Overture Maps Foundation.

Advancements in GPS and related technology have given us digital maps, and over the years, these virtual maps have only got better and more accurate. Now, the Linux Foundation seems committed to adding a new page to the annals of map building with the Overture Maps Foundation, an effort to develop interoperable open map data and further boost mapping services across the globe.

To this end, the Linux Foundation has joined forces with several prominent Big Tech players – these are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Facebook-parent Meta, Microsoft, and TomTom (the absence of Google, which has a strong position in the mapping world, is a notable one).

The Overture Maps Foundation looks to develop interoperable map data – one that is easy to use and open to all communities – and ensure that it is complete and accurate, and changes with corresponding changes in the physical world. Furthermore, it intends to bolster the mapping services operating at present by integrating with both existing open map data and upcoming ones. It is hoped that with this, Overture will be able to address several of the challenges faced by developers in creating and delivering mapping services.

“Mapping the physical environment and every community in the world, even as they grow and change is a massively complex challenge that no one organization can manage. The industry needs to come together to do this for the benefit of all,” said Jim Zemlin, executive director for the Linux Foundation. “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.”

As part of the effort, the data will be incorporated from a multitude of sources, such as Overture members, civic organizations, and open data sources, and this data will be validated to check for errors, breakage, and vandalism. The interoperability of the open map data will be simplified with a system that will associate entities from different datasets to their counterparts in the real world, as well as provision for more data sets to be incorporated in the future for richer (and better) map experiences.

A press release added that the Overture Maps Foundation will “define and drive adoption of a common, structured, and documented data schema to create an easy-to-use ecosystem of map data.” Its first datasets – which will include buildings, roads, and administrative information – are expected to be released in the first half of next year. From there, Overture will bring improvements to the coverage, resolution, and accuracy of existing data, as well as new layers such as geographies, border routing, and 3D building data.

The degree of the success of Overture remains to be seen, but from the first look, promises to be an interesting one. Maps and location data have proved to be more and more crucial in a postmodern and increasingly digital society, even going as far as saving human lives. “We’re at a place where maps and map data can be built together by a community — and it needs to be,” said Mike Dolan, SVP and GM of projects at the Linux Foundation. “No one company can actually do it all. We have to work together.”

“Immersive experiences, which understand and blend into your physical environment, are critical to the embodied internet of the future,” said Jan Erik Solem, engineering director for Maps at Meta. “By delivering interoperable open map data, Overture provides the foundation for an open metaverse built by creators, developers, and businesses alike.”