Industry News

AWS is extending Amazon Location Service, their range of geospatial products, with “Open Data Maps”. It offers four base maps developers can use as background maps in their applications: A light and dark standard map, plus a light and dark monochrome design as a background for data visualisations. The maps were designed by Stamen and are mainly based on OpenStreetMap data via Daylight.

Open Data Maps will be a serious option for organisations with high usage, which serve more than 200,000 tiles each month. The pricing for map tiles is quite competitive and lower than that of similar products from Mapbox or MapTiler.

Number of tiles served AWS Mapbox MapTiler
100,000 $3.50 $0.00 $0.00
200,000 $7.00 $0.00 $25.00
300,000 $10.50 $25.00 $25.00
500,000 $17.50 $75.00 $25.00
1,000,000 $35.00 $200.00 $75.00

After OSMCha, OpenStreetMap US now also supports MapRoulette as a Charter Project.

MapRoulette is a vital tool within the broader OpenStreetMap ecosystem, guiding mappers to areas needing contributions.

MapRoulette serves the mapping community as a user-friendly tool for systematic improvement of completeness, quality and accuracy of map data. Mappers from over 70 countries review more than 40,000 tasks a month. More than 330,000 changesets in 2022 alone can be directly attributed to MapRoulette.

With Charter Projects, OpenStreetMap US aims to ensure long-term stewardship of critical open-source tools for OpenStreetMap. It provides projects with a home and the ability to raise funds for further development.

Geospatial Projects at Google Summer of Code 2023

The mentor organisations for this year’s Google Summer of Code have been announced. Amongst other open-source household names, Google Summer of Code 2023 features various organisations and projects from the geospatial world, including:

Google Summer of Code is an internship program which pays aspiring software developers to contribute to open-source projects for three months during the summer. The application phase for this year’s cohort of interns opens on 20 March and closes on 4 April.

Say what you want about Google, but you have to appreciate their ongoing commitment to open-source software and their efforts to connect young programmers with projects.

For a recent story, instead of Mapbox, The Post used OpenMapTiles, Maputnik, PMTiles, and MapLibre to produce interactive web maps.

Kevin Schaul:

For some projects, I’m sure we’ll continue using Mapbox. But for most of our use cases, we don’t need the latest and greatest. And Mapbox has gotten expensive.

Lat × Long on Mapstodon

Because it seems like Twitter is on the cusp of extinction, I’ve set up a Mastodon account over at Mapstodon—like everyone else. I will primarily cross-post the same updates on Twitter and Mastodon. Follow along for the ride at

TomTom announced a new map platform:

To create a standard base map that anyone can contribute to and benefit from, the TomTom Maps Platform is bringing together a pool of map content from map users around the world. The resulting geolocation database – the largest available today – feeds continuous improvements back to the map, helping it keep up with reality.

The pool is filled with an array of sources, including OpenStreetMap, sensor-derived observations (SDO) from millions of vehicles, probe data and shared points of interest (POI). It’s a dizzying amount of data that we quickly make sense of, validate and act on.

There’s a marketing page and a video featuring dramatic music and Steve Coast saying very little: “Maps are used way more than people think but it’s invisible to us. As things get quicker, we have to change the way we think about maps.”

Is this new product primarily OpenStreetMap data and some additional data sprinkled on top? Does it have an API? Map tiles? An SDK? It’s hard to tell as the material was written by marketing people for people in suits.

We will have to wait for further announcements to understand what TomTom’s new map platform can do.

Steven Feldman, analysing What3Words’ 2021 accounts:

The business is powering ahead despite a small fall in sales to £444,382 (no I have not missed out a couple of zeros), they have managed to increase losses from just under £17m last year to just under £44m this year.

To earn £1, What3Words spent almost £100 in 2021. My understanding of economics and running a business is minimal, but that doesn’t look like a healthy business. But the investors keep the money tap open, so everything is fine.

From the MapLibre blog:

[MapLibre] is Amazon Location Service’s recommended map renderer and forms the basis of AWS Amplify Geo’s map display and geocoding capabilities. We’ve been excited to see the project grow since it launched in 2020 and look forward to continuing our work with the MapLibre Organization.

MapboxGL’s license change happened in December 2020. Amazon’s location services debuted only a few days later. MapLibre was forked from MapboxGL after the license change. Is anyone still wondering why Mapbox changed the license for Mapbox GL?

Outreachy Opens Applications for Tech Internships Starting in December 2022

Outreachy has opened applications for the winter cohort of interns beginning in December 2022.

Outreachy is an internship program designed for young people to make their first mark in open-source software development, specifically people from underrepresented groups in the tech industry. (So, if you’re a European white dude, you don’t need to apply.) The internships come with a $7,000 stipend for three months and are fully remote.

The mentoring projects for the next round will only be announced at the end of September. Still, it usually includes projects with a data-collection and data-management focus, some with a geospatial element. The most recently completed round included interns at Ushahidi and ODK-X.

The program is an excellent opportunity to get into open source and add a fantastic project to your portfolio. I’ve mentored Outreachy interns before, and some went to build successful careers at big names such as RedHat and Google. (Obviously, because my former mentees are smart and driven software engineers and not because I’m a particularly great mentor.)

Planet outlines its updated strategy, aiming to become a company that doesn’t just operate earth-observation satellites and provides remote-sensing data. Planet wants to be a company that also runs an earth-data platform allowing users to gather insights from Planet’s data.

The most interesting part of the marketing material is that it’s one of the rare cases that (sort of, in a sugar-coded way) admits that their product isn’t just used to save the environment or ensure every human can eat. Geospatial products are often used to achieve questionable goals, including fighting wars:

There are also security threats, very present as we write this during the war in Ukraine, for which the transparency created by daily broad coverage imagery can help illuminate events in a factual, unbiased and democratized way, reducing likelihood of miscalculation and escalation, and providing a common operating picture for society.

Working in geospatial, we all want to use our skills to create tools or to produce data that ultimately contribute to a better life on earth. But the companies we work for still have to make money, and the clients with the deepest pockets usually aren’t the ones that primarily care about world peace and ensuring every human on earth is well off — a conundrum Tom MacWright captured previously in Ethics in Geo.

Will Cadell, CEO of Sparkgeo, starts a newsletter:

Starting up a substack to talk about the super-niche topic of strategic geospatial thinking and tools. It’s going to be like 6 of us, but you’re invited. The bonus is that we get to see into the future and, if we are really clever, we get to sculpt it too.

Very niche indeed, but this will be interesting if Will’s recent thread discussing the future geospatial market is any indication. I wish it was a blog and not on Substack. Thankfully there’s also a secret RSS feed if you don’t want to hand out your email to follow along.