Open Charge Map – My Impression of How it Works

I have just read some posts on Speak EV following on from my decision not to use OCM for my EV Route Planner…

I am not posting on Speak EV for a while as I am taking a forum sabatical but I thought I would explain here how I believe OCM works.

I should point out that I am not associated with OCM. I am not even an editor now.

We are all used to corporates owning infrastructure. We are used to there being a central management structure in place for us to complain to. We assume that most things are actively managed and so if things don’t happen, or go wrong, then it must be because someone in that management structure has messed up in some way.

OCM is not like that. I will explain OCM as as I see it… I might be wrong so don’t have a go at me if you know differently… just comment below, put me right, and let everyone know your understanding 🙂

OCM is owned (as far as I know) by Chris Cook. A software developer who took on the task of setting up OCM and developing the software supporting it. It was originally commissioned by Kevin Sharpe of ZCW but Kevin is not involved in the day to day management but AFAIK ZCW does provide some funding to support infrastructure, servers etc.

Chris designed the database, developed the management web site and software and generally is project manager and lead developer. The project has a number of additional volunteers. Some involved with software development and maintenance but most are country editors.

Country editors can approve the new locations and edits that you make through the web site or app.

If you enter a new location onto OCM or edit an existing location then your edit goes onto an edit list. Your entry will not show on the database until it is approved by a country editor for your country. The country editor volunteers can then choose to review your edits, validate your data, make appropriate changes (if necessary) and then publish your edits to the database. Or they might reject your edits/entries for various reasons.

The important thing to realise here is that it is not a controlled process. No one person is responsible for approvals. If none of the volunteer country editors log in and take on the task of reviewing your entry then your entry will just sit on the edit list until one does.

Moreover, if they deem your entry to have inadequate data, or they cannot confirm that it is a legitimate entry, they can reject the entry and you wouldn’t hear about it.

The task of reviewing new entries can be time-consuming for a volunteer editor. The data should be validated and confirmed before approval and that can mean cross-checking against other databases (Zap-MAP, Pod Point, CYC etc) and if they cannot be validated there then the location must be investigated and perhaps called on the phone to check that the charge station is actually there and what the managing network is, connectors etc. The data on the entry should then also be validated… not a duplicate of an existing location, correct postcode, correct address, sensible title, correct connector details (connector, power, level, AC/DC and phase, voltage, current etc). It can take 30 mins just to validate one entry if it is done properly!

So you can see that done properly reviewing and approving can be a very time-consuming task.

So when I see posts like in that Speak EV thread it saddens me a little. I wonder just what do people expect? There is no big organisation behind OCM. It is basically one person and a bunch of volunteers. It is not at all surprising that your entries take a while to get onto the database and given the current system and how it works you wouldn’t hear whether the entry was accepted or rejected anyway.

All in all they do pretty well… although clearly it could be better!

OCM is a community project. It is run by volunteers that have their own families, jobs etc. OCM is just a hobby for the volunteers. Hopefully, as time goes on, it will improve, standards will be developed, more volunteers will come on board which result in more timely publishing of your data. It is also my hope that OCM will get a data manager that can take over some of these issues from Chris Cook. Chris currently has the software and data to manage worldwide and so probably has only limited time to address data issues in the UK. He also runs his own software company!

If you want OCM to get better then it can only get better if we get involved ourselves. It is a community driven project and we are the community!

Finally… it was suggested on that Speak EV thread that OCM was, as the original poster suggested “not fit for purpose”. I disagree. I believe that it is very much fit for purpose but it just needs the data quality improving. I am hoping that the data quality does improve and that the processes are made more robust. When that happens I will be glad to use OCM data on my EV Route Planner 🙂

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