May 21, 2024

Amazon, Meta, Microsoft, and TomTom to compete with Google and Apple Maps

Amazon, Meta, Microsoft, and TomTom have jointly released an open map dataset aimed at providing app developers with free geographical data — and weakening the duopoly of Google and Apple Maps.

Founded by the four companies in December last year, the Overture Maps Foundation is a joint project to develop complete and accurate open map data that anyone can use free of charge. It has since expanded to include several more contributing members, including organisations such as Sparkgeo, Cyient, InfraMappa, and PTV Group.

“The collaboration is based on the premise that map data needs to be a shared asset to support future applications,” the Overture Maps Foundation wrote in a blog post. “As the requirements for accuracy, recency, and attribution in maps have grown to meet user needs, the costs and complexities of collecting and maintaining global map data have grown beyond the capability of any single organization.”

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The foundation’s first open map dataset was released on Wednesday, and contains four different data layers: Places of Interest, Buildings, Transportation Network, and Administrative Boundaries. The dataset was put together by collating, checking, and validating open source map data, as well as incorporating data collected and contributed by the Overture Maps Foundation’s members.

“The Overture 2023-07-26-alpha.0 release is a significant step in establishing a comprehensive, market-grade open map dataset for our constantly changing world,” said the Overture Maps Foundation’s executive director Marc Prioleau. “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.”

The Places dataset includes over 59 million records, and was developed from data provided by Meta and Microsoft. The Overture Maps Foundation intends to update and maintain the dataset by using data “from all available resources,” such as publicly available government data and crowdsourced mapping information. The foundation has also indicated it considers artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to be among those resources.

Of course, the Overture Maps Foundation’s first release is far from a complete dataset. The Places map data currently appears to have a big empty expanse where Russia should be, for example. However, it’s a step toward lowering the cost of creating apps that rely on map data, and offering developers more options. Both Google and Apple currently charge developers for access to their Maps API application programming interface, with Apple requiring a $99 per year subscription to its Apple Developer Program at minimum.

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