Microsoft, Meta, Amazon, TomTom and the Linux Foundation join forces to form the Overture Maps Foundation. The goal ? Provide open source map data to compete with the hegemony of Google Maps.
Google reigns supreme in the online mapping industry with its Google Maps platform boasting a 70% market share, especially since it acquired its biggest competitor, Israeli app Waze – although both continue for the moment their development each in parallel. The strength of Google Maps lies in the collection of data. To each time a user uses the service – while browsing, walking, driving, taking the bus, etc. –, the web giant relies on the data of its journey – the time at which it started its journey, its speed of movement, the time of day – to enrich its algorithms and benefit the next user. . As a result, the more its user base increases, the more data it collects, the more relevant and therefore essential it becomes. In addition, with the recent in-house merger of the team of developers working on Waze with that of its navigation services, Google Maps will benefit from the active participation of the Waze community who, each month, provide valuable data. to Google, such as speed limits, accidents reported by motorists or even danger and traffic control zones. The problem is that this hegemony excludes competition, limits innovation and prevents users from resorting to other practices. This is why several tech giants have decided to join forces to compete with Google Maps.
Overture Maps Foundation: the alliance of Amazon, Meta, Microsoft and TomTom
Linux Foundation, a non-profit consortium promoting innovation through open source – which has 70 members, including AMD, Fujitsu, HP, Hitachi, Intel, IBM, LG Group, NEC, Novell, Oracle, Orange, Samsung, Twitter, Valve, Yahoo! and many others – wants to create an interoperable and open data alternative to Google Maps map data. As a result, most of Google’s competitors, namely Amazon Web Services, Meta (Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp), Microsoft and the GPS specialist TomTom, will unite within the Overture Maps Foundation – which is open to all those who would see an interest in it – as announced in their press release. Remember that each of these companies has its own mapping service or data related to this sector. Thus, Microsoft offers Bing Maps, and Instagram launched in July an interactive map to find “interesting” places. We can however note the absence of Apple, which nevertheless offers a fairly developed Apple Plan service.
With the Overture Maps Foundation, the various players are setting up a kind of common database where everyone can contribute, in order to create the most complete and accurate open source mapping system possible, and thus stimulate innovation. with new services. “Mapping the physical environment and every community in the world, even as it grows and changes, is a hugely complex challenge that no single organization can manage alone. Industry must come together to do this in the world. “everyone’s interest”explains Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation. “We are excited to facilitate this open collaboration between leading technology companies to develop high-quality open map data that will enable countless innovations to benefit people, businesses and communities.”
Overture Maps Foundation: a quality open source database
Map data is the basis of thousands of applications for research, local discovery, navigation, autonomous driving and even data visualization. So many actors, even minors, who will be able to benefit from Overture Maps Foundation. But presented like that, the project strongly resembles OpenStreetMap – on which it will also rely, as well as on the urban planning services. To the difference that it aims to incorporate data from multiple sources while simplifying their interoperability. They will be subject to validation in order to detect errors – voluntary or not. Finally, the Overture Maps Foundation will define and encourage the adoption of a common, structured and documented data schema to create an easy-to-use map data ecosystem.
The consortium wants to release a first version of its data in the first by the middle of the year 2023. It will include the basic layers (buildings, roads and administrative information), will regularly improve the coverage, the resolution and the precision of the existing data and introduce new layers such as locations, routes or 3D building data. Application developers will then be able to exploit this data for their services, the source code of the platform being free and distributed with an MIT license – for free and open source software – on GitHub.