I need to build a website which needs to perform the following tasks:

  1. Display a web map with topographical details
  2. On the map show a set of selected streets
  3. When a street is selected show a set of points of interest on that street

The constraints are:

  1. Ruby on Rails as a programming language

  2. Everything in the stack must be open source

    I've given an interested look at OpenStreetMap will it work for the needed tasks?


Actually there is a product using Google Earth in this company but they want to change it due to its commercial cost.

  • 3
    Where does Google Earth come into play?
    – Mapperz
    Sep 4, 2011 at 17:06
  • Depends on the region; Depends on what you mean with topographical details
    – johanvdw
    Sep 4, 2011 at 18:31
  • 3
    Openstreetmap doesn't have any satellite imagery if that's what you are after.
    – underdark
    Sep 4, 2011 at 19:14
  • 1
    @underdark Although there are the MapQuest Open Aerial tiles at developer.mapquest.com/web/products/open/map ; they have better coverage in the US than most other places.
    – mattwigway
    Sep 5, 2011 at 4:37

2 Answers 2


If you don't need satellite imagery or 3D stuff it's possible with a combination of:

  • OSM data imported in Postgresql/Postgis (via osm2pgsql)
  • Mapnik used to render map tiles
  • OpenLayers used to display the web map (serving tiles rendered by Mapnik)
  • some Javascript middleware (ExtJS) to facilitate retrieving data as required by vector layers and build UI components
  • some server side component (Ruby on Rails based if required) that queries the Postgis/Postgresql database for features (i.e. geometry of selected streets, nearby POIs).

We have an application built on top of the above at gis.modulo.ro that shows mountain hiking trails from OpenStreetMap (server side is Java based).

Note: You can do some 3D stuff by integrating altitude profiles (NASA srtm) with the OpenStreetMap data.


Your first requirement is that you should be able to

Display a web map with topographical details

This won't be that easy with open street maps. With google maps, the 'terrain' view is good enough to show basic topographical details.

With Open street maps, you'll have to have your own server which serves topographical data.

  • 3
    Yes, you do need your own tile server, but it's not that difficult to set that up. Here's what I did as an experiment: beta1234.com.sunflower.arvixe.com/maps/… . Using OSM data + SRTM for hillshading and contours.
    – Igor Brejc
    Sep 6, 2011 at 4:31
  • 1
    @Igor Brejc: Very nicely done. Can you share some information on how exactly you got the SRTM to show as contours + the hill-shading in this way? Sep 6, 2011 at 15:36
  • 2
    I took some time today to write a tutorial on making hiking maps with Maperitive: braincrunch.tumblr.com/post/9921938947/…
    – Igor Brejc
    Sep 7, 2011 at 17:17

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