OpenStreetMap gets physical as Lokku invests in SplashMaps

Open data is cool and all that, but is it washable? It is with SplashMaps, a rather odd British startup that just received seed funding from OpenStreetMap firm Lokku.
Lokku runs a property search engine called Nestoria and a sideline business called OpenCage Data, which aims to help others use OpenStreetMap geodata. When I covered that in mid-2013, Lokku told me it was also setting up a seed fund to boost the ecosystem. SplashMaps is the first open data investment from that pot.
SplashMaps, which was successfully crowdfunded at the end of 2012, does what its name suggests: it makes waterproof fabric maps. The concept is very similar to the old escape and evasion maps used in World War II, except this time it’s targeting hikers, mountain bikers, kayakers and other outdoor enthusiasts who are likely to get wet while trying to find their way.
SplashMaps scarf
The maps can be folded, worn as a scarf or scrunched into a ball – one outdoor blogger described the texture as being like that of a tea towel, rather than being waxy like most outdoor maps. You can even draw on one with a marker pen, then wash it clean.
The real benefit, though, is that you can have one tailor-made, as it were, to the area of your choice. Right now, SplashMaps only makes maps for Great Britain, using a combination of official Ordnance Survey open data and crowdsourced OpenStreetMap data, which is in many cases more accurate than anything coming out of Google(s goog). However, the outfit is preparing to go international using OpenStreetMap data only, and that’s where Lokku’s seed funding comes in.
“It is true there has been a lot of innovation on the device front, but there is something emotionally powerful about a tangible map, not just as a tool for route finding but as a souvenir [and] a shared artifact to gather around, as a gift,” Lokku co-founder Ed Freyfogle said in a blog post. “SplashMaps tap into this need.”