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News — 10 March, 2016

OSM Data Analysis Tool Development Kicks Off!

Last week in Washington DC, HOT kicked off work to develop a prototype tool for OSM data analysis. With generous support from the Knight Foundation, HOT began the design phase and discussed ideas on how to make it easy for anyone to gain insights into OSM data. 

Understanding the quality and quantity of geospatial data in OpenStreetMap is not an easy task, especially for those less familiar with the OSM project or with mapping technology in general. Today an increasing number of humanitarian organizations rely on OSM basemap data for coordinating disaster response operations. Journalists and communities also use OSM derived maps to tell stories about humanitarian crisis or to discuss local issues. It is crucial for those and many other users of OSM maps to understand the characteristics of such data to be able to use it efficiently and confidently. This often includes an assessment of data coverage, map statistics, change monitoring, and the identification of gaps and inconsistencies.

Interactive wireframes of the OSM data analysis tool Web interface

Our colleagues at Mapbox and Development Seed hosted the meeting and provided technical advice for the prototype design and development. During the two-day sprint, the teams discussed user interface and backend component design. Based on prioritized user requirements, five top functionalities were selected for implementation of the prototype:

  1. Interactive display of summary statistics for selected areas of interest (e.g. any place on the map or defined HOT activation extents) including how many miles of roads and number of buildings have been mapped, as well the number of contributors.
  2. Visualization of data recency, showing when each feature on the map was created or last modified. This will include a dynamically-linked histogram chart to show the distribution of map edits over the last 10 years.
  3. Before and after map slider - a must-have to effectively visualize the impact of OSM communities across the world.
  4. A proxy display of what is the level of “experience” behind map features, showing for example whether a road was mapped by a new member who recently joined OSM, or if it was traced by someone with many years of contributions.
  5. Interactive browsing to any map area to show HOT project extents, as an indicator of organic OSM contributions vs. those that were specifically coordinated through Tasking Manager projects.

These are challenging goals which we are hoping to accomplish by leveraging as much as possible existing open source libraries and software. We are also very lucky to have hired Martin Raifer, the lead developer of Overpass Turbo, who will work with us to build the OSM Data Analysis tool prototype over the next two months.

We also want to thank Ali and Becky from Development Seed who guided us through a collaborative design process and quickly prototyped interactive wireframes for testing. Some of our colleagues from the World Bank, USAID, and American Red Cross have already tested the interface for usability and provided very valuable feedback. Usability is indeed one of the main goals of this project as we want to build a tool that is easy to use also for the less experienced user. Finally, as we hope this project will be of use to the wider OSM community, we are striving to create an open framework that allows for integration with existing and future OSM data analysis tools and easy development of additional data analysis modules. 

If you want to support the project by either contributing code or simply feedback and ideas, please get in touch, we would love to hear from you!