What is GIS?

We have an excellent help and support section on our website to advise you on Ordnance Survey map products, map facts, maps and symbols for emergencies and getting the most from our online mapshop. A question we’re often asked is ‘what is GIS?’ and there’s a whole section dedicated to that too. Find out the basics here and visit the website to dig deeper into the subject.


Put simply, a GIS is a geographical information system, and to make that system work, you need maps and some software. We are one of many organisations producing map data for use in GIS. There are many more companies who then produce GIS software. Continue reading “What is GIS?”

Could you make a profit from mapping and location data?

Ordnance Survey’s location information is used in a wide range of businesses. From standard location maps and ‘how to find us’ information on websites to much more complex ways for insurance companies to identify fraud and for utility companies to record where their assets are, Ordnance Survey information is estimated to underpin almost a billion pounds-worth of related IT spend in Services, Software and Hardware.

We are always looking for new and interesting ways for our data to be used to help solve problems and to make processes more efficient for businesses. Regular blog readers and those interested in public sector efficiency will, no doubt, be aware of the numerous ways our data is used to make public services more responsive and efficient, but are possibly not so aware of the numerous business applications that either use or data directly, or in part to answer real questions, these uses include where to site major developments, understanding financial risk from flood or fire, or just making sure that deliveries to customers happen on time every time.

A new conference on 8 May called Location 2012 will discuss and showcase how business can profit from the use of location in growing business.  With partners like Microsoft, Experian and Pitney Bowes to name a few, we will be exploring the real benefit and profit business people can realise by using location data to solve everyday business problems, along with practical hints and tips for making the most of Ordnance Survey’s vast suite of products.

The event will bring together GI (geographical information) specialists and innovative business people to show how they can make money using location information. The event will introduce technology companies to the potential profitability of location data and show how solving problems using geographic information is already common place across all business markets.

Continue reading “Could you make a profit from mapping and location data?”

Do you have an idea to transform neighbourhoods in Britain using GI?

We launched our latest GeoVation challenge last month with the aim of helping communities everywhere to address their unmet needs through the application of geographic data, skills and expertise. We’ve had lots of people register on the GeoVation Challenge site and so far we’re getting some interesting ideas on ‘How can we transform neighbourhoods in Britain together?’

We identified 104 problems such as:

  • How do we provide safe environments for our children to be active?
  • How do we connect people looking for work with those that need their skills?
  • How do we ensure public services and resources are accessible for all ages?
  • How do we make our high streets an attractive place to run a business?

People have been getting busy adding ideas to solve these problems and more. One idea is for a Community Hyperlocal Site Platform –  a ‘one stop shop’ platform to find out what is going on in your neighbourhood .As well as providing community information, it will deliver information provided by councils, Central Government and other bodies through the use of Ordnance Survey’s Code-Point Open and 1:50 000 Scale Gazetteer to facilitate searching and present results as a map or list. Many local communities find the cost and lack of resource a barrier to hosting their own websites, this idea will allow them easily set up a site and use it to inform local people and bring them together.

Continue reading “Do you have an idea to transform neighbourhoods in Britain using GI?”

Geographic information being used in the NHS

If you have been paying attention to the NHS reforms that have been going on, you will be well aware that the NHS is changing. At a local level, care is shifting from hospitals to local community-based settings and there is a much greater emphasis on health improvement and prevention. Ordnance Survey’s geographic data has a role to play and is helping inform decision making and improve efficiencies.

Moving forward, there are plans for more joint planning between health and social care organisations as the responsibility for public health moves to local authorities. To support this, decision makers need to rely on well-informed and up-to-date information to support health service planning.

The Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA) has a crucial role to play providing Ordnance Survey geographic data to virtually any public sector body in England and Wales – regardless of size. The 10 year agreement between the government and Ordnance Survey came into effect in April 2011 and provides centrally funded geographic datasets to members to help them plan and deliver their services.

The benefits of the PSMA are significant for health and social care agencies. Not only does the agreement improve collaboration on the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment – the means by which NHS trusts and local authorities work together to plan health and social care services for their local communities – but the innovative use of maps can also help achieve public health targets, streamline patient transport services, and support effective estate and asset management. Access to up-to-date and accurate mapping is also essential in responding to emergency calls effectively and maintaining a high level of service.

In Bristol, the Avon Information Management and Technology (IM&T) Consortium Health GIS team helped to improve the planning and delivery of drug and alcohol treatment services, as well as increase joint working between the city council and local Primary Care Trust (PCT). Using GIS, health commissioners were able to pinpoint the locations of treatment centres and determine where people using drug and alcohol services lived. Thanks to the PSMA, the trust was able to use data provided by both health and social care organisations to calculate the accessibility of local treatment centres and analyse the current provision of service. This will allow them to use their resources more effectively in order to meet demand.

The power of location in your apps

I’ve been reading The App List in the Sunday Times over the last couple of weekends, and downloading lots of new apps to my iPhone, and have been struck by how many of them rely on location and/or use mapping. From dating, to shopping, to petrol price finders to magazines, there is an element of location involved in many of the latest apps.

We’re all becoming increasingly familiar with GI through our daily use of products and services that include these location functions. GI underpins so much of what we do and rely on, from online shopping to waste collections!

Continue reading “The power of location in your apps”

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue using OS OnDemand

It’s always good to see how organisations are making use of our data especially when it’s being used to make services more effective and potentially save the tax payer money.  However, our favourite examples are when you can see the obvious benefit that our data can bring and with emergency services examples, the improved capability and information always has the potential to save someone’s life.

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue (SYFR) has become one of the first public sector customers of a ground-breaking new ‘on-demand’ service from Ordnance Survey. The OS OnDemand Web Map Tile Service (WMTS-like) will help SYFR to implement a single web based view of their location data across a range of systems and platforms from fire incident data to the location of fire hydrants to improve the accessibility of its operational information.

Continue reading “South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue using OS OnDemand”

We reached our 10,000th OS OpenSpace user

OS Openspace was launched on January 31 2008, to enable developers to produce exciting and innovative ways of displaying information using our maps.

OS OpenSpace is a free service that allows you to embed our maps, covering the whole of Great Britain, into your web applications. OS OpenSpace uses our JavaScript application programming interface (API). To use the service you need to register with us and we issue an API key. Since the launch we’ve seen a steady rise in the number of registered keys and are pleased to announce we registered our 10 000th key in November.

Continue reading “We reached our 10,000th OS OpenSpace user”

The Insurance Times Awards

This week was the prestigious Insurance Times Awards and a couple of the Ordnance Survey team were lucky enough to go along to meet up with some of our key customers and industry contacts. Attended by over 1400 insurance industry professionals, it’s one of the largest events in the Insurance industry’s calendar. We’ve been supporting the awards, which celebrates and recognises the best of the best in the industry for two years now by sponsoring the award with the highest accolade – the Chief Executive of the year as recognised by their peers, fellow Chief Executives.

Insurer’s chief execs’ chief exec Winner: Keith Morris, chief executive, Sabre presented by: Sarah Adams, Sector Manager, Financial Services with Vernon Kay

With so much uncertainty in such a highly competitive market place insurers rely on accurate intelligence to stay ahead. Intelligence to help them reduce fraud, plan for contingencies or help comply with legislation like Solvency II. Ordnance Survey’s geographic intelligence is also used extensively to accurately underwrite profitable business the industry relies on by pinpointing individual addresses and assessing risk rather than banding up properties into postcodes and assessing the risk for the group of properties. Used in this way our data makes a difference to the bottom line, identifying 25% more properties that had previously may have been too high a risk to underwrite.

We are delighted to be able to support the awards and be a part of celebrating exceptional achievement throughout the insurance industry. The ceremony was hosted by Vernon Kay and the big winners during the night were Aviva who picked up three awards including General Insurer of the year. RSA won Claims Initiative and Chartis picked up Fraud initiative of the year. The Chief Executives chose Keith Morris from Sabre as the Chief Executive of the year for his leadership and the companies’ continued growth in spite of tough trading times and squeezed margins in the motor insurance market.

Ordnance Survey would like to thank all of our financial services customers for their continued support and congratulate all of the winners.

Mapping council gritting routes

As the winter weather is finally starting to hit Great Britain and we’re seeing snow in Scotland and the north of England, we’ll also start seeing more grit on the roads.

Nottinghamshire County Council will be spending £2.79 million this year gritting 1,800 km of road or 35 percent of the county’s road network, filling grit bins and clearing snow.

They are one of many local authorities that now publish a map of gritting routes. The Council grits A and B roads and major bus routes during the winter weather, which accounts for about a third of the county’s road network, and some additional routes during severe weather.

Continue reading “Mapping council gritting routes”

Happy birthday Digimap for Schools

We do like a good party here at Ordnance Survey and this week it’s the first birthday of Digimap for Schools. Sadly, there was no birthday cake this time, but there’s plenty to celebrate!

Digimap for Schools is an online mapping tool providing access to Ordnance Survey mapping for the whole of Great Britain at a range of scales. It’s simple to use with a login and password and pupils and teachers pick it up in minutes. Almost 3 000 schools have already subscribed and are making use of Ordnance Survey mapping across the curriculum.

To celebrate it’s first year, we’ve made a short film showing Year 5 pupils at St Marks Primary School in Southampton using Digimap for Schools and Geography teacher Mr Beare talking about why it’s so useful in their school.

We are also going to be creating ‘mystery maps’ showing a mystery location of particular geographical information. Continue reading “Happy birthday Digimap for Schools”