In September we launched our latest GeoVation challenge — ‘How can we enable people in Britain to live in better places?’ — which was run in partnership with Land Registry.
As part of ongoing moves to make our data even more accessible and easier for start-ups and others to understand and use, we are pleased to announce that following close work with The National Archives we have now adopted the Open Government Licence (OGL) version 3.0 in place of our OS OpenData licence.
We were delighted to work with the The National Archives throughout 2014, in helping form this new version of the OGL, and were enthusiastic throughout to explain and navigate through previous sticking points that had prevented us from adopting the OGL in its entirety in the past. In particular, one of these sticking points concerned the issue of sublicensing and giving greater clarity as to the applicability of OGL terms to sublicensees, a matter that has been addressed in this new version of the OGL.
We recently wrote about the work of our on our summer interns in our Labs team, Joseph Braybrook, creating a Minecraft map of Great Britain. During his time with us Joseph also created an interactive postcode viewer for exploring all 1.7 million postcodes in Great Britain.
The idea came from a demo program included with Processing – a programming language and development environment with a focus on creating audio/visual applications. The demo visualises 41,557 US zipcodes as individual points as shown in the screenshot below.
We decided it would be interesting to try the same approach using British postcodes, which are readily available as open data in our Code-Point Open product. This is a much larger dataset with almost 1.7 million individual records.
To further showcase what can be achieved with OS OpenData we also incorporated some of our mapping in the form of OS VectorMap District.
A camera crew together with well-known TV presenter Helen Skelton recently visited Ordnance Survey to film a piece about the importance of maps for Blue Peter.
The team spent two days filming various areas which included the Flying Unit at East Midlands Airport, our Remote Sensing and Cartography departments, and a ground survey. Everything will be pieced together by Blue Peter to tell the story of how we capture the geographic information through to how it gets onto the map.
Matthew Carlisle, from Remote Sensing at Ordnance Survey, said: “Having been brought up watching Blue Peter I was really happy to take part in the filming. It’s a well-respected TV programme, and it’s great that we got the opportunity to promote our work to a younger audience and show that there’s more to us than paper maps.
In today’s age of automated systems and electronic data sources, it can be easy to forget that people are at the heart of what we do as an organisation. Keen to get back to the grass roots of what our organisation does, (collecting and maintaining of geographic data), I arranged to spend the day with one of Ordnance Survey’s nation-wide team of 250 surveyors.
I met Jeremy Thompson, a surveyor in one of the five London teams (which forms part of the South Region) at the London office, within the imposing National Audit Office building. Although three surveyors use this as a base, most surveyors work from home – Jeremy has an office set up in his garden shed!
As well as experiencing the move to homeworking, Jeremy has seen big changes during his 27-year career. He said: “I joined Ordnance Survey after completing my A levels, mainly for the reason of wanting a job outside and not being tied to an office. Geography and technical drawing were my two favourite subjects at school, so a job which seemed to combine the two seemed ideal.”
Jeremy explained that it is still quite common for people to associate Ordnance Survey with our paper maps, and not realise the level of detail which is captured by the surveyor. He said: “Since 1986, the job has evolved massively over the years; to working with digital data on a pen tablet instead of film documents and Rotring pens, and using GPS/GNSS, together with other modern-day equipment. The information we capture on the ground is used to inform a wide variety of organisations, across both the private and public sector. The range of rich data we now collect has widened greatly – it is much more complex, including a whole host of attributes, such as addresses and road routing.”
Each surveyor manages their own bank of jobs; with various criteria enabling them prioritise workloads. There are different types of surveying jobs scheduled on the system, all deadline based, and flagged up at various intervals – and the hours spent in front of a computer varies, dependent on each individual job. The surveyors can view intelligence about sites, which has been gathered from various sources, such as local authorities and commercial organisations. Information is also added from the network of surveyors who can make observations out in the field. The combination of details enables the surveyor to prepare for a job, and have a full background of the site.
In celebration of its 40th anniversary this year, Hampshire’s Marwell Wildlife is bringing a world-class mass public art event to Southampton.
The Go! Rhinos event, will take place in the city over a 10-week period this summer. Southampton will be the home to a herd of sponsored rhino sculptures, which will be placed at various locations across the city centre to form a rhino trail.
Various organisations will be sponsoring the rhino sculptures, and the rhinos will be decorated by local professional artists, providing a unique design on each piece – part of the fun will be following the trail and choosing your favourite rhino!
As well as providing the opportunity to showcase local artistic talent, the event encourages outdoors exploration, whilst raising significant funds for local charities; Marwell Wildlife, The Rose Road Association and Wessex Heartbeat’s High 5 Appeal.
Ordnance Survey will be involved in a variety of ways. We are sponsoring one of the rhinos, which will be forming part of the rhino trail, and will be producing the official Southampton trail map. We’ll also be plotting the route of the rhinos online using OS OpenSpace data.
In February 2013, Kevin Pallant from Chippenham, Cambridgeshire, embarked on a challenging five-day expedition travelling over 200 km, 145 km north of the Arctic Circle, to raise funds for charity.
Kevin, one of our surveyors, swopped the comforts of home to take part in the Arctic Circle Dog Sled trip organised by Charity Challenge. Kevin’s job involves working outside surveying the buildings, roads and features of Great Britain in all weathers. The recent cold snap was good practice for this trip of a lifetime, where temperatures varied from -5oC to -27oC.
Kevin travelled over frozen lakes, through snow covered forests and into the mountains, with the added challenge of driving a team of Huskies. The challenge started near Kiruna, Northern Sweden, and after meeting and getting to know the other participants, the first task was to master how to harness and drive a team of four Huskies without falling off.
The group travelled across the wilds of Northern Sweden, through forests and across frozen lakes. The stunning scenery, vast expanses of snowy landscape and blue sky were a joy to be in, such a change to the drab grey days. Travelling at 15 km an hour with only the sounds of the sled runners, dog’s paws going over the ice and snow and the jangle of the harnesses to fill the ears, was a delightful experience.
Ordnance Survey has developed and released a full set of style sheets for all its vector products, including OS MasterMap Topography Layer and OS VectorMap Local. The new style sheets, an addition to the initial release of a set of OS OpenData Styled Layer Descriptors (SLDs) released in December 2012, will make it easier for users to ‘plug in and play’ and build Ordnance Survey maps into their web services or geographical information system (GIS).
Made available under an open licence, SLDs are commonly used in conjunction with a web server to style data for a web map service (WMS). They have been developed in an open structured format that will easily enable conversion to desktop GIS readable style sheets.
Increasingly customers and partners need to present our vector products in a suitable raster style, for their Intranet service for example; that can be quite a time consuming process. We have created the SLDs to help reduce the time and resource needed to properly apply cartographic styling for web and GIS visualisation and enable their products to reflect the Ordnance Survey style and feel.
Gold award winning Digimap for Schools has now been optimised for the iPad. That familiar screen pinch and finger swipe will now navigate you through the scales and seamlessly pan you around Ordnance Survey’s OS MasterMap, the most detailed digital mapping available.
Designed for use by both primary and secondary teachers and pupils Digimap for Schools is suitable for teaching geography as well as a range of subjects including history, social studies, economics and business studies. It is an online service where no installation or maintenance is required. Ordnance Survey has enabled the service to be fully functional on iPads in recognition of the rising popularity of these tablets and their usability, being especially good for primary age children. For optimal performance with Digimap for Schools we recommend using iPad 2 and 3 running 1OS 6.
Digimap for Schools features a number of tools to enhance your mapping. Annotation tools allow you to add point markers of varying designs, draw regular and irregular polygons of differing colours and opacity, draw lines of differing weights and designs, add text labels and change the font size, label polygons, lines and points. Any features drawn will appear on screen and can be printed. Measuring tools give you the ability to measure distances and areas on the maps. Printed maps can be created at either A4 or A3 size, portrait or landscape and in pdf, jpeg or png formats and maps can be saved. You also have the option to show the national grid overlay on your maps on-screen, as well as have a full screen map.
Every morning several teams gather together under the watchful eye of various scrum masters at our head office. Updates and debates soon follow, as software development teams talk of their progress and any stumbling blocks they encounter with the projects they are working on. Any problems are addressed and quickly rectified and any progress is swiftly implemented for the benefit of the organisation.
It’s a scene that is perhaps more common place within the top private sector companies. Yet we’re helping the public sector to break the mould as we move into our fourth year of working in a way which is seen by many in the software development industry as the pinnacle of software development practices.
Agile software development was introduced at Ordnance Survey in 2009 when bosses decided that a cultural shift in project delivery was needed. Similar to all successful organisations we strived to achieve software, products and programmes that were relevant to both the organisation and the market place, while at the same time avoiding the potentially extensive costs of getting it wrong, or having to rectify unseen problems.
Bob Goodrich, our Director of Information Systems, said the change was essential. “At the time we had put a lot of resource and money into developing an online ordering system called GOOSE,” he said. “It wasn’t working and we decided to go down another path. I had worked with Agile before and was keen to see it brought in.”