State of the Map

I am in Amsterdam for State of the Map, the OpenStreetMap conference. This has been an amazing event, well organised, full of energy and riding the crest of a wave.

No one who attends this event from within the mainstream of the geobusiness could go away thinking that crowdsourcing cannot produce a detailed, accurate and richly attributed and themed map. The OSM community are getting their act together on coverage, quality and tag structures, the resemblance to the processes and standards of major map producers is very evident but is leveraged by the scale that a volunteer community of approaching 130,000 can bring (even if only 10-11% are currently active)

Whilst OSM may have started as a reaction to the licensing of our national mapping agency, I think it is not OS who have the most to fear, after all we will need accurate large scale cadastral data which is not what OSM is focused upon or able to capture and maintain.

What, however will happen to the producers of street level data products with their high costs of collection and maintenance? Willl they be able to differentiate themselves sufficiently?

The solutions space where data traditionally has been 75-90% of the value of a project is going to be turned upside down. It is not just the cost of data licenses that is being stripped from the cost of a project it is also all of the wasted and frustrating effort associated in negotiating use terms and licenses with data vendors who seem to be incapable of making anything simple and I am not just referring to OS because the other data providers and their resellers make life almost as difficult.

OSM already provides a viable street product if your requirements are for a high level of population coverage in the UK rather than geographic completeness. Within 12-18 months it will as good as complete in a number of European countries and the US. Now would be a good time for some of the established players in data production to wake up and smell the coffee.

I presented on the subject “Is Volunteered Geograhic Information sustainable?” I am sure you can guess my conclusion. The presentation is here:

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