OpenStreetMaps foundation made lots of positives but the most important thing it brought is an easy way for developers and companies to use the huge and quite accurate maps that cover a better part of the world and that can be compared (quality-wise) with Google Maps, Bing Maps, and Apple Maps. And while the three are commercial products, that can’t be used by third parties, OSM are free to use by anyone, as long as they ask the foundation for a permit, and as long as they use the maps in a legal way.
Ever since OSM got founded there were more and more services and apps deciding to use the free, community-made maps. Today, the number of apps and services using the OSM is staggering; if you visit the page showing a list of OSM-based services you’ll find hundreds of services divided into 17 groups! That’s a lot.
Aside from OSM-based services, many websites use OSM data, like The White House, a map showing broadband availability in the US, or vesseltracker.com which is a site allowing users from around the world to pinpoint the location of thousands of different vessels.
Also, some huge companies used OSM map data to organize special promotional events. For instance, Nike used OSM for its (now famous) Nike Grid Run, an event that held in London back in 2010 in which participants played a (sort of) game where they ran along the routes, collecting points for their team (there were four teams, each representing a part of London – East, West, South, and North) with Nike placing their routes on top of a map of London provided by OpenStreetMaps. As you can see there’s no limit to creativity when using OSM, you just have to think outside the box.
Nike Grid Run London Map
OSM data and services are used on almost any mobile OS. Aside from Android and Apple’s iOS, there are apps for Windows 10 Mobile, Tizen, Ubuntu Touch, Kindle, and other mobile OSs. There are even video games using OSM data (mostly map data)! As you can see OpenStreetMaps are used by hundreds of different apps, websites, agencies, video games, and more. But, in what way different apps and services use data provided by the OSM? Let’s find out.
GPS And Navigation Apps
The most common use of the OSM data is for navigation apps. Some of the biggest mobile apps using maps provided by the OpenStreetMaps foundation are MAPS.ME, MapFactor Navigation, OsmAnd, and Scout GPS Navigation & Maps. They basically use the maps from OSM as a basis for their GPS and turn-by-turn navigation services. Since most countries’ roads are covered in high accuracy and since OSM has a huge number of active contributors updating the maps on a regular basis, these navigation apps offer accurate data, while other features vary from one app to another.
Basically, they all use OSM, and they (in most cases) offer offline maps meaning that you can just download the maps you need (a map of your country, or a map of a whole continent) and then use it while offline. Aside from classic navigation apps (that are used for motor vehicle navigation), there are some unique apps, like Bike Citizens, that offer unique features.
Bike Citizens is a navigation app for cyclers, and it offers detailed maps and a real-time route calculation that prioritizes cycling-friendly routes, something you don’t see every day. The app allows local cyclers to create customized tours, which are great for discover cities you might visit while on your bicycle.
GPS Tracking Apps
Aside from classic GPS and Navigation apps, OSM data is used by a wide number of apps and services that rely on digital maps. For instance, many GPS tracking apps use OSM data as groundwork for features offered.
As with navigation apps, OSM data is used as a groundwork on top of which developers build unique features. For instance, one of the most popular GPS tracking apps used for hiking, BackCountry Navigator, uses a variety of map sources (including OpenStreetMaps) in order to offer its users the best digital hiking companion.
Alminav uses OpenStreetMaps as the main maps source, allowing its users to record their routes using GPS, and then export them or offer them to other users. This is great for recording hiking trails as well as bicycle routes that aren’t located in urban areas. By using OSM data, Alminav can incorporate some features not usually found (like a crowd-sourced list of various hiking trails) not found when using commercial digital maps.
Alminav User-Made Route Loading
OSMTracker, on the other hand, is an app specifically designed to be used as a tool by OSM community. It supports waypoints marking along with tags, voice record, and photos. GPS data can be exported in GPX format and then uploaded directly to OSM, or used with JOSM (one of the OpenStreetMap tools used for mapping new areas). Maps used are OSM ones, used as a groundwork.
Other Apps Using OSM Data
Aside from GPS and navigation and GPS tracking apps, there are other apps suing OSM data. For instance, City Maps 2Go uses (highly altered) OSM data for its high-detail city maps. Developers used maps of different cities, which they downloaded from OSM, and then built on top of them, filling the maps with various POIs (points of interest), tourist attractions, and updated restaurant and hotel locations. The app offers offline maps and is one of the most popular travel companions for Android and iOS.
Geopaparazzi uses OSM data in order to offer its users a quick and easy way to conduct engineering and geologic surveys. The best thing is that data gathered via the app can be used with OpenStreetMaps. Geopaparazzi is a unique app allowing users to keep a geo-diary. The app also supports field mapping and is used by OSM contributors for rural areas mapping.
Map of The Dead is a location-based video game that uses OSM map data to build a post-apocalyptic map of the world. It uses OSM along with Foursquare data to build a zombie infested world in which only real-world businesses (like cafes, grocery stores, and hardware stores) play the role of safe havens. You must visit them in order to get supplies, but at the same time, each safe haven can be filled with the brain-eating living dead which you must fight against.
Services Using OSM Data
One of the biggest services using OSM data is vesseltracker, a web site for locating a huge number of vessels around the world. The site uses OSM and builds upon them by adding a tremendous number of ports as well as adding a real-time vessel tracking layer that shows a huge amount of vessels sailing through every part of the world.
Geocaching, the world largest treasure hunting community uses OSM for displaying locations of millions of geocaches scattered across the whole world. With millions of active users, Geocaching is one of the biggest services that rely upon OpenStreetMaps for map data. Although the app uses OSM as the ground layer, it adds another layer that shows locations of geocaches. Interesting idea powered by OSM data.
Of course, Wikipedia uses OSM data to show locations of various POIs, countries, cities, monuments, etc. It is the largest service relying on OSM data, by far.
Wolfram Alpha, the computational knowledge search engine uses OSM when searching for places.
Other Interesting Projects and Services Using OSM Data
Aside from popular apps and services, there are other, smaller but very interesting projects relying on OSM data.
JournalMap is a location-based service allowing users to search for scientific studies. It uses OSM in order to show users location where different studies were conducted.
WaterSupply.at uses OSM in order to show drinking water sources. Although OSM are used as the main layer, the service adds another layer that shows drinking water sources that can’t be seen in OSM.
CoinMap shows the location of places where Bitcoin is accepted as a mean for payment. Again, OSM is used as the main layer, with Bitcoin locations shown on top of it.
OpenFireMap uses OSM for showing locations of fire stations and water hydrants. Similar to other services presented here, OpenFireMap builds on top of the OSM layer by placing locations of fire stations and water hydrants that can only be seen by visiting the site.
maps.sputnik.rumaps.sputnik.ru is a Russian service showing various state services and POIs. 8-bit Cities uses OSM data as groundwork on top of which various cities are shown in 8-bit pixel art style.
BuioMetria Partecipativa uses OSM to show the darkness of the sky. The darkness of the sky is measured with the help of Sky Quality Meter. Various locations where measurements are made (available only on the map of Italy) are shown on top of the OSM layer.
EnergyMap uses OSM to depict a map of Germany and show how much energy is produced by solar power. You can see which cities and regions produce the biggest quantity of clean energy, and there’s also information showing the percent of the clean energy produced on a country level. Quite handy and eco-friendly.
AllRailMap is an interactive railway map. It shows all railway routes, with OSM used for basic layering, on top of which creators built a cool-looking railway map.