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.
We 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.
Maps 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.
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.
It’s one year to the day that we launched OS OpenData and made a range of mapping data and administrative geography available for free for the first time.
You can read our news release to get our take on the past 12 months, but I really wanted to know what you think. Has OS OpenData lived up the hype? Are you using it, and if so what for? We’ve shared some of the applications we’ve come across on the blog, like the award winning DataTap, but what impact do you think it’s had?
To get the ball rolling, I asked a few people in and around the world of geo to share their thoughts on what has been a pretty interesting year…
Chris Holcroft, Director and Chief Executive of AGI:
“The launch of OS OpenData was a big shift in Ordnance Survey digital data supply and a positive one. Stimulated by significant changes in public data policy, it was a reflection of how Ordnance Survey evolves to serve the world within it operates. A far greater community of innovators and users can now access, exploit and benefit from geographic information output from the National Mapping Agency.
“Can I put figures to any economic stimulus and innovation this has created? At this point, no. That said, I’ve met many organisations, some outside the traditional heartland of GI, now positively taking the opportunity to use Ordnance Survey data for the first time.
“We will look to the next 12 months to see how the story develops.”
It 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.
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.
Opendata in government
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.
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.
From today, anyone who visits the OS OpenData site, where they can download a wide range of Ordnance Survey mapping for free, will notice something a little different.
The Open Government Licence is a key element of the Government’s commitment to greater transparency. It is the licence used by data.gov.uk and provides a single set of terms and conditions for anyone wishing to use or license freely available government information.
The licence is designed so that developers and entrepreneurs wishing to use government data to create new applications will no longer need to formally apply for permission. And, the new licence is interoperable with other internationally recognised licensing models, such as Creative Commons.
I think most of us have played Monopoly at some point in our lives and we all know that friend or family member who can be a bit liberal at their banking…does the thought of taking more than 200 Monopoly dollars to pass “Go” ring any bells? But have you ever wondered where “Go” actually is?
The rest of the board game is well-labelled and “Go” actually sits between Mayfair and Old Kent Road – but where is it? Monopoly celebrated its 75th anniversary on Wednesday and we joined forces with them to pinpoint the location of “Go”.
Simon Fitzgerald, CIFAS Programme & New Developments Manager, was very enthusiastic about the release of OS OpenData, and downloaded OS Street View, Boundary Line and Code Point Open for the London Boroughs as soon as the service went live. Using a freely available open source Geographic Information System, Simon set about loading elements of the fraud data that CIFAS collects from its Member organisations spread across the financial services sector and beyond.