What is ‘OpenStreetMap’?

The base map we used to show the Urban Habitats walk route (the streets and place names etc) is from OpenStreetMap which is an alternative to Google. OpenStreetMap pulls together data about places all over the world and is being constantly updated by millions of users. In fast-changing areas like E20 it is often more up to date than Google. Compare the area around the Aquatic Centre, Carpenters Lock and Old Ford (where we stopped for tea). You will see how much extra detail there is available on OpenStreetMap for example all those footpaths!


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OpenStreetMap is one of an increasingly large number of tools and software systems that can be combined together to create and use maps. For example theres an interesting workshop session in the forthcoming five day OSM event ‘Getting Crafty with Map Makars’ up in Edinburgh college of Art (4th October) which aims to combine map software with ways of making stuff (real stuff, you know, wood, paper, textiles etc)!

Technical stuff…

Let’s look a bit more at that link on OpenStreetMap: http://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=16/51.5399/-0.0160
The link is quite clever and also very simple. The numbers 16/51.5399/-0.0160 set the zoom level (16) and then centre the map on the point near the top of the Olympic Stadium, with co-ordinates 51.5399/-0.0160 (Latitude and Longitude or degrees North/South and degrees East/West from the Equator at the Greenwich Meridian). Notice that we are very close to the Meridian (the imaginary vertical line that runs straight through Greenwich) if you change the coordinates a little bit to zoom out (zoom level 12) and reduce the longitude (East/West) value to nothing you will see that Stratford is pretty much due North of Greenwich. http://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=12/51.5398/0.0000

And compare it to the Google link: https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.5403238,-0.0162003,16z The Google link opens up a map, sets the coordinates, and sets a zoom value (16 same as before). The coordinates are not exactly the same but thats just because we centred the map view approximately by eye.

See… now you know something about how we can find our way round maps, zoom in on a particular place and see under the surface a bit more.