TomTom Whinge

By | 2012-05-31

Awww, didums.

In one particular instance, a leading open source map was compared against a professional TomTom map, and shown to have a third less residential road coverage and 16% less basic map attributes such as street names. Worse still, it blended pedestrian and car map geometry, and included ‘a high number of fields and forest trails’ classified as roads.

This is from TomTom, a company whose business requires that maps are closed, not free to use and can only be updated by them. They are complaining about the OpenStreetMap project, which is a huge effort by enthusiasts to create maps that are free to use, free to update (in both senses of the word “free”).

OpenStreetMap maps are still not up to the quality of the best closed, commercial maps. They have made incredible progress though. Enough progress that they are of comparable quality to the commercial maps. That is to say, there are mistakes but they are not so common.

If you’ve ever used a TomTom device, you will well know that their maps aren’t perfect, and include plenty of misnamed streets, absent roads or just plain wrong directions. The difference is, you can go to OpenStreetMap and fix a fault when you find it.

TomTom here are taking exactly the same position on OpenStreetMaps that Encyclopaedia Britannica took on Wikipedia. Of course they don’t like it, it’s breaking their business model. Tough luck. The world has moved on — you are no longer able to charge us for public facts. You had a good time while it lasted, but that time is over. Innovate or die.

TomTom maps are very different to their open source counterparts. Our automotive, enterprise and government customers expect the most stringent quality standards and reliability – and our expertise means that we can deliver time and time again.

If that’s true, then you have nothing to worry about do you? If your maps are genuinely better, and people value them more highly than the open maps then you will have no difficulty obtaining money in exchange for them.

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