Opening up the cage


Opening the Cage – thanks to https://www.flickr.com/photos/genista/

My friend Ed Freyfogle of Lokku, Nestoria and #geomob fame and I, have been talking for a while about business opportunities around OpenStreetMap. After all Nestoria have been using OSM in the background for a long time and at the end of 2011 they switched the mapping on their various web properties from Google to OSM with very successful results, they know the data pretty much back to front and they’ve got some hot engineering talent on tap.

Just do it you say – nope I respond, it’s never that simple. There are a lot of good OSM based services and products out there already, many of them are free and bridging the freemium chasm seems to be quite challenging for most businesses. I think the opportunity may lie in the data rather than services, after all it’s the free access to the raw data that distinguishes OSM from all of the other map “services” that are free to use but which lock the data up. However, if you are a technically well resourced organisation there isn’t much that another technical specialist can offer you that you can’t do yourself (although sometimes the learning curve and internal resource cost may be higher than you first thought). So where is the opportunity?

Enter Open Cage Data

Open Cage Data is a new venture for Nestoria that aims to leverage their experience with OSM and make it available to companies who want to use OSM but aren’t keen on working out how to access it, re-engineer it to their needs and then set up the workflows to update the data from the OSM servers to incorporate the massive number of edits and additions that get processed every day. Have a look at these sample data sets to get an idea of the kind of data processing available from Open Cage Data

Is there a business opportunity here? I think there may be. Actually it isn’t just me who thinks so, Ed has been doing a Ringo Starr and reached out for a little bit of help from his friends including Andy Allan, Gari Araolaza, Gary Gale, Marc Prioleau, Marc Metten, Sajjad Anwar, Tyler Bell and me. There’s more info here on this select band of georeprobates who I would have locked up rather than giving them the keys to open the cage!

We each have our own perspectives on what Open Cage Data will evolve into and who might use it. Here’s one of mine – think of all those desktop users who currently are shelling out $m for vector street level data, add in the richness and coverage of OSM data, sprinkle on some open licensing goodness (yes I know ODBL has its critics but it’s a damn site better than $$$/user) and you start to see the opportunity.

It’s going to be interesting and fun working with the advisory board and seeing what happens when you open the cage.

Footnote – why Open Cage Data

Ed told me that

“in 2005 I had the bold ambition of writing a blog. I needed a domain. If you speak German you’ll know my last name “freyfogle” besides being very difficult to spell is an Americanized corruption of Frei Vogel which means “free bird”. Unfortunately there is a Lynyrd Skynyrd song by the same name that has a very loyal fan base, so I can almost never get the name freebird anywhere, so I thought of a variant, the open cage symbolizing that the bird had already been free. I then immediately forgot about my plans to launch a blog!”