OpenStreetMap Meetup at Grappa’s and the Future of Mapping

11:27 pm PHT

 Map showing the location of Grappa’s in Greenbelt 3

In the evening, after the Blogging Ethics Round Table, I met up with Maning (whom I’ve met before) and a several other OpenStreetMap mappers and supporters for the first ever Philippine OpenStreetMap Meetup, which was held at Grappa’s in Greenbelt 3. Over micro-brewed Czech Praha beer and some pizza, we dicussed mapping anecdotes, the need (or not) to set up a local OSM organization, the idea of setting up a mapping party, and other relevant stuff about mapping in the Philippines. Details can be read over at the OSM talk-ph mailing list.

One thing I realized from this meeting is that there’s a huge interest in mapping and geo-location services. Businesses in particular, are quite interested in OSM since it’s free (as in beer) to use, and a few attendees to the meetup represented entrepreneurial interest. In fact, a local web-oriented company is actually spearheading the creation of an OSM Philippines non-profit organization in order to advance open-content crowd-sourced mapping in the Philippines. I find all of this in stark contrast to the interest in Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects. Aside from Vibal Foundation’s WikiPilipinas, there’s precious little other corporate interest.

I knew before that there’s a huge global interest in geo-based services. Google has tons of products and services, like Google Maps, Google Earth, Google Map Maker, and the recently released Google Latitude. Yahoo! is in the act with services like Yahoo! Maps and Fire Eagle. Even Nokia had joined the fray by releasing GPS-enabled phones and buying mapping provider Navteq (see my analysis of Nokia’s move). What I didn’t realize then is that even small, local businesses are into it.

The other Saturday, I had a meeting over coffee with a local entrepreneur who saw that I was involved with OpenStreetMap and wanted to tap my help in adding maps to an upcoming web portal he is building. I gave him various options and we’ll see where this will lead. (If the venture is successful, he even said that he’s willing to hire me with “an offer I can’t refuse”. I thought it just was a clever bit of flattery to get me to help him—heck, he’s a businessman! Hehehe.)  :-)

Anyway, I’m feeling pretty bullish about the prospects of mapping and geo-based services especially when coupled with the Internet and the Web. I’m definitely going to put more effort into this nascent field ’cause I really feel there’s money to be made here. (Hint, hint.)  ;-)

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