How Reliable are Open-Source Maps?

March 22, 2022


Imagine you’re driving across the state with a special delivery in tow. The open-source map data your business uses has been a solid navigation tool so far. The street names have been accurate and there have been no surprises. Suddenly, as you enter a new town, the mapping data becomes sparse. You’re no longer certain of where to go next. What happened?

Chances are good that you’ve run into one of the conundrums of open source mapping — inconsistency. A lot of people contributed to updating the map data for those densely populated areas you’ve just gone through, but now there are significantly fewer data points here simply because of a lack of contributors.

With that in mind, just how reliable are open source maps? They have their perks, but there’s a lot you should know about your potential navigation tools before embarking on a new journey. 

Open Source Maps — Uses and Contributors

You can find open-source maps in a lot of places, particularly those where the map itself is not mission-critical to the bottom line. For example, a background map on a weather application may use open source mapping info to show the forecast or storm locations in relation to the user. It’s there for a general visualization rather than providing a granular piece of location data.

As the term implies, open-source mapping is available for any user to contribute to it if they have the know-how. In many ways, that can be good. Contributors can update maps to show certain real-time traffic data, or perhaps correct a street name. But such openness could lead to trouble, too.

Potential Problems with Open Source Map Data

Open-source maps are only as good as the data that contributors enter, and that data may not always be reliable. Whether through mischief or genuine misunderstanding, someone could potentially update an open-source map with misleading information.

There may also quite simply not be enough people or map users in a region to keep the open-source map data updated. If no one entered any information for a particular area, those maps won’t be helpful and your delivery could be in jeopardy.

When data in an open-source map is inaccurate, there’s no telling how long it may take users to flag or change it, if the error is caught at all. In the meantime, errant data circulates and your customers or employees may unwittingly rely upon it — is that a risk worth taking?

When Should You NOT Use Open Source Maps?

If your business operations and goals revolve around knowing exact locations and granular data, open-source mapping is likely not going to cut it.

Delivery drivers need dependable routes plotted with every corner and address in each city or town accounted for. Asset tracking programs also need that level of detail for the best performance and results. The precision needed for geocoding will be hard to come by when working with open-source maps.

The bottom line is your bottom line. If you rely heavily on map data to make profits and serve your customers, put your trust in a well-established and reputable mapping and location service provider like TomTom.

The Benefits of TomTom and ADCi

Consistency and accuracy. Those two vital characteristics of mapping and location technology are the pillars upon which TomTom is built.

TomTom has its roots in satellite navigation that’s been widely used for decades as portable navigation for businesses and consumers alike. It has a vast collection of data points and other references readily available for use in improving or correcting maps.

Further, with TomTom, you have access to knowledgeable, responsive partners like ADCi that are just a call or click away to answer questions, provide troubleshooting advice, and everything in between. TomTom and ADCi have the expertise you need when you need it. If you use open-source maps, you’re on your own.

TomTom MultiNet Handbook for GIS Professionals

Subscribe to ADCi's Blog