Uses of OpenStreetMap

I recently bloged about my discovery of OpenStreetMap, but the more I look at it, the more I like it. It offers lots of possibilities.

First, you can create your own maps, like I did. It might not be a great thing for some people, but for me it’s been a wonderful finding. It is very easy to do this, as explained in this page. You just need to choose an editor (JOSM in my case), and convert the GPS tracks into streets, roads, highways, tracks, etc.

The next thing, once you have the maps you want to use, is what to do with them. An obvious choice is that, thanks to OSM, we have a (still incomplete though) free world map. But not only that, because having free maps, and mixing them with other technologies, we have lots of great uses for this.

For instance, you can create an atlas, and lots of other neat stuff.

But apart from that, and being involved in desktop development, I have started to think about ideas on how to use this technology in the desktop, so here comes my ideas.

  • An obvious choice, a map application, like Google Earth. There are sites that, I think, offer free satellite images that could be used along with the OSM maps, so seems to be a not-so-difficult task. Mixing the maps and the information in them with Wikipedia, for instance, could give us a complete atlas application.
  • Also an obvious choice, and the reason I started looking at OSM, is to be able to use those maps in external GPS units (Garmin, TomTom, Magellan, etc) or other devices (like the PSP). Garmin users are lucky, because this is already possible. For TomTom (the one I own), it doesn’t look hard to do it, once you have a correct map and you calibrate it (that is, you specify which coordinates the map shows), so as soon as I do it on mine, I’ll let people know.
  • When on systems with a GPS unit attached to them, the number of choices grow. There exists a software (GPSD), that already provides the GPS unit interface, so we’d just need to build software around it: navigation systems (gpsdrive), georeferencing weblog posts/documents/photos/etc

I’m sure there are lots of other uses we could make of the OSM technologies in the desktop, so please let me know any idea you might think about.

4 Responses to “Uses of OpenStreetMap”

  1. torkel says:

    It is a pity though that there are no opensource program for transfering the maps to a Garmin GPS, and no way to viewing a Garmin .img map on your computer unless running windows

  2. C.M says:

    Don’t forget this excellent phone project http://www.openmoko.org/

    A simple way to sync maps and GPS data between the desktop and phone would be great. Something to add to http://wiki.openmoko.org/wiki/Wish_List maybe? :-)

  3. Rodrigo,

    You may want to take a look at GeoClue. It is a free, DBUS-based position information abstraction library. With it your laptop or N800 can position itself using GPSD, Plazes, GeoIP or other sources. Not everybody runs a GPS all the time…

  4. Robert Scott says:

    Flightgear scenery. There you go.