Lightning Maps

Thunderforest Lightning Maps are a new way to create and style maps. Based on vector tile technology, this system has been rolled out across the whole Thunderforest platform.

What are vector tiles?

Vector tiles contain all the map information required for the corresponding image tile. They are compressed protobuf files and are created from the shapefiles and PostGIS database normally used for rendering. By pre-processing the data into vector tiles they become easy to ship around, and very fast to convert into raster image tiles - so fast that the raster images don’t even need to be stored!

What benefits do they bring?

Full details on all these features are coming soon! In the meantime, you can watch a presentation Andy gave about them at a recent OpenStreetMap conference.

Do they enable onboard rendering?

Yes! Lightning vector tiles are great format for onboard rendering, and there are already libraries out there which support them. One example is Maply/Whirlyglobe - read what Steve Gifford has to say about using the first release of these tiles for onboard rendering.

Can I access the vector tiles directly?

Direct access to the vector tiles is currently available to developers under our Beta program - contact us if you’re interested in finding out more!

What vector layers are available?

Currently available in our Beta program are our first two vector layers:

Developed specifically to contain the detailed transport information required for the Transport map layer.
Contains data for contours, elevation and hillshading, and in fact all the data needed to power both the Outdoors and Landscape map layers - and the OpenCycleMap layer too!