You can’t test a map sitting at your desk. You really have to take it with you outside. Last year, we began building a set of SDKs for our services and packaging them into a reference application on Android. This allowed us to do things like take the Mapzen Turn-by-Turn service out for an afternoon drive or to see how well Mapzen Search can find that weird address in Queens while you’re standing a few blocks away.
As we tested our app, it became clear that the quality of the open data used to power it was improving rapidly. As the months passed, every time we would open and use this app we could feel the address data in search, the road network in navigation, and the details of the map improving. The work being done by the open data community is amazing.
While we believe in open data, some data should not be collected at all. A company we really admire is DuckDuckGo, a search engine that focuses on user privacy. As we saw open data quality improve, we wondered if we could use our SDKs to build a mobile mapping application that could make the same promise as DuckDuckGo: not to log or track our users, at a time when user privacy is a major concern. Since Mapzen runs its own map stack and is not dependent on third-party mapping providers, we can follow through on promises we make about how we handle user data. We even went so far as to create LOST, a drop-in replacement for Google Play Location Services, so your location is kept as private as possible.
We saw an opportunity to improve privacy in mobile mapping, and with that in mind we’d like to invite you to help us beta test Eraser Map.
Eraser Map is a privacy-focused mapping application that tracks nothing about you and has no user accounts. The entirety of Eraser Map is built using open-source software and open data. This means users and developers can inspect the app, improve it, and call out any issues they find. We believe that providing all our work as free and open software increases scrutiny and trust in our products, especially those focused on user privacy.
So what goes into a mapping application? A whole lot. Take a look at our work:
- Mobile app: check out Eraser Map code on Github
- Map display: we use Mapzen Vector Tiles with the lovely Tangram-ES rendering engine
- Search engine: we use Mapzen Search built on Pelias
- Turn-by-turn navigation: we use Mapzen Turn-by-Turn powered by Valhalla
- Map data: OpenStreetMap contributors provide an incredible global map dataset, which we augment with OpenAddresses and Who’s on First, our open global gazetteer
We’d love for you to use any of these in your own projects, contribute to them, or just get in touch.
We have taken this app from Korea, to Argentina, to India and all over the US (and even Canada) and we’d love you take it even more places. Sign up to become an Android beta tester over on erasermap.com.
PS: The irony is not lost on us that we’re asking for your email addresses to join the beta program but that’s a requirement of the Google Play beta program. We’ll allow sideloading once we launch.