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Exploring Data Model Relations in OpenStreetMap

Department of Computer Science, École Polytechnique de l’Université de Nantes, Rue Christian Pauc, 44300 Nantes, France
Department of Computer Science, Eolas Building, North Campus, Maynooth University, W23 F2H6 Maynooth, Ireland
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally to this work. This work was carried out at Maynooth University where Mr. Pruvost was a Summer Intern in 2017.
Future Internet 2017, 9(4), 70;
Received: 21 August 2017 / Revised: 17 October 2017 / Accepted: 18 October 2017 / Published: 24 October 2017
PDF [465 KB, uploaded 24 October 2017]


The OpenStreetMap (OSM) geographic data model has three principal object types: nodes (points), ways (polygons and polylines), and relations (logical grouping of all three object types to express real-world geographical relationships). While there has been very significant analysis of OSM over the past decade or so, very little research attention has been given to OSM relations. In this paper, we provide an exploratory overview of relations in OSM for four European cities. In this exploration, we undertake analysis of relations to assess their complexity, composition and flexibility within the OSM data model. We show that some of the patterns discovered by researchers related to OSM nodes and ways also exist in relations. We find some other interesting aspects of relations which we believe can act as a catalyst for a more sustained future research effort on relations in OSM. These aspects include: the potential influence of bulk imports of geographical data to OSM, tagging of relations, and contribution patterns of edits to OSM relations. View Full-Text
Keywords: volunteered geographic information; openStreetMap; relations; geographic relationships volunteered geographic information; openStreetMap; relations; geographic relationships

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Pruvost, H.; Mooney, P. Exploring Data Model Relations in OpenStreetMap. Future Internet 2017, 9, 70.

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