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Showing posts with label chosen. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Case Study: why OpenStreetMap was chosen for a Romanian Online Project

Case Study: why OpenStreetMap was chosen for a Romanian Online Project

What is OpenStreetMap?

OpenStreetMap (OSM) is a free, editable map of the entire world, a collaborative project meant to provide free geographic data, such as street maps, to anyone. The OSM data is contributed by community members who use a variety of surveying methods, most utilizing GPS technology.

The project was started because not all geographical data is free in every part of the world. Historically, the street map data of the world has been owned by two companies, Tele Atlas and Navteq. Currently, both Yahoo and Bing still license their map data from Navteq. Up until August 2009, Google also licensed their data from Tele Atlas. Google and Tele Atlas entered into a five-year agreement just a year earlier whereby Tele Atlas provided Google with their data in exchange for a licensing fee and access to updates made by the Google community. In an effort to break the duopoly, Google ended the agreement early in the US and now assimilates data from multiple providers as well as its user community.

While Google has been able to circumvent the hold of the duopoly, this does not improve the lot for the rest of us.  We now have one more source to choose from, but are still beholden to three providers instead of two.  Any business that collects data from any source originating from Tele Atlas, Navteq, or Google is creating a "derived work," that now retains the copyright conditions of the original. That means license fees, contractual restrictions, and so on. OSM is trying to break the hold these companies have on map data by building an alternative data source that is free of licensing restrictions.

Why does uses OSM? is a location-based, community oriented business directory in Romania. When developing, there was a choice to be made on what mapping service to use. The map is an important feature of the site and therefore the choice on map providers was critical. The considerations in choosing a mapping provider were as follows:
•  Mapping coverage of Romania
•  Accuracy of the street data
•  Ability to contribute and correct the data

Mapping coverage of Romania

A year ago, when we started developing the map, in terms of accuracy and coverage of Romania, OSM was far superior to Google Maps.  Google's coverage of Bucharest was inadequate and their street maps in other cities was virtually nonexistent. However, over the course of the last year, Google Maps' improvement has been remarkable.  As you can see from the screenshots below, their coverage is now roughly equal to that of OSM.

This is an OpenStreetMap view of Bucharest:

This is a view of the same area viewed using Google Maps:








Accuracy of the street data

At the start of our map development, we also performed extensive research on the accuracy of the street map data.  Google Maps previously relied on Europa Technologies for their map data in Romania.  Google's street map was not only incomplete, but grossly wrong at times -- we used two methods to check the accuracy:  (1) we tested several positions using GPS, and (2) we marked points on the satellite imagery and switched between the map layers to determine which layers aligned to the satellite.  OSM data, on the other hand, easily passed the accuracy test.  The precision of the OSM data may surprise many, given that it's a freely editable community map.  But the contributors that take the time to edit the map are dedicated map enthusiast, which we have found leads to higher quality.

Our recent tests once again show remarkable improvement in Google's map data.  As these screenshots demonstrate, Google's accuracy is once again on par with OSM.

Ability to contribute and correct the data

OSM, while superior to other maps in Romania, is not perfect. The ability to correct the map data was a key factor in our decision to work with OSM.  Not only was OSM better in Romania at the time of our development, but it will only get better over time.

The Use of OpenLayers on

Despite our strong support for OSM, we realize that other map providers may provide other advantages for users. For this reason, we built the Urbo map using OpenLayers, which gives users the ability to switch between map layers.

OpenLayers helps developers put a dynamic map in any web page, by displaying map tiles and markers that can be loaded from any source. OpenLayers is completely free, and released under a BSD-style License. OpenLayers supports a wide range of map types, with new layers being added all the time. Currently, the module supports OSM, Google Maps, Yahoo Maps, Virtual Earth, TMS, WMS, CloudMade, and XYZ map.

Here you have an example of how we integrated the module on the "Harta" page. We chose to integrate OSM, Google Maps and Google Satellite. Users can switch maps using the buttons in the top right:






 is a big supporter of open technologies. We strive not only to build our own projects on these open technologies, like Drupal and Solr, but also to give something back to the community. We believe open technologies facilitate more innovation and accelerate the advancement of technology worldwide.

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