A group formed by Meta, Microsoft, Amazon and mapping company TomTom is releasing data that could enable developers to build their own maps to take on Google Map and Apple Maps. The group, called the Overture Maps Foundation, was formed last year. Today, the group has released it first open map dataset.
With this dataset, third-party developers can build mapping or navigation products of their own to crack the Apple-Google duopoly. The data includes 59 million “points of interest,” such as restaurants and landmarks, along with information about transportation networks and administrative boundaries. The data was collected and donated by Meta and Microsoft.
“The release is a significant step in establishing a comprehensive, market-grade open map dataset for our constantly changing world,” said Marc Prioleau, executive director of Overture Maps Foundation, in a statement. “The Places dataset, in particular, represents a major, previously unavailable open dataset, with the potential to map everything from new businesses big and small to pop-up street markets located anywhere in the world.
“Anyone who works in mapping knows that the initial data is just the beginning; the ongoing challenge lies in maintaining the data amidst constant changes to meet user expectations,” Prioleau continued. “Overture plans to build a broad collaboration that can build and maintain an up-to-date, comprehensive database of POIs.”
When the group was first announced last year, the companies said that over time, the data would expand to include more places, routing and navigation, and 3D building data.
The idea behind the Overture Map Foundation is to make it both easier and cheaper for developers to make apps. For context, developers have to pay to access Google Maps’ API. Although Apple allows access to Apple Maps for free for native app developers, web app developers need to pay to access it.
Map and location data plays such a fundamental role in a variety of ways, as it powers everything from IoT (Internet of Things) devices and self-driving cars, to logistics and big data visualization tools. Having all that data primarily only accessible via mega-firms can be restrictive in terms of what companies can do with the data and which features they have at their disposal.