HOT and the Traditional Map Companies:
Could HOT be teaming up with a big name brand GPS manufacturer to spread our maps more widely to those that need them whilst simultaneously increasing the size of our community and volunteer base?
1: A (hopefully brief) Saturday write-up of some recent thoughts
2: I'm aware that "Traditional Map Companies [TMC]" are really a relatively new thing. Really I'm speaking about sat-nav boxes you'd have suckered to your windscreen or handheld units you'd take into the woods hiking. Think of big name brands when I say "TMC".
1: HOT and the Big Name Map Companies could be more involved:
This is something I've been thinking about for a while, especially since we've been looking for sponsors for the HOT Summit. At a most basic level HOT makes maps to help people; the TMC do exactly the same. HOT's maps help in disaster relief, planning and economic development; the TMC's maps help holiday makers, people that drive for a living and those that haven't learnt the easiest route to their friend's house. HOT and the TMC are not in competition; the TMC don't have maps of rural Sierra Leone (for example) and I'm not going to start a job on the Tasking Manager asking people to trace my next holiday destination.
The TMC makes great hardware that is trusted by millions of people the world over. The hardware works the same wherever you are, but the map quality differs.
A greater dialogue could exist. At a most simple level, I've been thinking about how we might get a contact at the TMC to sponsor the HOT Summit. For the price of a sponsorship level the TMC could get some great publicity potential. This is in contrast to the TMC sponsoring a regular OSM event; that probably wouldn't fly as OSM in many parts of the world does directly compete with the TMC. We can expand this to a more meaningful partnership than just sponsorship, however.
2: MissingMaps is awesome, we should be thinking about more of them:
I love MissingMaps. The project is a great example of data consumers (the ARC & BRC) getting more involved in the data production. MissingMaps utilises The Community to generate the products it needs, but most importantly it contributes more to The Community than almost any other effort. MissingMaps has not only used the resources that HOT can provide, but it has also brought talented people and resources to the party. HOT is better because of MissingMaps.
Presumably there are more of these partnerships out there, waiting to be undertaken and waiting to improve people's lives, OSM and the HOT community. We need to find these and build them. There must be people out there who could use HOT's help, but we don't know about them; conversely there must be people that could benefit from HOT but don't know about us.
"A rising tide lifts all boats" to quote a recent OSM Foundation email conversation (I believe, however, that this aphorism did exist before the OSMF listserv).
3: TMC as the big partnership?
The TMC has a marketing and communications budget beyond anything that HOT could dream. The TMC is probably already being approached by data consumers asking for assistance in projects HOT doesn't know about. The TMC probably doesn't have the map resources to help out, but does have the hardware.
The TMC could be selling HOT branded hardware to fieldworkers that require it, sourcing maps from HOT and feeding us with mapping parties, volunteers and publicity. The TMC sells kit that they would never be in the market before, whilst getting the opportunity for some great marketing campaigns and not negatively impacting upon their core business.
The TMC would make it easier for fieldworkers to access OSM data, providing both data downloads in the appropriate format and the tools to generate your own. To the least OSM aware user they are not concerned about where their data comes from, they are just using the resources provided; to those that get more interested in the process they're able to get more involved in the HOT ecosystem.
There's the OSM license to consider, of course: The TMC could sell kit loaded with OSM derived maps, but they'd also have to provide maps for free to anyone that wanted them. The business case for the TMC would be that whilst they do provide map downloads for free, most are going to want to buy the hardware with straightforward access to future updates.
In my vision of the future the TMC would hire a HOT coordinator to bridge the gap between the HOT The Community and their own commercial interests. "The Community" includes raising awareness of consumer needs, arranging map parties and working on the (open) data. "Commercial Interests" includes communication with customers, marketing and the like.
The question then, why aren't we doing something like this already? What would we need to achieve it? Would it really be win-win?