What was it like commercializing the project? How the ODbL came to be and the Foundation evolved to where it is now…

You can sign up to learn more.

Telenav OSM Editing Contest Update (We’re Halfway There!)

Earlier this month, Telenav launched its first OSM editing contest and I’m excited to say that many of you jumped on it and are actively editing your way to the chance at a new tablet.

So far, our contest has led to more than 86,000 qualified edits! In just two weeks, that is pretty admirable. Thank you to all of you who have participated to date!

It’s not too late to sign up and have a chance at winning! Even if you sign up now, we will factor in edits that you have made since February 11 (start of the contest), so please head over to the website and register.

Here is the list of the Top 20 editors so far:

  1. bdiscoe    38102
  2. ada_s    31126
  3. ingalls    29998
  4. jonesydesign    21817
  5. rickmastfan67    16699
  6. Your Village Maps    16098
  7. pkoby    11388
  8. wvdp    11165
  9. Natfoot    8529
  10. bbmiller    8418
  11. hno2    7914
  12. Dr Kludge    6474
  13. asciiphil    6154
  14. jwagenet    6018
  15. andrewpmk    5407
  16. RoadGeek_MD99    5180
  17. Data411    3635
  18. Peter Dobratz    3301
  19. Ahlzen    3222
  20. dchiles    2914

I’d love to hear your feedback on what type of prizes would interest you for future contests, please email me with suggestions.

Telenav giving away iPad Mini or Galaxy Note to Editor with the Most Edits Made By March 10


As many of you probably know, I’m heading up OSM initiatives over at Telenav, the Bay Area-company that develops GPS navigation apps like Scout.

For three years, Telenav has been dedicated to helping the community through map updates. Today, we’ve kicked off a contest to see if we can help drive even more edits over the next 30 days. Anyone can win and it’s pretty easy to enter.

All you need to do is sign up here to register for the contest and make as many quality edits as you can by the end of March 10th!

We’re asking that editors focus on the U.S. and to make edits either through or Battle Grid. We have created a point system for edits and the person with the most points between now and March 10 will win either an iPad Mini or a Samsung Galaxy Note (your choice!).

Good luck and happy editing!

It’s Time to Make OpenStreetMap Your Only Street Map

Today at Telenav we’ve announced that we have acquired skobbler – an OpenStreetMap (OSM) navigation company based in Germany – for approximately $24 million. skobbler brings a super popular OSM navigation app and 80+ employees in Europe to Telenav, expanding our reach globally across many of our products, services and offices.

In case you aren’t familiar with it, OpenStreetMap is the worldwide wiki-map that anyone can edit. When I founded OSM nearly a decade ago, my vision was to create a map everyone could use and contribute to. No strings attached. I created OSM as a non-profit community project – no one owns it and none of the community members make money from editing it. It is built and managed by people just like you, updating their neighborhood maps from their phones and computers.

Current OSM map vs. Google Map of Sochi, Russia  where the 2014 Olympic Games begin on Feb. 7 (Thanks to Alastair Coote)

Current OSM map vs. Google Map of Sochi, Russia where the 2014 Olympic Games begin on Feb. 7
(Thanks to Alastair Coote)

Have others tried their hand at crowd-sourcing map data as well? Absolutely. Waze and Google – or, just Google now – provide similar mechanisms to improve their maps, based mostly on OSM’s innovations. With one big catch. It is very much their map. Not yours. (Just ask the developers who pay a lot of money to use it.)

OpenStreetMap is different. All of the quality data contributed is openly available – just like Wikipedia. So, anyone can download, experiment and play with it freely. It’s not locked up beyond your reach.

OSM is one of the world’s most active open and crowd-sourced projects with over 1.5 million registered editors (a number that has been doubling every year). It has grown exponentially faster than I could have ever imagined ten years ago. In fact, it has been a fantastic display map (map you can look at) for some time, mapped right down to trees and footpaths. We’ve seen many uses of OSM in that context, from mere pretty artifacts to stimulating visualizations. The quality of the map data has evolved so much that, in the past couple of years, developers like Foursquare, Pinterest and Uber have integrated OSM as a display map into their products (most likely as a way to get access to a more detailed map and to avoid those costly fees from Google).

Mountain terrain in Sochi, Russia where skiers and other athletes will compete.

Mountain terrain in Sochi, Russia where skiers and other athletes will compete.

Today, OSM is a repository of quality map data, with more coming in than going out. I want to change that. Now it is time to leapfrog the simple design use cases – the economically efficient background usage of the map. It’s time to take OSM and harness it for everyday navigation. That’s where the users are and where we can really make difference.

I’d like it to get OSM to seven billion contributors in the next year or two. The only real way to get there is to allow a significant amount of consumers to get their hands on the map. I want more mobile users to have the chance to navigate with it and provide feedback as they go. This feedback can be implicit in their GPS trails, or explicit in their feedback to us as they tell us where the map needs improvement.

Turn-by-turn navigation on our phones is the way most people in the world use maps today, and it takes incredible effort and work from companies like Telenav and skobbler to mold OSM in to something a consumer will get a thrill from using. That’s what we’re focused on: getting OSM in to the hands of the everyday person, so that it’s part of our daily lives.

While Wikipedia proved the crowd sourcing model, OpenStreetMap is about taking it to the next level, switching it into warp drive, turning up the volume, pressing ‘play’ and not looking back. Now it’s about closing the loop. It’s no longer about taking OSM data, filtering and massaging it in to a simple map to put pins on top of. It’s about solving real problems for users – how to get somewhere – and providing them with a great experience that they are inherently a part of, by fixing the map as they go. To make this work smoothly requires tremendous engineering effort, orders of magnitude beyond providing display maps. We, at Telenav, have taken on that challenge and I am personally extremely excited to be a part of the team that is going to make it happen.

For nearly ten years, OSM has had potential for developers and consumers, let’s switch it up and give it potential because of developers and consumers. While others have spent billions of dollars building unsustainable maps based on your contributions, OSM is free, easy and available to all.

The project is ready for you. Here is how you can contribute:

…and watch for OSM data and services coming to Scout, our award-winning consumer navigation offering, very soon.

It is time to make the switch: make OpenStreetMap your only street map.

NYT Article on Google, OSM and more mapping fun


Here’s a great article in the NYT Magazine (get your physical copy on Sunday) by Adam Fisher about everything maps.

“You don’t see anybody competing with Google on the level or quantity of their mapping today,” says Coast, who now works as a geographic-information professional. But, he adds, “that’s because it’s not entirely rational to build a map like Google has.” Google does not say how much it spends on its satellite imagery, its planes, its camera-equipped cars, but clearly it’s an enormous sum. O.S.M., by contrast, runs on less than $100,000 a year. Google’s spending is “unsustainable,” Coast argues, “because in the long run, this stuff is all going to be free.”

And, my favorite:

In June, Google bought the popular social-mapping app Waze for close to a billion dollars. The product can be thought of as a Twitter for traffic jams…

Making your own aerial imagery

Lots of people have been experimenting with making their own aerial imagery over the last few years. Technology (cameras) and platforms (anything that flies) have been coming down in cost dramatically. This is useful if you live in a disaster area or want to do something fun on the weekend.

Personally I’ve never had a need to make aerial images as I’ve lived in areas covered by people like Bing and Google. Therefore all the technology, kites, drones and rectification has mostly passed me by as something of a cute sideline. Sure, theoretically you could do it yourself but you really need a few hundred million dollars of aircraft, cameras, people and computers to do it for any real use case.

Until now!

I live in an expanding area which means imagery is dated fairly quickly. Here’s what Bing shows for my area:

Bing of Kings Ridge

We’ll jump ahead so you can see what I now have. Then we’ll back up on the process:

Steve's Kings RidgeSpot the difference. Here’s an animated GIF. Notice the new houses and roads:

aerial animationAlso, notice the difference in color. Green indicates the summer. Bing’s image is better in many ways. For example, it is much more vertically-down and doesn’t smear the side of buildings over the image.

How did we get here? First, it helps if you have a pilots license or easy access to someone who does. Then you wet lease a plane (meaning; fuel included) and take a bunch of pictures. The plane will run around $150/hour and you can pick up a decent DSLR for a few hundred dollars. Here’s the image we start with:

Original imageThis is taken at an angle, not nearly straight down. Notice the wing spar and foot stand at the bottom right.


Here’s our imagery pilot; my wife

Next we go over to and upload the image. You do that, and add a bunch of control points that map the image you have to the flat top-down openstreetmap. What this does is take your image and flattens it out in to a map you can use.

mapwarperThen, you press the magic warp button to get out a warped image which you can use for real mapping:

Untitled 4So for a few hundred dollars you too can go do this. It’s not perfect, but its cheap(ish), fun, education and informative.

We’re still very far from being able to do this en-mass, however. The costs and barriers to entry are many:

  • You need a way to take pictures. Hexacopeters, Cessna’s and even kites cost money. My phone should be able to do 90% of this automatically.
  • Rectification isn’t nearly as simple as it can be.
  • There’s no color correction. The pixels at the edge of the image are further away than the middle and the atmosphere introduces color gradients because of that.
  • I didn’t see a way to stitch many rectified images together; which is a prerequisite for a full map.
  • Getting from mapwarper to Potlatch to edit things in OSM is non-trivial; it should be a one-click.

Mapwarper, OSM, potlatch and the rest are all awesome. They’ve taken us from “impossible to make your own map” to merely “very hard to make your own map”. I’m just impatient and want “any idiot can make their own map”.

What would be wonderful is; I point my iPhone outside the plane and take pictures. The phone knows its position and altitude and its roll, pitch and yaw. This gives us a good start on the image location. Mix in some topology and make the images overlapping… and we go a long way to making this a simple anyone-can-do-it process. The phone has a radio in it and a decent processor, it can do some work by itself or just upload it to a service which does a lot of this automatically.

On the other hand, the way imagery is collected today is based on a set of assumptions like vector mapping was 10 years ago:

  • The images have to be perfectly rectified. We don’t need that accuracy.
  • The images have to be cloud-free. We can tolerate a few clouds.
  • The images have to be complete. We don’t need thousands of miles of Arizona desert, we just need new or changed places (for OSM).
  • The images need thousands of paid staff. With automation and volunteers, as we’ve seen, you can sidestep a lot of that.
  • The images need an IR layer so we can figure out crop type. For many use cases, we don’t need IR or near-IR. And even if we do, removing the IR filter from various CCDs is not super hard.

So, think what we can achieve in aerial imagery if we relax the constraints of today’s sources and use cheap COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) hardware (iPhones).

Map Club

mapclub_fMap Club is a club for mappers like you. It’s a place to make OpenStreetMap a much more friendly and less daunting experience to mappers new and old.

The idea came after rounds of feedback following OSM PLUS. Could we build some kind of organization to facilitate interaction in OSM, help people work together, without the shortcomings of relying solely on volunteers? If we created a paid-for community of mappers, what would it look like? What could we build with the membership fees?

Today, map club offers a welcoming and moderated mailing list for its members. Longer-term, a much broader vision includes staging servers, OSM activity summaries, OSM evangelism efforts, meetups and much more. But, we can only get there with members.

Map club is about trying new things

  • A phone number where you can call people for help with OSM: +1-855-367-9711.
  • Servers completely open to importing data to experiment with
  • New ways of collecting and editing data collaboratively
  • Training programs to get you up to speed with OSM

In some ways, geocaching is an inspiration for map club. By providing services at a cost, is able to go above and beyond what a pure volunteer geocaching organization would be able to do. What could we build together within the OpenStreetMap ecosystem, if we tried the same thing?

I’d love to hear what you think.

Mapping My Next Adventure

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.

Telenav Scout Mustang. Everyone should have one.

Scout Mustang. Everyone should have one.

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.

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