Explaining what we do and how our data is used!

If you are a regular reader of our blog you will know about the wide range of things we get up to and about how our data is used in all manner of things from helping determine insurance premiums to working out which properties are likely to be affected by flooding, from getting your supermarket shopping delivered to the satellite navigation system in your car.

However, you’d be among a very few people in the country who are aware that we are involved in so many things. Sadly, the majority of people only know Ordnance Survey for our popular pink and orange outdoor leisure maps – OS Explorer Maps and OS Landranger maps  – and although they might know that we offer a mapping app for iPphones and iPads and an online portal, they probably don’t know about all the ways our data is used in our everyday lives.

But we have plans to change that!

And this week, we’ll be taking to the road to explain more about our data and how it gets used in our everyday lives and how, as a nation, we’d be lost without Ordnance Survey!

So, if you are heading to the Hay Festival, do visit our stand and meet the team. We’ll be there until Sunday 2 June chatting to people and running an interactive quiz to test your knowledge of what we do and how our data is used – with the opportunity to win some great prizes!

We’ll be explaining all the ways our data is used – by councils to save money through running services like waste collections more efficiently to insurance companies tackling fraud and making sure that your insurance is relevant to your location. We’ll be talking about some of the great case studies we have of our data being used to combat obesity in children, both by Change 4 Life, the Department of Health’s campaign and by a local authority who discovered (using a map) that in deprived areas, nearby takeaway restaurants were being used as an alternative to school lunches.

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Everything Happens Somewhere – using local knowledge for national benefit

Guest post by Gayle Gander of GeoPlace  (@GayleGander)

Case studies from the 2012 GeoPlace Exemplar Awards have now been published in  book form.

The case studies celebrates the work of Award winning Custodians across the country and demonstrate how Authority Address Custodians and Authority Street Custodians are enabling local authorities to create efficiency savings and support service delivery.

The Custodians are the people responsible for creating and maintaining essential national resources in the form of the National Street Gazetteer and the National Address Gazetteer.  The National Address Gazetteer is a critical part of the AddressBase® range of products which are now widely available, and being used by the public sector through the Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA) as well as by the private sector.

The case studies featured in this book demonstrate the importance of address and street information to local government – with much of the best practice transferable to other organisations across the public sector.

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Name the zoos in our mapping quiz

It’s getting to the time of year where the school holidays are approaching and you might be thinking of something to keep the children entertained, especially after the excitement of Christmas Day. One idea to get outdoors that can appeal no matter the time of year is the zoo. Most are open all year around, closing only on Christmas Day itself.

Did you know that London Zoo was founded in 1828, making it the world’s oldest scientific zoo. Located on the edge of Regent’s Park, it’s home to 755 different species of animals and more than 16,000 animals.

Today’s zoos are a far cry from the tiny enclosures of days gone by and capturing zoos on a map, makes you realise just how large an area they cover. Of course, our intrepid team of surveyors don’t have to map the animals themselves, no matter how large they may be.

Would you recognise zoos from across the country on a map? That’s the theme for our mapping extract quiz this week. Let us know the names of the zoos on our eight OS MasterMap Topography Layer extracts and post your answers on the blog.

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75th anniversary of the Ridgeway Base observations

Guest blog by  Graham Pennington, Geodesy & Positioning team

Today (Friday 7 December) is the 75th anniversary of the completion of measurements on the Ridgeway Base.  The Ridgeway Base runs from White Horse Hill (grid ref. SU3008386375) to Liddington Castle (grid ref SU2098279752) with trig points marking each end.  The baseline was one of several measured sides in the network of observed triangles that made up the triangulation network for the re-triangulation of Great Britain.  A triangulation network requires at least one measured side in order to control scale and to fix the size of the network to “the real world”. 

At its simplest, the baseline was a straight line measured between two fixed points, measuring just over 11 km in length and divided into 18 bays approx. 3/4 km in length.  However, in these days of satellite surveying at cm accuracy and laser distance measurement at mm accuracy, it is easy to take for granted the accuracy of the results achieved 75 years ago and the effort involved in measuring the baselines.  The measurements were taken using little more than tapes measuring 24 m in length and just 3 mm wide.  Each bay was measured 3 times and the measurements only accepted when they agreed to within 0.2 mm.  This is an incredible tolerance even today and the overall accuracy of the whole length was estimated to be just 1 cm.  When the length was checked in 1951, with superior equipment, it only differed from the original measurement by just over 6 mm! 

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Collecting place names with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency

Today’s guest blog is by Jo Rawlings, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, explaining how a vernacular geography project called FINTAN is helping to pinpoint locations for emergency responses.

When receiving an emergency or distress call, understanding the position of the person in difficulty is vital in delivering a swift response. 

HM Coastguard is working in partnership with the Ordnance Survey on a dataset that will help with this process. 

Expanding the depth of the dataset 

Developed by Ordnance Survey with a pilot run within the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), the vernacular project (FINTAN) is a software data collection and management web application covering Great Britain. The dataset initially included within FINTAN will locate any place name already shown on an Ordnance Survey map. However, to deal with the fact many locations are known by alternative local names, work is underway to identify and verify these, and then add them to the FINTAN database. 

When a person calls 999 and asks for the Coastguard, they may not be certain of their exact location or the position where they can see someone in trouble.

However they may know the area by its nickname, such as Cow Beach, otherwise known as Prisk Cove in south Cornwall. 

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Keeping our fundamental bench marks in order

Guest blog by Colin Fane, Geodesy and Positioning Consultant

Lampeter fundamental bench mark

Most people are familiar with trig pillars. There are over 7,000 of them scattered around Great Britain. However, there is another, considerably more elusive, type of pillar to be seen across the land – the fundamental bench mark (FBM). FBMs are the physical realisation of our national height datum ‘Ordnance Datum Newlyn’ (ODN – mean sea level at Newlyn, Cornwall, 1915-1921) and are still crucial in defining this reference system today.

There are nearly 200 FBMs around Great Britain, mostly constructed in the first half of the twentieth century at sites carefully selected to provide an anchor to bedrock. The height of each FBM relative to ODN was determined by a network of precise levelling lines across the country. The levelling network was then densified with approximately three-quarters of a million bench marks, using less precise levelling. These lower-order bench marks are often seen cut into stone at the base of a building, church or bridge and about half a million of them are still in existence today

Approximately half the FBMs are surrounded by railings, particularly in urban areas. To the casual observer the railings could be mistaken for a receptacle for other people’s rubbish (or at least this seems to be what some people use them for). However, the railings do provide protection and some of those FBMs without them can get damaged.

Lampeter FBM (SN5752) is one such example. It was brought to our attention that the pillar had been broken in two and the visible section of the pillar, above ground, was now laying on the ground. As these monuments are still important to our work, it was essential to rescue the broken pillar (before someone liberated it as a garden ornament!) and to repair it.

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Why surveyors should use up-to-date data!

We’ve been telling you about the campaign we are running to encourage land and property professionals such as surveyors, conveyancers, architects and developers to ensure they are licensed and up-to-date when they use location data. The campaign is supported by RICS, Land Data, FAST and other leading industry figures and features a series of filmswhich explain why it’s important.

In the final of the three films aimed at the Land and Property sector, RICS’ Land Director, James Kavanagh explains why he believes that up-to-date data offers chartered surveyors peace of mind that they can offer the best service to their clients. In short, they need to understand how up-to-date, licensed data plays an important role in maintaining their professional reputation. Professionals who have any doubts about whether their location data licence is up-to-date should contact their data supplier or Ordnance Survey directly for guidance.

Why businesses should use up-to-date data!

As we mentioned last week, we are running a campaign to encourage land and property professionals such as surveyors, conveyancers, architects and developers to ensure they are licensed and up-to-date when they use location data. The campaign is supported by RICS, Land Data, FAST and other leading industry figures and features a series of filmswhich explain why it’s important.

In the second of three films aimed at the Land and Property sector, FAST (Federation Against Software Theft) takes a view on how using older, unlicensed data not only has legal and cost implications, but also risks damaging professional reputations, which may have taken many years to build.


Why conveyancers should use up-to-date data!

We are running a campaign at the moment to encourage land and property professionals such as surveyors, conveyancers, architects and developers to ensure they are licensed and up-to-date when they use location data. The campaign is supported by RICS, Land Data, FAST and other leading industry figures and features a series of filmswhich explain why it’s important.

Ordnance Survey makes up to 10 000 changes to the master map database of Great Britain every day, reflecting the rapid developments in the nation’s environment. However, it’s not only important for organisations to have the most up-to-date data, but also vital that they have the appropriate licence to use it effectively.

In the first of the three films which we’ll be showing over the next few weeks, we hear from Land Data about why it’s important for conveyancers to be using fully up-to-date and licensed mapping, because as maps change, if you’re using incomplete information, then you’re failing to stay ahead.


Are you a social hiker?

Guest post by Social Hiker Martin Free @InSearchOfCloud

How and why I use Social Hiking

I was always a keen hiker. Mum used to take us youth hostelling as kids and though University I was a very active member of the hiking club there. I took some steps to ‘go pro’ and started down the qualification route for mountain leadership, but rapidly realised that I would be better earning my pounds elsewhere and keeping hiking as a hobby. After finishing University, I kept in touch with my hiking buddies and we got together regularly, certainly throughout my 20s. As for most people, life took over. My career, other activities, relationships etc meant that hiking became something that happened less and less frequently.

In 2009, I bought my first proper smartphone – a HTC Hero. It wasn’t the earliest Android phone, but as the first of my friends to get one, I felt like an early-adopter. Having a smartphone opened up a huge range of opportunities to do other things with it, other than just basic calls and texts.

In 2010, I changed jobs. I had been the ‘Training Manager’ for national government agency, which meant working away from home most of the time. I moved back into an operational role near home, working shifts and sleeping in my own bed every night (or day depending on the shift!). This gave me a lot more time to pick up on old hobbies. I started hiking again. I started running again. In both cases, due to my shift pattern I was doing it on my own, mid-week with my smartphone, I started tracking my activities, both for safety and to see later how much I’d done.

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