Meta, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft, and mapping company TomTom have launched a new mapping initiative in partnership with The Linux Foundation that could challenge the dominance Google holds in the mapping world, TechCrunch reports.
The recently launched Overture Maps Foundation aims to encourage the development of new map products with openly available databases members can contribute to and reuse across companies and apps. It will additionally use open data that already exists from city planning departments as well as open-source projects like OpenStreetMap.
While there are only four companies at the moment driving the initiative, the foundation intends on inviting other businesses and communities to join as well.
“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,” noted The Linux Foundation’s executive director, Jim Zemlin, in a press release. “Industry needs to come together to do this for the benefit of all.”
Such mapping and location data are necessary to power a number of gadgets and apps. These include, for example, IoT devices like fitness trackers, autonomous cars, logistics apps, and even tech for the metaverse, something Meta is investing billions in.
“Immersive experiences, which understand and blend into your physical environment, are critical to the embodied internet of the future,” added 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.”
The new initiative also aims to make building new mapping products faster and easier. Developers, for example, often need to integrate map data from multiple sources, which can take time and money. The foundation addresses this problem essentially by providing a free, simple way of combining map datasets from multiple sources and even linking different but related data sets together.
At the same time, the foundation also hopes such a collaborative effort by so many worldwide will lead to more accurate data that’s updated frequently. As Mike Dolan, SVP and GM of projects at The Linux Foundation, told VentureBeat, that’s important because “without reliable and modern maps, [we] just can’t build other products and services and capabilities.”
The first datasets are planned for release in the first half of 2023 but will include limited, basic information such as building and road details. However, the foundation intends to improve it with more data over time, like rotating and navigation and 3D building data.