Microsoft has joined the Linux Foundation to form the new Overture Maps Foundation. The collaborative effort – which features support from Amazon Web Services, Meta and TomTom – aims to strengthen mapping services worldwide.
According to the Linux foundation, Overture’s mission is "to enable current and next-generation map products by creating reliable, easy-to-use and interoperable open map data”. Members will combine resources to build map data that is complete, accurate and refreshed as the physical world changes.
“Mapping the physical environment and every community in the world, even as they grow and change, is a massively complex challenge that no one organisation can manage,” said Jim Zemlin, executive director for the Linux Foundation. “Industry needs to come together to do this for the benefit of all. We are excited to facilitate this open collaboration among leading technology companies to develop high quality, open map data that will enable untold innovations for the benefit of people, companies and communities.”
Map data is currently used in a vast range of applications, for example navigation, logistics, mobility, autonomous driving and data visualisation. In the future, map services could also power augmented reality applications to deliver social, gaming, education and productivity experiences.
The Linux Foundation believes that the initiative will support these potential use cases, while also overcoming challenges facing developers of map services today. For example, sourcing and curating high-quality, current and comprehensive data from disparate sources can be difficult and expensive. Multiple datasets often reference the same real-world entities but using different conventions and vocabulary, which can make them difficult to combine. In addition, open map data can also lack the structure needed to easily build commercial map products and services on top. The contributions to Overture Maps Foundation will address many of these concerns and complement existing open geospatial data to support best-in-class map services.
“Microsoft is committed to closing the data divide and helping organisations of all sizes to realise the benefits of data as well as the new technologies it powers, including geospatial data,” said Russell Dicker, corporate vice president of product, maps and local at Microsoft. “Current and next-generation map products require open map data built using AI that’s reliable, easy-to-use and interoperable. We’re proud to contribute to this important work to help empower the global developer community as they build the next generation of location-based applications.”
Overture plans to release its first datasets – which will include basic layers such as buildings, roads and administrative information – in the first half of 2023.