Collect information

Contributing to OpenStreetMap is a two step process: collect information and add to map. You can do either or both steps – the choice is yours. Here we explore step one in more detail.

To create an accurate map, we need information (or “data”) and lots of it! The definition of “data” is very broad and can range from your local knowledge (e.g. the name of the corner shop) to highly complex data such as LIDAR. The following describes different types of data, what we already have and how to collect more.

Donate existing data

Do you or your business already have information that may be useful to OpenStreetMap? We are interested in all the information types listed below, but also anything else that may help us to improve the map. Maybe you have a list of store locations, know where there are cycle paths, or have a set of historic maps. We’d love to hear from you – please email board@osmuk.org.

Local knowledge

The easiest place to start is with what you already know! Spotted that we don’t have the name of your local corner shop? Great, you can use your local knowledge to improve the map. You can either input into OpenStreetMap directly (learn how) or ask the community to do it by writing a note.

Aerial imagery

Aerial imagery (satellite imagery) is a form of visual data that can be used to help when creating the map. A few companies have already made their aerial imagery available to us and these are shown within the main map editing tools. All you have to do is select the layer you wish to view. If you are feeling adventurous you could try collecting your own aerial imagery using a drone. Companies that already have aerial imagery and want to make this available to OpenStreetMap should contact board@osmuk.org.

Field papers

Taking it back to basics, Field Papers is a method to collect data using pen and paper. Use Field Papers to print a section of the map and then add notes with good old fashioned pen or pencil. It’s best to do this outside looking at the area you printed. You can use your notes to improve OpenStreetMap yourself, or upload them back on to Field Papers so that others can edit the map based on your findings.

Photos and audio

A picture is worth a thousand words. Instead of writing notes, why not snap photos of things that need adding to the map or join a community of members collecting street level photos using services like Mapillary and OpenStreetCam. Don’t forget that we have cameras available for hire. Prefer audio? No problem, you can use a microphone to dictate audio notes!

GPS data

One technique collecting information about roads, footpaths, ferry crossings, and so on is to use a GPS ‘SatNav’ device to record your movements. There is no need to rush out to buy a dedicated device – start with a GPS Logger app on your smartphone, just note that not all phones are as accurate as dedicated devices. Using this method you can record your movement (a GPS trace) or a single location (a GPS Waypoint).