In some areas OSM data is very complete and has a level of detail not seen in closed data sources. Another distinguishing factor is that it contains the knowledge of the people who live in that areas. For example, commonly, colleges are mapped with many details, because students spend special care mapping the place they study.

Taking into account these characteristics and others and the OSM licence, What's the most promising application of OpenStreetMap data?

-Car GPS may have OSM data?
-Government could make use of OSM data?
-Companies could make use of OSM data?
-Other possibilities?

  • 2
    and when is your paper due? – Ian Turton Jan 25 '11 at 16:44
  • 4
    LOL, no paper, just curiosity. I use OSM data for logistics. Here, in Brasil, there aren't any official road data. So, I create data in OSM, then download and analyse (best routes, distances, etc.) – Pablo Jan 25 '11 at 16:54

The most promising application of the data is the map itself. From a developers point of view the other things you mentioned are interesting, but not particularly unique. Maps on their own are hugely powerful. For hundreds of years people have been discovering new ways to make maps faster, cheaper and more accurate. OSM is simply the latest iteration in that process.


I don't think that there is one most promising application for OSM.

From a business standpoint, the fact that MapQuest and Bing are building commercial map and routing applications based on OSM data with the possibility of eliminating the financial liability of paying a commercial company a lot of money for data.

From an community standpoint, I have been amazed at the innovative applications, products, and tools that people are building based on the data. Many of these people would not self-identify as GIS people, but they are building spatial apps.

From a humanitarian standpoint, when the Haiti earthquake occurred a year ago, an expanded OSM community mapped Haiti and was able to tweak existing (or build new) tools to almost immediately produce GPS map files, vector data, tiled raster data, map books, data QA/QC tools, routing applications, and name-based search tools.

Oh yeah, and from an individual standpoint, if I see bad or missing data, I can edit the map myself and have it show up in all of the data/map products pretty much immediately...

  • The problem happens in rural remote areas in north america. I think we need government buy-in into OSM where the various state departments GIS layers automagically update OSM layers. This extends to other layers such as water, hydro, and electrical as well – dassouki Jan 27 '11 at 19:33
  • People are importing NHD (National Hydrography Dataset)through out the country, so the water should eventually be quite good. – DavidF Jan 27 '11 at 21:32


Video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmxKOgT4ieo


I don't see one single most promising application for OpenStreetMap, but I do very clearly see the most promising outcome, which is the ripple it started - or at least helped start - in the geodata world. Good geodata used to be expensive and come with restrictive licenses. To a large extent this is still true, but things are changing. Look at what happened with Ordnance Survey in the UK with their OpenData scheme. Governments are opening up their geodata slowly by slowly. Also look at the data that has been made available to OSM, either for import (notably the AND import for the Netherlands) or for tracing (Bing, France Cadastre data, recently Fugro for Denmark). Another salient development is the adoption of crowdsourcing techniques by commercial geodata companies, for example by TomTom with their MapShare scheme (read a good interview that covers MapShare here). We can fuss about the role OpenStreetMap played in that particular idea, but I believe that OpenStreetMap definitely helped create the mindset that allows for adoption of this kind of idea.

In the near future we will see this adoption taken to another level. National Mapping Agencies will incorporate OpenStreetMap data into their own large scale reference topography products - or if the license proves to be incompatible, at least incorporate OpenStreetMap-inspired crowdsourcing methods to keep their data up-to-date. The idea is not new: The National Map Corps was a crowdsourcing effort avant la lettre from the U.S. Geological Survey, and while it did not scale very well in the end, it has been the inspiration to pursue the idea of crowdsourcing further.

So what is the most promising outcome of the OpenStreetMap project? Not a product, or even the data itself, but that it proved to the world that crowdsourcing is a very powerful instrument to create and maintain high quality geodata. Free and open geodata.


Making your own maps, using vector OSM data for various purposes like routing for hikers, elevation profiles (instead of being limited to Google's raster images). See also:


OpenStreetMap to map Haiti

Refer to the Uses of OpenStreetMap section. OSM data used over other sources by organisations such as FAO, Disaster Response teams, UNOCHA, UNICEF, etc

This video is a great one to watch, showing how powerful the GI Community can be in all pitching in to create a map that gets a lot of use.

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