Navigation company Telenav has announced that its US-focused Scout app for iPhone is today switching to OpenStreetMap (OSM) from TomTom for all its mapping data. The company says it plans to switch to OSM for the Android incarnation in June, bringing both apps in line with Scout’s companion website, which is already using the crowdsourced mapping service.
For the unitiated, OpenStreetMap is a free, editable map of the world created by the online masses (‘Wikipedia for maps’), and is designed to make it easy for developers to integrate into their own applications. It’s a little bit like Google’s own Map Maker tool, except OSM is based entirely on open principles.
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There is already many OSM-based services out there, including Germany-based Skobbler, which serves up GPS navigation apps for iOS and Android for offline use. Skobbler hit the headlines at the end of January, after it was acquired by Telenav for $25 million. But perhaps one of the more interest parts of the story was who was leading Telenav’s efforts in the OpenStreetMap space – Steve Coast, founder of the OpenStreetMap project itself, who joined Telenav from Microsoft the previous year.
Founded in the US in 1999, Telenav offers a range of location-based services covering GPS navigation, localized search, and related services. While Skobbler had been working to improve OpenStreetMap data from its European base, Telenav has essentially been doing the same from its US HQ, which made this acquisition make a lot of sense. “There’s a good match there,” said Coast in an interview with TNW earlier this year. “But it also helps the company (Telenav) in a couple of ways – it helps us expand our office from being ‘US and China’, to having a solid base in Europe.”
Skobbler becomes Scout
With that in mind, and pretty much as expected, Telenav is now rebranding Skobbler as Scout. This effectively gives Telenav an instant reach into Europe and elsewhere around the world, with Scout International now available in more than 50 markets.
This is a big advance for both Telenav as a company, and OpenStreetMap as an open-source wiki project. OpenStreetMap has in the region of 1.5 million registered editors globally, though of course – just like Wikpedia – there are varying degrees of engagement. But with Telenav’s clout and a unified brand across many major markets, OSM will receive a lot more exposure.
“As a mapping platform, OSM is a credible alternative to proprietary solutions, with the added advantage of instant updates, resulting in a more accurate and up-to-date map,” says Coast. “Roads change, subdivisions are built, and freeways expand so, just like all other maps, it needs updates on an ongoing basis. Today’s launch has effectively added millions of editors to the OSM global community, breathing even more life into an already exploding free and open-sourced project. Compare this to the billions of dollars that Google has spent – and will have to continue to spend – on keeping its maps updated and I think you can understand why we have switched to OSM.”
In related news, Telenav is also today launching a new Scout for Developers program featuring a Maps and Navigation SDK for devs to integrate OpenStreetMap-based GPS navigation and maps into their own products. So this goes beyond the maps already available through OpenStreetMap itself, and offers a slew of data into the mix too. It also includes a new Scout Maps API for desktop and mobile websites using OSM, essentially making it easier for developers to replace Google Maps.
Skobbler’s apps will still be downloadable from the same places as before, except they will now be known under a different name.