AI, startup hacks, and engineering miracles from your friends at Faraday

Getting bite-sized chunks of OpenStreetmap

At Faraday, we dig OSM.

OpenStreetmap (OSM) is the foundation of our basemap and a model of the power of open data. It guides customers on our platform to their ideal audiences . . .


. . . and it serves as building blocks for geospatial analysis, both the kind we already do and the kind we want to do more of.

The problem is that it's big. The entire OSM database is portable, but at 50GB it's not very friendly. Sometimes we just want the driveway network of one county, or the building footprints in a zip code. Whole companies have sprung up around this workflow, but we have a few tried-and-true-and-cheap tools that we rely on:

  • Mapzen-hosted metro extracts - If your desired zone is on the list of regularly-updated cities, just grab the shapefiles and go!
  • OSM vector tiles - Use these with toolsets like tilereduce for distributed geoprocessing at tile scale.
  • Overpass API - This tuneable endpoint works great for specific queries in minutely-defined regions (e.g. find all the one-way streets in Park Slope), but it can be a bit opaque. Use the query-overpass node module to spit out GeoJSON with minimal fuss.

Happy mapping!

Faraday Places: our simple gazetteer

At the core of the Faraday platform is the concept of an audience. For most of our customers, the first step toward focusing in on the people they want to reach is choosing a geography. That's where Faraday Places comes in.

Faraday search

We draw our collection of geographies largely from data offered by the US Census Bureau. In addition to nationwide coverage, these have the benefit of being the "official" administrative boundaries in most cases. States, counties, metro areas, cities, villages - we pull them all into our system with one long bash script, and then make them searchable for our customers.

place types

We retained the census-assigned GeoID of each place, which makes it easy for us to grab data via census APIs, check out demographic details via 3rd party apps, and even prepare ourselves for the updates that are due ahead of the 2020 census.

Our collection of places contains 78,000 unique geographies - it may sound like a lot, but we've weeded out tens of thousands of records we thought we could do without. Gazetteers are hard; we've very deliberately kept it simple.

Here's a shortcut to the data, or just head over and start searching on the platform!