Thoughts on practical uses for OSM

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we can increase the popularity and usefulness of OSM in Australia and thought I’d put some ideas to the community. These are just some rambled ideas which will hopefully spark interest in real world applications for OSM.

Firstly, given that routable, street indexed maps for GPS units are, for the most part, difficult to make and obtain it’s probably not worth “marketing” OSM as a viable replacement for commercial GPS maps yet.

The areas I think OSM can currently be used are in small scale cycling, bushwalking and tourist maps.

There are free cycling maps currently printed by the RTA, but they tend to be out of date or incomplete, but this is only based on my experience in the Newcastle region. They are limited in scope to road cyclists, which leaves mountain bikers to seek alternate sources.

Bushwalkers tend to rely, in my experience, on old hand drawn maps in bushwalking books and on CMA/LPI/Dept of Lands Topographic maps (~$8-9 each). CMA maps tend to only show major fire trails and well known walking trails, in this respect OSM can compete on the basis of having better detail. Lack of topo data (or at least only having 50m as opposed to 10m contour intervals) is a big drawback of only using an OSM map for navigation,

Free tourist maps always have insane surface area dedicated to advertising and commercial bias. In this respect OSM would win hands down as they need not contain any advertising and can have extra information written by an independant source. The OSM based tourist map of Copenhagen (link) is an excellent example of a free tourist map in action.

Some practical ideas: How can we “sell” or get more attention for OSM?

  1. Place printed OSM based maps in geocaches, this targets other GPS users and gives the most chance of “recruiting” a GPS owning person to the OSM cause. Maybe get some OSM silicone wrist bands made up to leave as goodies.

  2. Give printed cycling/mountain biking maps to local bike shops. It is in there interest to get people cycling more, so hopefully some would be interested in giving out free maps. One shop I know of in Newcastle has the RTA maps available, not sure what MTB maps they have, if any.

  3. Give some printed maps of national parks to bushwalking clubs. Bushwalkers tend to own hand held GPS units (more so that the rest of the population anyway) and so bushwalking clubs can be a good source of new OSM members. They also have a use for the maps, even if they already own CMA like maps.

  4. I should get back to studying, I’m 3 weeks behind in one of my uni courses…

note now that there is a routable version of OSM, this should encourage people with Garmin devices to contribute as this could be very useful to people.
just incase people missed it the Australian Mapsource version is located here =>

I had no idea those routable maps existed, thanks heaps for the link :).

Shame they’re a month old, can’t have everything ay?

It would be nice if micro SD cards were really cheap so you could sign cache logs something like “Took keyring, left routable OSM SD card.”

note the s/w is still in beta or not quiet fully baked ,
see development threads, in future I suspect these will be updated daily.

yeah good, idea, perhaps some of the lower capacity cards might be worth-while for FTF prizes , but you could post a GCA cache promoting OSM, like I did for my area.

What sort of things did you do to promote OSM via the cache?

Maybe I’ll trall ebay for some cheap 128MB or similar micro SD cards. A computer shop in Sydney had 128MB full sized ones for $3 at one stage.

see my CGA cache =>

Hi I just acquired a Uniden GPS 501 that doesnt have maps but hopefully allows me to download tracks that I take for inclusion in OSM. Ironically (given your other post in this forum) I am a Dominos Pizza driver in Clarence municipality in southern Tasmania. Besides adding what I can to OSM I hope to use the maps enhanced offline with house numbers at junctions of streets to give me better ways to reach my delivery points.
I suspect that house numbers added to OSM online maps is likely to be too much clutter for other users but if anyone can think of a good reason to add them for other purposes I will do so - although this will be limited to my delivery area.

Additionally I am thinking of seeing if I am able to initiate something like which is a GIS map of San Miguel de Allende in Mexico. Although their material is copyrighted it should be possible to emulate what they have done for my municipality and give my local communities a similar resource based on OSM. In addition to shopfront businesses other businesses and community resources could be tagged (eg. Tax Agents/ Accountants working from home, home based craft and hobby suppliers, GPs, tradespeople, B & B and other tourism based locations. Although some of these will already be available at commercially developed sites most of those will have had to pay quite large sums for their listing, and of course some will not have been able to afford to be listed at all.

Recently a government report suggested that many (particularly east coast) near-the-water properties may be threatened by sea-level rise. Maybe OSM could be used to outline those areas at risk if sea-levels rise by 20cm, 50cm, 1m etc.

Maybe I am naive about the possibilities of OSM in Australia and at nearly 60 I may not be here to see much completed - but heck its good to dream about what could be done!


If you want to do that, you should also plot out all the land reclaimed, then again I find all this funny since it was due to an ice age that created land bridges and people are surprised that we’re still coming out of an ice age and the water levels are still rising.

Actually that isn’t true, I know some grey nomads that head north every winter and they’re collecting a lot of data that can be used to build out the map data, so the answer is to retire, if you haven’t already, and become a grey nomad and deck out your caravan/camper with a nice 3G link, a netbook/notebook and some kind of GPS module for the computer :slight_smile: