Open up your online maps with OpenStreetMap

Mon 26 January 2009

OpenStreetMap (OSM) is a project designed to create and provide free spatial data (street maps) to anyone and everyone who wants them. It is based on an open-source philosophy, and combines wiki-like user generated data, with free access, allowing users to create, edit, download, and use OSM data to their hearts content. According to the OSM website, “the project was started because most maps you think of as free actually have legal or technical restrictions on their use, holding back people from using them in creative, productive or unexpected ways.” There are now tones of websites and open-source software projects that incorporate OSM data, and the growing popularity of the site means that the data is only going to get better (more accurate) and bigger (more data).

Essentially, OpenStreetMap contributors go out into the world with handheld GPS units, and an insatiable need to map everything around them. They track their own movements down streets and trails, and along the way they record street names, parks, towns, cities, and other points of interest (POIs). All these GPS tracks can be uploaded into the OSM database, along with place names, street names, and any other pertinent information (type of road, and/or road intersections). All the while, others can do the same thing, in the same area, adjusting the same data, making more and more accurate maps of the region.

If all this free data isn’t enough, OSM also processes the uploaded data, and produces detailed street-level maps which are freely available for publishing on websites. If fact, in 5 simple steps, you too can have a beautiful OSM powered map on your website.

How to put an OpenStreetMap on your own site

  1. Browse the OpenStreetMap and find the area you want to map, using the zoom tools to zoom right in to your area of interest.
  2. Select the export tab.
  3. When choosing the export format, select “Embeddable HTML”.
  4. If you want, pop in a marker symbol so everyone knows where to look…
  5. Copy the provided HTML code, and paste into your site wherever you want the map to show up.

For an example, check out my contact page. As you can see, there aren’t a lot of people collecting data in Maynooth…, recent work in Maynooth has created an extremely rich, usable, and downright decent map of Maynooth. Nice work Blazej Ciepluch!

Helpful Tip

Online Maps Open Access Open Source OSM GIS


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