The OpenStreetMap project aims to distribute a global, up to date and richly detailed map of the world. Collecting data is the first step in doing that and is critically important.

Primary sources

There are many forms of data available to contributors, of which the primary and most fundamental is the real world itself. No other data source can be as up to date or trustworthy as doing a survey immediately before editing OpenStreetMap.

Traditional forms of surveying can be used and, although these typically have a very high accuracy, they are very time consuming. Many contributors choose to use more convenient tools for surveying, each of which has distinct advantages for different styles of surveying and different sets of information being collected.

Field papers

Field papers is a project to make printable maps which contributors can annotate, upload and use in their editing tool. This has the advantage of being very robust, reliable and easy to understand, in addition to being usable for a very wide variety of surveying since the annotations are completely free form.

Smart phone apps

There are many smart phone apps for collecting data, ranging from ones which aid tagging a small subset of points of interest to ones which can collect pictures, audio, log GPS and much more.

GPS loggers

Dedicated GPS logging devices are much better suited to some types of surveying - particularly hiking or riding trails. A dedicated device will typically have a much longer battery life than a smart phone, and generally better accuracy too.

GPS loggers produce output in a variety of formats, and many include the ability to tag or annotate traces with waypoint information which can be very useful. Software to translate between the variety of (sometimes proprietary) formats and the GPX standard which the OpenStreetMap website accepts exists, for example GPSbabel.

Secondary sources

TODO. Things like:

  • Vector background layers / merge tool in Potlatch 2.
  • Aerial imagery tracing.
  • Data import and clean-up / conflation tools.