Open Street Map…

…and use.

I’ve recently discovered It’s a collaborative wiki-style map of the entire world. Google maps (and pretty much every other variety available on the web) are very restrictive in terms of what you can do with them. They have to be, because they are, in turn, restricted by their licence agreements with the suppliers of the map data.

OpenStreetMap is a free map which anyone can update. Go and search for your house now. If you create an account, you can then update the map. There are several tools available, both downloadable (the excellent josm for example) and on-line (the potlatch editor). I’ve mainly been using potlatch. It will show you aerial photo images from Yahoo maps ‘underneath’ the map, similar to the Google Maps hybrid view. This means that you can simply ‘trace’ the roads and other features from the Yahoo images, which seems to be acceptable use. If you have a suitable GPS-enabled device you can record ‘trails’ and upload the data. Then you can trace your GPS trails to create roads and other map features.

The road I live in was completely absent from the map, so I’ve added it in, along with some other missing local roads. I used my Nokia N95 phone with the very excellent Nokia Sports Tracker application to generate the GPS trails. Then I was able to email the generated .GPX files directly from the phone to my PC. From there I uploaded the files to OpenStreetMap and used them in the potlatch map editor to create the roads on the map.

Even if you don’t have access to GPS equipment, it’s still very easy and useful to update road names (and possibly numbers) for features you know well and are sure about. The main caveat is “don’t use any existing maps as a source”, otherwise you’ll almost inevitably be infringing copyright.

All in all, a very interesting and worthwhile project in my opinion :-)