Upload GPS tracks

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A good way to get involved in the OpenStreetMap project is to upload GPS track logs (GPS traces). Recorded by your GPS device, the typical track is a record of your location every second, or every meter. The collected data can be displayed as a background of thin lines or little dots within the map editor. These lines and dots can then be used to help you add map features (such as roads and footpaths), similar to tracing from aerial imagery. GPS Satellite NASA art-iif.jpg
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Some GPS devices allow you to directly upload your recorded tracks to OpenStreetMap. This is mainly true for smartphone apps. For all other GPS devices the online upload tool is the easiest way to add you tracks to OpenStreetMap.

Note that uploading GPS tracks is a different process than editing the map, and is also different from bulk imports.

How to upload a GPS trace

The GPS traces link
  1. Convert your GPS trace to the GPX file format.
    • Only GPS traces in the GPX file format can be uploaded to OpenStreetMap.
    • Files can easily be converted to this format using online conversion tools.
  2. Log in to the main OpenStreetMap site.
  3. Select the "GPS traces" from below the OpenStreetMap logo.
  4. Select "See your traces, or upload a trace"
  5. Use the "Browse" button to select the GPX file on your local computer.
  6. Enter a Description and Tags, if you like
  7. Select the Visibility of GPS traces.
    • If you do not want your GPS trace to be seen by anybody else, stop here and do not upload. Instead, use an editor which can display GPX files from your local storage without uploading them, such as for example JOSM.
  8. Click Upload.

The file will be uploaded to the OSM server, where it will join the queue of files waiting to be inserted into the database.

Uploading Compressed files

A single file may also be uploaded after being compressed by gzip, having a .gpx.gz extension. If you have a big file or multiple files to upload, you may compress them into a zip archive and upload it. It will then be treated as one big gpx file (that is, only one entry in your trace list is created).

Uploading Waypoints

GPS waypoints can also be uploaded to the OSM database. However, gpx files still need to contain at least one trackpoint. See Upload Waypoints.

Troubleshooting

I have uploaded a GPS trace but nothing has happened

When you upload a GPX file the points are extracted and inserted into the database. We do not however automatically create streets, paths or other map features based on your uploaded files. To add map features you (or somebody else) can use an editor to draw them using the GPS traces as a guide by viewing them as a background layer. (For more information see: Q:Why aren't my GPS traces shown on the maps?)

How can I view my uploaded traces?

Once your GPX file has been uploaded to the database, you will be able to...

  • See your trace listed on the GPS traces tab of the website
  • Edit the map using your trace as a background (press edit beside any trace)
  • Convert the GPS track to ways for editing in Potlatch 1.
  • See your trace among all the others, while editing an area
    • In Potlatch toggle 'Show GPS tracks' (use the icon, or press 'g')
    • In JOSM on the download dialogue window, select Raw GPS data under Data sources and Types.
  • Use the API to fetch your trace among others within given bounding box

What are GPX file tags?

Note: Tagging traces is completely separate from tagging OSM data itself. Don't get the two confused!

When uploading GPX files, tags provide a simple way to describe your GPS traces. They make your GPX file findable with a single word and allow you to group the trace alongside other similar traces. For example, all the traces tagged 'Melbourne' are listed at http://www.openstreetmap.org/traces/tag/Melbourne. Please note that tags are case-sensitive - so Melbourne and melbourne may supply different results.

Each file can have many tags, and you can enter as many as you like with commas (",") between them. Usually the tags are the names of countries, cities and other places your trace concerns.

My uploaded trace has "PENDING" next to it. Why?

At busy times (especially weekends), there can indeed be a wait before your trace is added to the database. You don't need to wait for this to start mapping, however.

  • If you're using Potlatch, find the 'edit' link to the right of your track (in the GPS traces listing), and click this - not the usual Edit tab at the top.
  • If you're using JOSM or another offline editor, just load the track from your hard drive.

Why do I get bad signal / traces in city centres / near big metal buildings?

For a GPS to work and achieve some accuracy it needs to receive at least four satellite signals. Often when in city centres there are many tall buildings that can block these signals and stop the GPS from being able to work out where it is. There may also be multi-path effects from the material making up the buildings around you, whereby signals bounce off them so the receiver actually thinks it is somewhere in the buildings around. Another factor that can affect this is the number and position of satellites that can be seen at the time of logging; trying the route on another day or a different time of day may give better results.

Applications supporting direct upload of GPS traces

Software developers may be interested in the documentation for the GPX upload API.

The following applications support direct upload to OpenStreetMap: