We all know that getting outside for a walk is great for both our physical and mental well-being, but did you know that having a good belly-laugh can provide another boost to wellness? We’re supporting Solent Mind as our corporate charity, raising funds to support better mental health, so the prospect of a charity comedy gig with a map theme during #NationalMapReadingWeek was irresistible.
Comedy performer Helen Wood came to our attention this summer, when she was performing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, as Helen’s show explored one of her passions, OS maps. The eight performances of ‘The OS Map Fan Club’, were sold out at Edinburgh.
Helen is performing her solo show at our Southampton head office on Monday 16 October at 7pm. Space is limited, so booking is necessary, and attendees are asked to make a minimum donation of £5 on the night to gain access. To reserve your place email email@example.com.
We’ve just launched the new augmented reality (AR) layer in our OS Maps app which uses your phone’s camera view to display over 200,000 locations across Great Britain. You can identify hills, lakes, settlements, transport hubs and woodland around you and on the horizon. It’s the first time we’ve made AR widely available, but not the first time we’ve used AR. Our Computer Scientist, Layla Gordon, leads the team that experiments with geospatial data and new technologies to create proof of concepts that are shared with partners. Find out about Layla’s work on OS Maps, and the AR projects that came before it.
It’s fantastic to see the OS Maps app AR layer released and being used. You simply point the camera of your Android or iOS device at the landscape and, using GPS and the compass, accurate points of interest that sit in that view will be highlighted.
Taking a look behind the scenes, I created it using Apple iOS Core Location and Core Motion framework. The app accesses the readings from Gyroscope and Accelorometer, to give the accuracy we need. It calls on the OS Placenames API to retrieve the OS populated places, which delivers points of interest within a set radius based on position and orientation. We’ve then set rules within the app to identify which points of interest to prioritise – as the screen could get cluttered with too many points.
If you haven’t tried it yet, take a look at https://www.os.uk/getoutside/AR. But while this is the first AR experience I’ve created which made it to public release, I’ve been working on AR projects for a couple of years.
Some of you may remember Rob Woodall, we shared his story in 2016 as he completed a 13-year mission to bag 6,190 trig pillars across Great Britain. Not content with that, Rob’s now added all 201 fundamental benchmarks (FBM – see photo below) to his haul. Rob fills us in on his challenge and talks about other OS survey marks he likes to bag along the way…
My first FBM was Wolsingham in lovely Weardale, in 2004. A group of us get together once a year, and that year the gathering was hosted by a couple who live in Wolsingham and they put together an itinerary which included trig pillars (my main interest at the time) and also mysterious things such as non-pillar flush brackets (NPFBs, which are FBs on structures other than pillars, such as houses, churches, bridges etc) – and the local fundamental benchmark. So I started ticking off NPFBs and FBMs too.
It’s taken 13 and a half years to bag 201 FBMs (including all but 6 of the destroyed ones – which I’ll get round to eventually) – coincidentally about the same time it took to bag 6,190 trig pillars – which is not great productivity. However, the last two were Patrington (which we all thought was destroyed until it turned up in 2016 when the householder took out a big laurel tree in their garden) – and Windsor Castle which we all assumed was out of bounds. Eventually a friend sent off a letter to the Royal Collection Trust to see if we could visit the FBM, and the answer was yes! – provided HRH was away at the time. So with no particular plan, I ended up finishing the list this year.
If you were watching Antiques Road Trip yesterday afternoon, you’d have seen antiques expert Paul Laidlaw visiting our Southampton head office. The modern building we’ve been in since 2009, is a far cry from our first home at the Tower of London, and even the military barracks which became our first Southampton head office. But, despite being a digital data company in a state of the art building, there are still many nods to our mappy heritage to be found.
Our CEO Nigel Clifford showed Paul our first map, and an early theodolite while filming for the programme. Here’s a bit more about them:
If you tune into BBC World Service, you may have heard the series 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy.Tim Harford tells the fascinating stories of 50 inventions, ideas and innovations which have helped create the economic world. The series asked for nominations on the 51st thing and Miranda Sharp, our Head of Smart Cities Practice, suggested GNSS (the Global Navigation Satellite System which encompasses GPS, the US’ Global Positioning System, amongst others). It made it to the shortlist and is open for votes until 6 October. Miranda explains why she nominated GNSS – and why you should vote for it!
I gobbled up Tim Harford’s latest series 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy. Tales of female emancipation wrapped up in TV dinners, tackling corruption through the technology of M-Pesa and enabling rapid transfer of ideas in an urban economy with the advent of the elevator. Listen to them all, buy the book, they are brilliant stories.
We’ve had a few questions recently about benchmarks and trig pillars and what they are and how they differ, so we thought we’d clear it up.
Most weeks we’ll see a Twitter conversation where someone is asking what this mark is:
A #TBT to the OS benchmark, spotted here by @770.92. These survey marks can still be found on walls and buildings across Britain and were a way of recording height. Today, our surveyors use GNSS technology and it takes just seconds to do a task which could take days in our past. There are around 500,000 benchmarks in various formats – have you ever spotted one?
Many think it is War Office-related, but it is in fact an OS benchmark (BM) and a means of marking a height above sea level. Surveyors in our history made these marks to record height above Ordnance Datum Newlyn (ODN – mean sea level determined at Newlyn in Cornwall). If the exact height of one BM was known, the exact height of the next could be found by measuring the difference in heights, through a process of spirit levelling. They can be found cut into houses, churches, bridges and many other structures. There are hundreds of thousands of them dotted across Great Britain, although we no longer use them today.
We usually share stories about our teams adding new features to the map, such as the Queensferry Crossing or even a whale, but we also have to remove features from our database. London-based surveyor Tony Killilea was recently tasked with removing a football stadium from the map…
With over 500 million geospatial features across Great Britain and some 10,000 changes taking place in the database each day, it’s not difficult to understand how our surveying teams are kept busy. From new roads to new shopping centres, it’s easy to forget about the existing features that have to be removed for new developments to be built.
We’re lucky in Great Britain to live in an area packed with ancient monuments and archaeological sites. And it can add a twist to your weekend #GetOutside adventures to plan a walk that takes in one of these sites. From Avebury’s Neolithic stone circles to Caerleon’s Roman amphitheatre to Glen Elg’s Iron Age brochs, the whole country has fantastic historic sites available.
One of the OS Historical map series, our Ancient Britain map provides an overview of thousands of years of history. Part map and part historical guide, the whole of Great Britain is covered in a double-sided sheet. It includes a list of key dates, events and archaeological evidence. Sites and museums are listed along with recommended reading for more information on the period.
We’re now in our second year of supporting Solent Mind as our corporate charity. Most people will know at least one person who has suffered from poor mental health and Solent Mind provide an extremely important service to local people, close to our head office in Southampton.
We’re all trying to raise as much as possible to make changes to the lives of those suffering with mental illness and those family and friends supporting them. As a business which is keen to encourage physical and mental health, we’ve supported our own #GetOutside messaging and many staff have taken part in football tournaments and marathons. Our OS Runners raised over £1,000 running a relay marathon from London to Cardiff earlier this year. Plus, OS participants completed the London Marathon, and we have people taking part in the Great South Run later this year.
This weekend, our CEO Nigel Clifford and his daughter Caitlin will be taking part in the Great North Run, helping to raise more awareness of mental health issues and fundraise for Solent Mind. You can find out more about Nigel and support his challenge on JustGiving.