Innovation to solve business problems with environmental data

Our recent GeoVation challenge resulted in four successful finalists being awarded a share of innovation funding to develop their ideas that addressed: ‘How can we help British business improve environmental performance?’

Whilst our challenge has now drawn to a close, you may be interested to learn that other funding initiatives do exist – such as the forthcoming ‘Solving business problems with environmental data’ competition, which is being launched by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), in collaboration with the Environmental Sustainability KTN.

exhibition space at event

We understand that this competition, which officially opens on 30 September 2013, aims to address many of the problems, themes and insights identified during the Environment GeoVation Pow Wow, so there are many parallels and similarities between the two initiatives. The TSB/NERC competition has allocated up to £3 million to invest in a number of business-led, collaborative feasibility studies which will establish the proof of market for environmental data-led solutions and should address a specific business issue from one of the following areas:

  • Energy
  • Transport
  • Built Environment
  • Agriculture and Food
  • Financial Services

So, when recently asked to support the TSB/NERC competition we were delighted to accept. Our support started earlier this month, when we joined several other partners and data providers for the first in a series of road shows that have been designed to enable potential applicants to understand the nature and spirit of the competition, its intentions to make data accessible, and its timescales.

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A GeoVation update!

We’ve just published a GeoVation booklet which includes information on GeoVation Challenges and case studies on winning ideas. For those of our blog followers who aren’t aware, Ordnance Survey’s GeoVation runs innovation challenges, which aim to address problems, which may be satisfied in part through the use of geography.

GeoVation Challenges are open to entrepreneurs, developers, community groups, government and individuals.  They are focussed on finding innovative and useful ways of using geographical information, including open data and tools, to build new ventures that will generate social, economic and/ or environmental value.

The booklet has some interesting facts about GeoVation which has been running since October 2009.  In that time:

  • 1448 participants have registered
  • 509 ideas have been submitted
  • 57 teams have participated in GeoVation Camps and
  • 20 winners have been awarded a share of over £435, 000 in innovation funding to develop their ventures.

We’ve made the booklet available online, so you can find out more about how you can innovate with GeoVation, the GeoVation journey, the ideas we have funded so far and the people who make GeoVation happen.  We’ve also made the case studies available individually– see our case study map.

Download your copy of the GeoVation booklet and find out more!

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Learn how to make the most of open data at our free masterclasses

We’re fast approaching the two-year anniversary of the release of OS OpenData, which gave more access to free, unrestricted Ordnance Survey mapping than ever before.

We’re giving you the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of open data, and the tools and techniques to use open datasets, through a series of free masterclasses. They’re following on from the success of the two previous open data masterclass series, run by our GeoVation initiative and supported by Horizon Digital Economy Research.

The masterclasses will combine theory and practical sessions and give you the chance to try free-to-use open datasets on data.gov.uk, including OS OpenData. You’ll learn a range of techniques, from data collection and processing, to data analysis and map visualisation. As well as OS OpenData, you’ll have time to use open datasets from government departments and public-sector organisations including higher education, healthcare, transport and environment.

We’re offering up to 30 places at each masterclass, running from 9.30 am until 5.00 pm each day. Just click on the session link you’re interested in to reserve a spot.

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Making sense, and use, of open data

Earlier in the year, with the anniversary of data.gov.uk, I read quite a few articles or blog posts similar to this by Paul Clarke, lamenting the fact that the simple release of open data hadn’t automatically resulted in an explosion of useful applications and commercial value.

Publication didn’t necessarily mean communication or application, seemed to be the running theme.

To that end, we’ve seen an increasing number of organisations take open data and try to help people make sense of it – you might remember this post we published earlier in the year looking at DataTap, which uses OS OpenSpace to visualise a range of open data released by Windsor and Maidenhead Council.

DataTap subsequently won the MediaGuardian award for the ‘Best Use of Data’ but they’re just one example. I hope you’ll agree that Ordnance Survey is doing its bit through the GeoVation programme and our support of the Open Data Masterclasses (and a few more things in the pipeline I can’t talk about yet…) but there are other organisations out there trying to help people make sense of, and more importantly, use of open data.

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Street maps on Kindle using OS OpenData

Maps on your KindleWe think this is pretty cool, and it’s an example of a company creating commercial value from open data.

Lovell Johns, a company that has been providing traditional mapping products for the private and public sectors for 45 years, has created a range of Street Map Guides for Amazon’s Kindle.

Mapping on Kindle isn’t actually unique, but this is the best interface I’ve seen that manages to overcome the Kindle’s basic navigation functionality.

Downloadable within seconds, the guides contain OS Street View mapping covering the central area of each city – with London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Bristol, Oxford, Cambridge, Portsmouth, Cardiff and Edinburgh available so far.

Users then navigate about the map using the traditional page turning buttons, plus on page click-to-navigate tools. Personally I think this is one of the more innovative commercial uses of OS OpenData I’ve seen.

Kindle Map Guides can be found on the Amazon website.

Cambridge Conference: Day 3 Report

Is this the start of a new Cambridge Conference tradition?

The Ordnance Survey vs. The Rest of the World cricket match, in a beautiful green setting with glorious evening sun, and cool jazz in the background. It was a fabulous evening in which everyone had the chance to have a go – great fun. Huge thanks to all the delegates for their enthusiasm in making it such a success.

Anyone for cricket?

But before that, though, we had a full day of conference.

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Cambridge Conference underway: Day 1 report

Yesterday we had around 120 delegates from all over the world here in Southampton for opening day of the Cambridge Conference. Here are some highlights from Day 1:

Our opening keynote was delivered by Professor Nigel Shadbolt, UK Government’s Open Data Advisor, who spoke enthusiastically about the power of crowd sourcing. To demonstrate this, Nigel showed a powerful illustration of how OpenStreetMap helped map Port au Prince in just days in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake.

He expanded on the drivers behind open data and said that his over-arching principle is that data should be published unless there is a very good reason not to.

Professor Nigel Shadbolt addresses the delegates

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Mapping experts set to arrive in Southampton

Senior representatives and leaders from mapping organisations from across the world are about to descend on Southampton next week.

They’re here for the The Cambridge Conference – so named because of its historic ties to the city – which this year is taking place at our new head office in Southampton. It is a unique occasion, giving top international experts the chance to discuss developments in mapping, changes in technology and issues of global importance.

Professor Nigel Shadbolt will be chairing a session on open data

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OS VectorMap District graduates to beta release

opendata2It won’t have escaped the notice of some of you that we’re rapidly approaching the first birthday of OS OpenData (has it really been a whole year?!) So with that in mind, we’re very pleased to be able to announce that OS VectorMap District has graduated from an alpha to a beta release and is now available to download and order.

Consider it an early birthday gift from us, to you.

OS VectorMap District made its debut as part of OS OpenData last year, designed specifically for displaying third part information on the web (like our Blitz map last year), and when in its vector format, as a customisable backdrop map. It was an alpha release and by no means the finished article, so based on your feedback the new beta version boasts new content and a range of improvements.

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Bringing the power of Open Data to the citizen

Transparency is high on the political agenda these days.

As you’ll be aware, the coalition government has made serious commitments to change the culture in the public sector from one where data are hoarded in-house to one where they are open by default.

Public sector organisations of all stripes from the biggest government departments to the smallest local authorities are starting to publish datasets on a wide range of topics such as the salaries of senior officers, the details of local schools, or even the service requests received by the customer services department.

The data isn’t always well-formatted or easy to process, nor is it always given out with a happy heart, but it’ there.

However, while great strides have been made in making data available, less progress has been made in making it meaningful to a wider public. Let’s face it, while there’s a lot of a talk about “armchair auditors” downloading reams of data and spending endless nights combing through them in Excel, most people aren’t going to know what to do with a raw CSV file or even care enough to try.

In Arcus, we have been working with the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead to address this. Jointly, we have created a solution called DataTAP, which makes it easy for the authority to publish open data from internal systems and make it useful to the average resident.

The site allows users to visualise a range of local government data.

The site allows users to visualise a range of local government data.

In a nutshell, the solution has an agent sitting inside the Council’s IT infrastructure that extracts and transforms the data into a publishable format. The data is then transferred to our infrastructure on the Cloud and made available to the public in a variety of formats.

This includes the usual downloadable CSVs and XML, but more importantly we add the ability to instantly visualise the data in a variety of formats including tables, charts, KPIs, and notably in this contexts heat maps based on the OS OpenSpace API.

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