OpenMapTiles — A Random Walk in Boston with Open Street Maps in Your Pocket

Workshop Abstract and Description

This FOSS4G workshop will give you a (non-random) walk on how to use OpenMapTiles to create vector tiles so that you can take a (random) walk through the City of Boston with your mobile device.

By the end of this workshop you will be able to create vector tiles of Boston and have it served on a web server on your local computer.

The OpenMapTiles project turns OpenStreetMap data into vector tiles. Those vector tiles have great value in their portability. Vector tiles can be placed on a web server to serve to desktop or mobile devices over a cellular or local network. And vector tiles can be embedded in a mobile app for offline use.

The applications of portable vector tiles are vast: imagine an offline map of a backcountry hiking area with no data service. Or, a museum or school that wants to display a map in a kiosk with the familiar touch screen interaction. Vector tiles can also be turned into high resolution images for printing.

Our guide will walk you through how to use OpenStreetMap .pbf geo data files, with PostGIS, and Docker to create .mbtiles to serve up with tileserver-gl. We will take these seemingly random terms and help you understand OpenMapTiles.

Credit: The OpenMapTiles project is a successor of OSM2VectorTiles, a project which won the OpenStreetMap innovation award of 2016 at SOtM with support from HSR Rapperswil in cooperation with Klokan Technologies GmbH. is not affiliated with either entity, but we are supporters of their work.

Workshop Length

This is designed as a four hour workshop, as well an advanced eight hour workshop can be created.

Basic Requirements

Designed for intermediate and advanced students. This workshop requires knowledge of these prerequisites

  • How to install Docker, and Node.js
  • Basic Linux shell scripting (although its all possible on Windows, as well, we just know the Linux side better)
  • Minimal knowledge of web servers. We can show you what you need.

Workshop Outline

Boston OpenStreetMap to Vector Tiles

  • Set up your workspace environment by downloading Docker tools, Node tools, and Boston OpenStreetMap data file
  • Depending on the Operating System of the students, some of these items can be placed on a USB stick or local server
  • Docker start up your PostGIS container
  • Download an OpenStreetMap .pbf data file
  • Docker import water polygons from, and Natural Earth data for lower zoom levels
  • Docker import the .pbf file into PostGIS
  • Docker import custom SQL utilities, which are needed to create the vector tiles
  • export a MBTiles file by passing a bounding box
  • Serve up your tiles using tileserver-gl-light
  • Desktop web Demo
  • Mobile web demo