[OSM-talk] IBM Thinkplace Proposal

Brett Henderson brett at bretth.com
Thu Jul 5 12:18:56 BST 2007

Hi All,

I don't know how this email will be received, but I'm hoping the general 
feedback will be positive.  This idea is unlikely to succeed without the 
support of the OSM community.  Please read on and if you would like it 
to go ahead, please read the instructions in the "What can you do?" section.

To give some background, I became involved with OSM early this year (Feb 
from memory).  I live in the western suburbs of Melbourne, Australia and 
have mapped the CBD, and a number of major roads and my suburb in the 
West.  Over the last couple of months I've been coding in my spare time 
to try to build a replication mechanism for OSM.

More recently I've garnered quite a bit of interest in OSM at work.  I 
work as a software architect for IBM.  I was talking about the Osmosis 
tool I've been trying to complete over the last few weeks and discussed 
the opportunities that access to this type of data provides.

Then a few of us heard about a request for ideas on how to promote 
economic development in Africa.  We came up with a proposal to improve 
the current status of maps in Africa.  The idea involves improving the 
quality of static map data (ie. OSM) in Africa building a transient 
layer on top to support more time sensitive information such as disease 
outbreaks, reports of violence, requests for medicine, etc.  This data 
must be made available using alternative channels such as mobile phones.

Full details of the idea are available here:

* What's in it for IBM?
I believe geo-spatial data can become a commodity item.  Current sources 
of data are protected because their owners make money through limiting 
access to that data.  This can change.  This doesn't mean that there is 
no business value in mapping, it just means that the underlying data 
becomes a shared commodity and business must "move up the stack" by 
providing other services on top of that data.  I believe IBM is unlikely 
to take a lead role in building new business models around mapping, 
however they are uniquely positioned to build the enabling 
infrastructure and technologies to support companies that do.  In short, 
this is an emerging area and I think IBM should get involved.

* What's in it for OSM?
Firstly, map coverage in Africa is limited.  If the quality of OSM maps 
in these areas could exceed that of commercial maps, the popularity of 
OSM would be given a huge boost.
Secondly, OSM is experiencing incredible growth.  While this is exciting 
from a project perspective, the OSM infrastructure is feeling the 
strain.  There are many possibilities that IBM involvement could 
provide, both in areas of hardware and software.  IBM contributes to 
many open source projects such as Eclipse, Apache, and Linux to name a 
few and are one of the companies that "gets" open source (perhaps not 
yet open data ...).  I believe they have shown that they can work with 
open communities to the benefit of all parties.

* What can you do?
We need people to rate the idea and provide comments here.

Feel free to be honest, but I just ask that you keep comments constructive.
But most importantly, please rate the idea in all criteria (stars on the 
right hand side of the window).  This is the most important step.  
Demonstrating interest outside IBM is viewed very favourably.

* What happens next?
No idea :-)  Many Thinkplace ideas die a lonely death.  But with some 
constructive comments and ratings from the OSM community, the idea will 
gain popularity and raise its visibility among those that make decisions 
on these matters.

I don't want anybody to get too excited, the chances of anything 
resulting from this may not be great.  But we're doing all we can to 
talk to the right people to give it a good chance.

If anybody has any questions, please let me know.  I may be a little 
slow to respond but I'll do my best.


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