Industry News

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.