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OpenLR™ - Open, Compact and Royalty-free Dynamic Location Referencing

TomTom is launching OpenLR™ as royalty-free technology and open Industry Standard, and it invites the ITS Industry to join and adopt it.

This step will facilitate new business opportunities in various areas of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) such as traffic information services, map content exchange and Cooperative Systems where precise and compact dynamic location information is needed. The map-agnostic feature of OpenLR™ enables reliable data exchange and cross-referencing using digital maps of different vendors and versions.

OpenLR™ will help to enhance existing applications and will generate opportunities for new services. It is expected, that the universal location referencing technology will greatly support key actions of the ITS Action Plan of the European Commission.

TomTom will lead the further development and maintenance of the OpenLR™ system and invites the stakeholders in this industry to enhance OpenLR™ and contribute to its evolution.

The official web site of the OpenLR™ project is There you can find the open source reference implementation of the OpenLR™ method and a lot of downloadable material to learn about OpenLR™. Documentation includes a technical white paper and an introductive presentation. Tele Atlas B.V. also provides free map samples and examples so that you are able to immediately test OpenLR™ on your own. 

The open source software is made available both as a normal download and - if you are using Maven as your software management tool - as directly accessible & always latest packages from our server. Additionally the web site offers an issue tracker where you can report and track issues with the software. This is complemented further by a forum where all topics around location referencing in general and OpenLR™ in particular can be discussed. 

Coverage Comparison TMC vs OpenLR™ location referencing (Main area of Berlin, DE)

What is Location Referencing?

Communication of spatial information involves the communication of location information.

The communication chain of a machine readable location can be described as encoding the location at the sender side, transfer of the code to the receiving system and decoding the code at the receiver side.

The process of encoding a location is also called Location Referencing. This assumes a map on the sender side from which the location is encoded and a map on the receiver side in which the decoded location is found back. An obvious way of Location Referencing is using geographic coordinates. One important disadvantage of using coordinates is that it needs identical maps at both sides of the communication chain which often is not the case. As a consequence, the decoded location may not be found back in the receiver map, or decoding (i.e. map-matching) may be inaccurate or ambiguous.

Introduction to OpenLR™

OpenLR™is a method for location referencing which does not have this disadvantage. It accommodates requirements of communication of location between systems which have dissimilar maps. OpenLR™ is communication channel independent. It takes bandwidth requirements into account in the sense that OpenLR™ requires minimal bandwidth.

OpenLR™ has been designed for the use case of transferring traffic information from a centre to in-vehicle systems, built-in or used as an add-on (PND, Smart Phone). The information transferred can consist of the current traffic situation at a certain location, a traffic forecast or special alerts. The corresponding locations are roads or a list of connected roads.

The most well-known and most used method to transfer traffic information today is called RDS-TMC. The Location Referencing used in RDS-TMC makes use of pre-coded locations. These pre-coded locations are added to the corresponding locations in the map by the map providers of the sending and the receiving map.

The process of encoding is looking up the location code in the map belonging to the relevant location. The process of decoding is finding back the location code in the map and looking up the corresponding location.

From the fact that RDS-TMC makes use of pre-coded location is follows that the amount of locations fit to be transferred is limited. OpenLR™ does not have that restriction. With OpenLR™ every location in a map can be transferred.

Key business and technical benefits of OpenLR™

  • An open and royalty-free industry standard
  • Open Source Model based on GPLv2 and the extra conditions for OpenLR™
  • OpenLR™ Trade Mark available to use free of charge with the technology
  • A map-agnostic dynamic location referencing method
  • Applicable to the full road network, including secondary and urban roads
  • Compact and bandwidth efficient data transmission


Coverage Comparison TMC vs OpenLR™ location referencing (Main area of London, UK)

Open Source

The goal of OpenLR™ is the wide-scale adoption by the industry at large. OpenLR™ is therefore proposed as an open standard in an Open Source framework. It will be usable for anyone dealing with locations and transmitting these between systems having dissimilar maps. The current version of OpenLR™ focuses on line locations but can easily be extended to handle point and area locations.

While the standard is developed and maintained by TomTom International B.V., everyone is invited to contribute to its further development.


Why isOpenLR™ so important?

Dynamic location referencing is a requirement for many ITS and LBS systems and services. The use of various location reference methods will limit the interoperability of systems. A universal standard across a variety of applications will enable system integration and open the market for LBS.

Collaboration Model without standardized dynamic location referencing

Collaboration Model with standardized dynamic location referencing as OpenLR™


Further information and contact:


TomTom International B.V.
Oosterdoksstraat 114
1011DK Amsterdam
The Netherlands

Technical matters:

Legal matters:

Theo Kamalski

For all other inquries including customer support questions, please follow the link

OpenLR™ is a trade mark of TomTom International BV.

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