The Linux Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes free software and in particular GNU/Linux operating systems, welcomes a new initiative with the Overture Maps Foundation. As its name suggests, this new foundation focuses on cards that are becoming increasingly central. Faced with proprietary solutions that exist on the market, Google Maps in the lead, this foundation for open maps hopes to create a dataset for the whole world that will be free, interoperable and of as good quality as its private competitors.
The new foundation is open to anyone who wishes, but it is based on four founding members who each have their own technical expertise. TomTom is the most obvious: this Dutch company is a pioneer in GPS guidance devices for individuals and one of the few that has its own base maps worldwide. As a reminder, TomTom was Apple’s main supplier for the launch of Maps with its own maps in 2012 and we can imagine that its knowledge will be mobilized in force on this project.
TomTom cannot compete with Google Maps alone, however, it also needs strong web players at its side. This is why we are not too surprised that the three other founding members are Microsoft, Meta (Facebook) and Amazon through AWS, its hosting offer which should be used to store and distribute the cards. As for Meta and Microsoft, one can imagine that the two firms will contribute their technical expertise and above all will eventually use the data provided by the Overture Maps Foundation.
Currently, Bing Maps relies on basemaps from OpenStreetMap… which is perhaps the biggest competitor of this new initiative. Like the new foundation, this open and free service offers worldwide mapping. So why create yet another dataset? Its designers explain that the objective is also to bring together various data sources into a single and coherent service. Emphasis will be placed on the quality of the data, with a systematic validation process which should limit errors, knowing that anyone can also contribute to the project.
The foundation plans to provide its first datasets during the first half of 2023. Initially, this data is kept simple, with road alignments, the ground form of buildings and administrative information. Subsequently, the Overture Maps Foundation plans to enrich these maps with more precise data and other information, including the 3D shapes of the buildings.