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Overture Maps Foundation Releases Beta

AV point cloud for Overture Maps Foundation

In December of 2022, the Linux Foundation – which specializes in bringing together foundations in a number of different sectors with a focus around open source and open data – announced the bringing together of some of the world’s largest companies with an ambitious goal. The formation of the Overture Maps Foundation, boasting founding members Amazon, Meta, Microsoft, and TomTom, was created with a mission “to build reliable, easy-to-use, and interoperable open map data.”

From Geo Week News by Matt Collins.

In a relatively short amount of time, OMF has already reached some major milestones, quite the accomplishment given the breadth of their goals and the stature of the companies involved in its founding, which have since been joined by over 20 additional companies. Their path is something that we have, of course, covered extensively here at Geo Week News, including the release of their original preliminary dataset, their goals for the 2024 calendar year, and a talk given at Geo Week 2024 by Executive Director Marc Prioleau. As the foundation continues to make its mark on the mapping industry, Geo Week News was interested in hearing perspective on how the formation of this group came to be, and recently spoke with Mike Harrell, SVP of Engineering Maps with TomTom.

Harrell comes to this discussion from a fascinating perspective, having worked for a number of large companies before joining TomTom, including others involved with OMF, giving some prior knowledge on how things operate within large companies. His roles, which included those within and outside of geospatial realms, also gives him a strong sense of the path these industries have taken to deciding that an open, collaborative map is the optimal path forward.

This goes back to his time at Microsoft, spanning 2007 to 2015, a time when Microsoft decided to build their own map “like every other company,” according to Harrell. He says that this was common in the industry that every big tech company believed they could build their own map. With Microsoft, he says, they knew maps could be better than what was being done at the time.

“We had all these new sensors that were out there on the roads, all these new machine learning algorithms, and we were like, Wow, we’re going to be able to do it quicker, faster, and more efficiently than anybody else.”

Harrell does say that they did, in some ways, achieve those goals, making a map at high quality and large scale more cheaply than anyone else in the world, but that it was still extremely expensive. Ultimately, that division was sold off to Uber, who also had grand plans for making their own map, which also never truly came to fruition. This was the theme of the time – companies deciding they will be better off building their own map, only to find out it’s far more difficult and expensive than anticipated.

For the complete article on the Overture Maps Foundation CLICK HERE.

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