Experiment with OSM. Operationalize with BFUSA

At BuildingFootprintUSA™ we talk with companies who received their first exposure to building footprint data using OpenStreetmap (OSM) data. As these companies find certain limitations with OSM data they look around and discover BuildingFootprintUSA™ (BFUSA). We can share the advice that we give these companies.

OpenStreetmap is one of the most exciting repositories of #opendata in the world. With the help of the broader OSM community anyone can download gigabytes of exported data and create usable spatial data that they can use for prototyping. After a successful proof-of-concept the next step is to then integrate the data into an operational process.

OpenStreetmap comes with a building footprint layer which gives many companies their first exposure to building polygons at scale. This data helps a company understand what are the possibilities for locating, analyzing, and visualizing information using millions of building footprint objects. Individuals and businesses are continuously contributing to the data, for example at the same time someone is adding in a shopping mall polygon in Anywhere USA, Microsoft is making available building footprint data for incorporation into OSM.

We have some general guidance on the differences between OSM and BFUSA data that can help you think through your experiments and planning. There are four main differences between OSM building data and BuildingFootprintUSA™ data:

Volume – BFUSA has approximately four times the number of building footprints as OSM, and has publicly stated goals for coverage – by the end of 2017 (80 million records) and for the end of 2018 (75% nationwide coverage). OSM data grows as the community contributes to the commons.

Coverage – County-to-county, city-to-city OSM coverage may vary from the important buildings (retail centers, public buildings, entertainment venues) to complete coverage. At BFUSA we only add coverage when we have complete coverage of a city or county, single and multi-family residential, commercial, industrial… everything.

Attribution – OSM data contains a building name attribute which is very helpful for locate and visualize use cases. BFUSA data contains a full complement of primary and secondary unit address information not found in OSM. With comprehensive address information you can link any data to buildings using the street address or ZIP+4 – business list, real property, household demographics, or your proprietary data – to use in your analysis.

License – OSM data is licensed with ODbL. For businesses that are able to use OSM data as-is that’s great – free, open data, solving a business problem. Companies needing to enhance the building data, blend the data, or create derivatives may find ODbL to be an obstacle as it requires companies to make the improved or derived data available to the OSM community. BFUSA licenses our data under many different creative models that aligns with your business need. A common theme with our commercial license models is that the data may be used for purpose without a need to share the data with external parties.

Whether you are beginning your evaluation of building footprint data, or you have already experimented with OSM data, we can help you understand the pros and cons of different data sources and whether they will or won’t match up with your business need. Start the conversation by connecting with us at

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