When we talk about our range of OS Open Data products, it’s sometimes hard to visualise them from a set of words or descriptions and understand what these products can do for you. Maps and data are by their nature visual things that you have to see to appreciate them. An easy way to this is to visit the OS Open Data viewer site, showing a selection of our national datasets that can be zoomed and searched as you move around the map.
At OS Digital Marketing, we’ve just finished a busy and exciting project updating Election Maps, which features a range of our OS OpenData products, bringing some new functionality for for users across the country.
Knowing that a greater level of interest and performance would be required during April 2015 in the run-up to the general election, the Election Maps website has evolved over the last few months to include a number of new features to help customers navigate the administrative landscape of Great Britain.
As a content editor based in Southampton, it’s easy to miss what’s going on in Scotland, home of the One Scotland Mapping Agreement (or OSMA.) Having recently updated the web pages for the OSMA team, I thought a round-up of news from north of the border was now due.
We recently released a new product that has some relevance to the recent ‘rainy season’ experienced in 2012. According to this Met Office article, as you may have suspected, 2012 was one of the wettest years on record, so the launch of the new OS MasterMap® Networks – Water Layer alpha release seems like an appropriate choice for understanding our changing environment in greater detail.
The thinking behind this new product came from the Scottish Detailed River Network (SDRN) project: a collaboration between Scottish Government, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Scottish Water, local government in Scotland, and Ordnance Survey, tasked with delivering a highly detailed river network dataset in support of the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009.
An alpha version of OS MasterMap Networks – Water Layer dataset (covering Scotland), was released by Ordnance Survey in December 2012 and is exclusive to public sector organisations in Scotland who are members of the OSMA.
What is the OS MasterMap Networks – Water Layer?
The new layer in OS MasterMap is designed for public sector organisations who are working on the challenges that our current climate brings to many communities. So, if you are a local authority looking at flood defence planning or you work for a central government organisation looking at disaster planning, this could be a product that will add real value to your digital geographic resources.
The water layer can help you plan work efficiently by providing details on rivers, watercourses, width and direction of flow, without you having to leave the office or get wet. This could be used to map your organisations assets, plan any construction, or review flood-prone areas against a digital backdrop of highly accurate geographic information.
3D fire incident maps
In contrast to the activity around water, fire services in Scotland are also benefitting from using digital map products provided through the OSMA.
Centralisation and using digital tools to improve efficiency is an ever present in many areas of the public sector. From 1 April 2013 there has been a single Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS), and a strategic team has been appointed by Alasdair Hay, the Chief Fire Officer for the new service. Going forward, the SFRS will consist of three hubs, for East, West and North Scotland, taking a centralised approach to providing this particular emergency service.
The existing eight Fire and Rescue services in Scotland are all members of the OSMA and many have already used the products available to them through OSMA, helping them to improve the services they deliver through the use of geographic information in a digital format.
One notable example of this is from the former Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Service (now a part of the SFRS) who have made use of digital maps, addressing and building height data to support their incident response plans.
OS MasterMap Topography layer provides the basis for building a quite sophisticated incident map, Details on the structural environment provides the intelligence needed for those who will be deployed to the location on the ground. OS MasterMap Topography layer provides an easy, time-saving way to create the detailed 3-D models that clarifies and helps with the management of any significant risks.
OS MasterMap Topography layer includes more than 400 million individual features, including railways and individual buildings, providing a detailed view of the urban landscape which is ideal for this work.
The image (above) gives an idea of how this information can be viewed in a 3D format, making the most of geographic and location information, to provide detailed insight and intelligence to the control room.
Scotland is clearly a place to watch in terms of the innovative use of map data in the public sector. I hope to be bringing you more examples of using geographic information to drive improvements in the public sector from this part of the world very soon.
Are your communications channels robust? Are they reliable? What about bomb-proof? When the City of London needed to create a network of tough, resilient communications pods that would continue to function in the aftermath of a civil emergency, they needed Ordnance Survey data to help them optimise the locations.
LED screens on the side of the pods deliver the latest shifts in the financial markets and other relevant news, helping to keep city traders informed. Workers in the city also need to know about movements below ground, so any delays or problems with the tube network are also published on the screens.
The pods are not just about communications – each one also helps to keep the city clean. The pods are designed with a recycling opening, allowing half a tonne of newspaper waste to be recycled each year.
How did this happen?
To deliver this complex and robust solution, Renew (a City of London partner) made use of Ordnance Survey’s partner emapsite to build a web based portal that could handle the requirements for the detailed geographic data needed in the design and planning process.
Wales is big. I don’t think anyone would dispute that. Not just in size (it’s estimated at 21 588 kilometres, 8 335 square miles or around 2073511 hectares) but as a comparison, if something is as big as Wales, it’s considered quite significant by the media. Deserts, forests, and asteroids are all measured using Wales as a geographical reference point by scientists and news teams.
So – big countries like Wales with many living in remote locations and near undulating countryside can be challenging to run. To manage things efficiently, public sector bodies need to work together, linking data, systems and organisations to maintain efficiency.
Here are some great examples of how this has been happening recently thanks to some innovative use of digital geographic information and map products in the public sector
Newport council – address data improves the benefits system
A collaborative project between the Welsh Government, Cardiff City Council and Newport Council hopes to generate up to £500,000 in revenue when deployed across the country, by more effective address management relating to council tax collection.
Using AddressBase (available under the public sector mapping agreement or PSMA) and Unique Property Reference Number and Local Land and Property Gazetteer, the councils are able to ensure any changes to the property or occupancy are updated across a range of systems. This improves the accuracy and efficiency of council tax collection and reduces the potential for fraud or non-payment.
Have you ever seen a Bishop driving a bulldozer or a Curate using a compactor? This seems a strange question until you learn more about the Church of England’s land based assets.
To put you in the picture, the Church Commissioners’ minerals and mining portfolio covers approximately 750,000 acres. (Lancashire is just over 700,0001 acres to give you a sense of perspective). This makes it one of the largest geographic estates in the country. Who knew the Church of England was involved in primary industry such as mineral extraction?
The Church of England itself is no stranger to geography. Parishes and dioceses are geographic in their nature, so maps and boundaries are part of its structure. The land assets which are held and managed by the Church Commissioners for England help generate funds for its support and royalties are received for the extraction of minerals (such as chalk, sand and gravel), so the need for maps to help manage these physical assets is a natural step for an organisation with a wide-spread geographic footprint.
We recently came across this great use of Ordnance Survey maps to display an answer to a very old question – where do the supporters of different football teams actually live?
This question has been debated for some time, but the Oxford Internet Institute came up with a great idea to solve it using digital media.
The team consisted primarily of Joshua Melville and Scott Hale and they created a map that displayed Twitter mentions (tweets) of Premiership football teams, using geo-tagging to show the fans locations. This was based on tweets/data collected between August 18 and December 19, 2012.
Initially the team used pinpoints or dots to show each tweet/mention, but the data quickly overwhelmed the map background, so the decision was made to aggregate the locations to post code areas. This proved a more effective way to display their findings although more processing/geographic data was needed to achieve this.
Obesity is a growing problem across the country. We’re all familiar with the worrying statistics on diabetes, heart attacks and other related ailments and the effect on health and life expectancy.
This problem also has a financial and operational impact on the public sector health organisations. Hospitals are now building operating theatre facilities to cope with the increased average weight of patients and ambulance trusts across the country have had to take similar measures for patient transportation. (Here’s a BBC news article that covered the impact on our emergency services).
The result of this problem is a challenge for public sector organisations in terms of increased cost, but also to look at preventative measures to improve health and tackle some of the causes.
In Birmingham, this is a particularly significant issue for the local NHS organisations and the city council, the following statistics make interesting reading:
- 29% of the city population is now obese (the European average is 14%).
- Healthy eating and physical activity levels are significantly below the national average.
- The cost of dealing with this and the resulting ill health, is estimated at £330 million.
- Absence/loss of earnings is estimated at £2.6 billion.
Travelling quickly to the scene of a crime is a regular activity for the police and thanks to the Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA), emergency services across the land can equip their control rooms with digital mapping products from Ordnance Survey. Using products like OS MasterMap Integrated Transport Network Layer helps them find the best route (not always the shortest) to a particular location.
Responding in this way to an emergency is a very important task and many other public services share this responsibility and make use of Ordnance Survey digital mapping products made available through the PSMA.
However, the next step in dealing with crime could be to move from a reactive approach, where speed of response matters to a pro-active position where ‘predictive policing‘ is used to match resources to expected requirements for a geographic area. This is new territory for public services and requires some quite different thinking.
Operation Swordfish, launched in the West Midlands, took exactly this approach. Crime statistics are used to help with the planning process – a large proportion of the burglaries in Birmingham in 2011 were a repeat or ‘near repeats’; victims of crime within the heightened risk radius of a recent crime.
To turn this concept into an efficiently delivered programme, a depth of expertise on analysing and predicting criminal activity is also needed. This is where the Jill Dando institute (JDi) add their expertise, making use of the latest detection techniques to support this experiment in running in Birmingham.
Imagine walking among the beautiful scenery of one of England’s national parks. You’re surrounded by hills, forests, streams and wildlife and fresh country air is filling your lungs. What’s the next thought that pops into your head? – it’s probably not planning applications!
For many public sector organisations that manage areas of parkland, that’s one of the daily challenges that comes with managing the scenic parts of our landscape. The Northumberland National Park Authority (NNPA) spend much of their time managing planning applications for 405 square miles of fantastic countryside. The park itself ranges from Hadrian’s wall, Kielder Water and Forest Parkand the Cheviot Hills. Here is the visitors guide for more information.
For the NNPA, their specific challenge has been to efficiently managing addressing data within the planning application system that covers the property within the park. This is a task that must sometimes seem as large as the park itself! Due to inconsistencies and the use of non-standard addressing, a manual process has been developed which has led to increased resources being required to manage a difficult manual process.
Thankfully, Ordnance Survey has a solution for these type of address and location challenges in the shape of the AddressBase products. These make use of unique property reference numbers (UPRNs to those in the know), which make the ‘look-up’ of address based data more precise and allow better interaction with other address based data resources. In the case of Northumberland Park these include planning history, property planning information and other business data.