OpenStreetMap – sometimes referred to as “OSM'” – has become sort of the Wikipedia of mapping: an open platform of geospatial data that anyone can contribute to or utilize for their own purposes.
Cartographers, humanitarians, software engineers, and many more have built datasets to add to OSM’s libraries, or built applications powered by OSM’s data and map-editing capabilities. Even many prominent companies are now using the OpenStreetMap API to get the data fueling their map-based applications.
Despite all this, OSM isn’t the ideal solution in all scenarios where businesses require point of interest data. There are a number of proprietary data companies that excel in areas where OSM falters: data currency, attribute fill rate, documentation support, and ease of data access. We’ll be discussing all of this in the following sections:
Before we get too far, we’ll expand a bit more on the answer to the question: what is OpenStreetMap?
OpenStreetMap (or OSM) is a crowdsourced database of geospatial information about Earth. People contribute and edit information on places based on their local expertise, and others are able to use that data to make their own maps or power other applications (as long as they credit OpenStreetMap).
OpenStreetMap was created in 2004 in the UK by Stephen Coast. His impetus for doing so was the lack of openly-available map data (both locally and globally) and the success of Wikipedia as a collaborative knowledge project. Since OSM’s inception, OpenStreetMap’s data has been at least partially adopted by a number of prominent companies. This is largely because OpenStreetMap does not charge for licensing its data, and only requires that users credit OpenStreetMap and its contributors wherever they use said data.
Just because OSM’s API is currently very popular doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for all potential use cases requiring POI data. Like its inspiration, Wikipedia, OSM has some issues that stem from it being a mainly volunteer-run project. Namely, it can suffer from a lack of data completeness or freshness, supporting explanatory documentation, and streamlined methods to download OpenStreetMap data.
Though OSM was created to address an overabundance of proprietary POI data providers, some of these services are still worthy alternatives. They cost money, but have more complete and up-to-date data, more flexible data delivery options, more advanced search parameters, and so on. Here are 10 of the most notable ones.
Free trial: Sample data available
Best for: Accurate and complete data that’s updated regularly and easy to access
SafeGraph aims to be the authority on factual information about physical locations on Earth. Our flagship Places dataset covers over 30 million points of interest worldwide, with high fill rates for over 20 standard information attributes. Part of why it’s so complete is that we update it monthly – more frequently than most of our competitors – to keep the data fresh.
Another advantage of our data is that we can bundle it together for you and deliver it to a common GIS or data management platform, or as a CSV file. In contrast, it can often take multiple separate OpenStreetMap downloads to aggregate the datasets needed to cover all of the point of interest data your organization needs.
Free trial: Sample data available
Best for: Interoperable datasets that offer global geospatial data coverage
Precisely is a company that works with data to ensure its accuracy and integrity. To that end, it has a portfolio of global geospatial data that includes information on points of interest and building footprints, all connected through the PreciselyID join key. Precisely’s data is easier to access than an OpenStreetMap download, as it can be acquired in a variety of file formats. However, it’s updated less frequently than our data at SafeGraph (quarterly as opposed to monthly), and it can take more work to clean because many data entries are duplicates.
Free trial: Free data available
Best for: Reasonably-priced data for tracking major brand locations
AggData organizes its POI data primarily by major brands and by geographical area. So if you’re looking for all the 7-Eleven convenience store locations in Mexico, for example, you can purchase just that data. However, there is also the option to purchase a premium subscription and get access to all of AggData’s datasets at once.
Each dataset on AggData is managed individually, so the freshness of each one can vary greatly; the typical range is anywhere from one month to three years. AggData’s POI data also lacks some useful contextual attributes, such as building footprint geometry, NAICS codes, and hours of operation.
Free trial: No
Best for: Populating regional maps with major store chain locations
Similar to AggData, ChainXY is a self-serve portal that allows for purchasing data related to major store chain locations in different regions of the world. You can purchase data by brand and region, or get unlimited access with an annual subscription. Either way, it’s not very expensive, and is easier to get than an OpenStreetMap data download because ChainXY offers it in a variety of file formats.
However, ChainXY’s terms of service restrict the use of its data to within your own organization. ChainXY also isn’t great for covering non-branded POIs, and its data is often somewhat stale because it’s only updated quarterly.
Free trial: Yes (with limitations)
Best for: Advanced search options, such as by proximity, along route, or for EV charging stations
TomTom’s Places API has POI data for over 270 countries and territories around the world, though it counts only about 70 of those regions as having complete data. It has some novel search capabilities, such as geocoding up to 10,000 addresses at once, searching for POIs within a defined geometry on a map, locating POIs close to a specific point, and even finding POIs along a travel route. TomTom’s Places API can also find electric vehicle charging stations, though this function is expensive.
Free trial: No
Best for: Powerful search capabilities, including by contact information, category, or brand
HERE’s Geocoding and Search API has a variety of ways to search for and call POI data. Eligible criteria include names, addresses, geographic coordinates, telephone numbers, business categories, brand names, and even types of food. You can also search within the proximity of a location, along a travel route, or within a geometrically-defined area. HERE has data for over 120 million points of interest in over 100 countries and territories, but only has full coverage for about 40 of the latter. The data is also fairly pricey.
Free Trial: No
Best for: User-submitted extra information about POIs
Some people may know Foursquare from when it used to be an app (now called “Foursquare City Guide”) that allowed users to “check in” at points of interest, then submit reviews or other advice for travelers about those places. Foursquare is now a general geospatial data company, but it still includes tips and opinions from its app users in its POI data via its Places API. It has good coverage – over 100 million points of interest in over 200 countries and territories worldwide – but the data is expensive and subject to strict licensing terms.
Free Trial: No
Best for: Highly-technical search functions for precise data retrieval
ArcGIS is one of the world’s most prominent mapping applications, so it’s little surprise that Esri has built an API into it for finding POI data. Like with the OSM Map API, the ArcGIS Geocoding API’s search functions are designed for people who understand the more technical side of geospatial data. The upside is that they provide very granular ways to filter out the data you need.
For example, you can search for data in specific languages or a particular geospatial format. You can also search for POIs within a point proximity, geometric extent, city, or country. You can even define which specific place attributes to search for, specify whether to look for a place’s rooftop coordinates or street address coordinates, or designate a particular name to look for if an attribute may have multiple different values. The data is reasonably priced, too.
Free Trial: Yes (with limitations)
Best for: Affordable way to get deeply detailed information on POIs
LocationIQ’s Geocoding API provides many ways to call POI data for less money than some other major POI APIs. These include geocoding and reverse geocoding with options related to language, places with multiple attribute names, and building geometry. It can also find points of interest (of specific categories) around a location, provide information about a location’s time zone, and even measure the distance between two places.
However, LocationIQ limits how much data you can call in a day. It also uses a mix of third-party proprietary data and open-source data – including some from OpenStreetMap – so its data quality can be inconsistent at times.
Free Trial: No
Best for: Global POI data coverage from a well-known brand
We’d be remiss to leave as big a player as Google off this list. Google has put a lot of effort into its geospatial data products (Google Maps, Google Earth, Google My Business, etc.) over the past number of years, and its Places API is no exception. Google Places is often touted as having some of the broadest and most complete global POI data coverage of any API.
However, a common complaint about Google Places is that it’s somewhat shallow in terms of the data attributes it tracks. Google also has strict licensing rules for what kinds of applications the data from its Places API can be used in. Finally, Google drastically increased the price of its Places API in 2018, which has prompted many to seek less expensive alternatives.
OpenStreetMap’s API allows companies to get free point of interest data that is easy to license for use in many applications. But these reasons for its growing adoption come with hidden costs. OSM’s data is updated in a voluntary, unscheduled way, so its datasets can vary greatly in terms of freshness and completeness. Thus, they are more likely to contain inaccuracies and duplicate entries. This costs your organization extra time, money, and effort in having to clean the data before it’s usable.
Also, although data from OpenStreetMap is free to download, the process for doing so is convoluted and inconsistent. Third-party programs are required for querying and extracting the data; most require some knowledge of computer coding or GIS to use effectively, and they don’t all extract the same level of data attribution. In addition, many datasets on OSM don’t have complete supporting documentation explaining the different data attributes. This makes comprehensive geospatial analysis difficult if using OSM’s data alone.
As an alternative to OpenStreetMap’s API, SafeGraph’s Places data is routinely updated monthly, so you can reliably get fresh and precise POI data. Plus, we do all of the cleaning and de-duplicating work so your organization doesn’t have to. We also offer flexible delivery options for our data; you can get it as a CSV file, or have it sent to one of many popular GIS or data management platforms your organization may already be using (e.g. CARTO, Amazon S3, Snowflake, or Databricks Delta Sharing). And our extensive Places data documentation helps you spend less time figuring out what the data means and more time actually putting it to work.