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Michael Weisman

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About Data    |   December 16, 2009   |   By Michael Weisman

OpenStreetMap and FME

I have a confession. Until very recently, I had never added anything to OpenStreetMap, despite having an account for over 2 years. The free map of the world is a great source of roadmaps, as well as raw data that can be used for pretty much anything. In the past, adding data to OSM had been too complicated for me to bother with it. Sure, it has gotten easier thanks to desktop tools like JOSM or web based tools like potlatch or mapzen that let you edit or add to the data, but it could still be a very time consuming process.

When fourquare first came to Vancouver, I was amazed at how seamless it was to add new venues. Anywhere I am I just pull out my iPhone, say where I am, and the business is added to fourquare’s database. It’s almost too easy. I was excited to see Cloudmade release the Mapzen POI Collector for the iPhone. Mapzen is a free iPhone app that makes editing and adding new points of interest to OSM easy enough that I have started doing it in line at the grocery store and on the train on my way to work.

One of the great things about OpenStreetMap is that the raw data that is used to render the maps is also available for use. There are a few ways to get the data into FME and integrated with your own projects. Cloudmade has data in several formats that they extract from OpenStreetMap on a regular basis and make it available for download by geographic region. FME also has support for OpenStreetMap’s .osm file format, so you can download or even read data live from OpenStreetMap’s servers directly into your workspace. Of course, if you don’t want to have to create URLs to read live live data into FME, you can always use the OSM extractor. This tool from Ulf Månsson will actually generate an FME workspace with an OSM reader based on the area of the map you pan to in your browser.

Part of the theory behind OpenStreetMap is that everyone is an expert on the area within one mile of their home. We all know where the closest mailbox, pharmacy, or bus stop is. If everyone simply maps that one mile radius around their house, everyone will benefit from having a complete map of the world, both as a static “slippy map” and as raw data.