OS OpenData


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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Your thoughts on one year of OS OpenData

opendata2It’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.”

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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.

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.

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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Changes to the OS OpenData licence

opendata2From 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.

That’s because we’ve incorporated the Open Government Licence, the new government wide licence, developed by The National Archives, which enables easy access to public sector information.

The Open Government Licence is a key element of the Government’s commitment to greater transparency. It is the licence used by 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.

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Top 5 moments of 2010 – a big year for geography

Well the turkey has been eaten, the crackers pulled and a small mountain of wrapping paper is now sitting on the driveway waiting to be taken away…

But wait, the party season of excess isn’t quite over yet as New Year’s Eve now looms large – and with it come the obligatory reviews of the year.

The last 12 months have been a watershed year for Ordnance Survey. So much has changed in a relatively small space of time it’s quite incredible to think back to how things were beforehand. So without further ado, we’ve made a list of what we think are the top 5 stories of 2010.

If you think we’ve missed something, or have got it completely wrong, feel free to suggest a list of your own highlights, and have a great New Year’s Eve, whatever your plans are.

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Ever passed “Go” and wondered where it is?

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? 

OS OpenData Monopoly map

OS OpenData Monopoly map

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”.

“Go” is actually centred on Lambeth North Tube Station, close to Queen’s Walk, where Monopoly held their celebration event. As well as locating “Go” we worked with Monopoly to create a bespoke map: from the range of free Ordnance Survey data available within OS OpenData, OS VectorMap District was chosen as the base for the new map. 

Highly customisable, OS VectorMap District was stripped back to basics to allow for the Monopoly data to be added and overlaid. The map of London was quickly transformed to highlight the roads and areas shown on the Monopoly board before adding the locations and the title deeds for each property and station. 

It was fantastic fun to work with Monopoly and as well as plotting “Go” on the map we also marked the locations of all the other Monopoly board positions. The final ‘Monopoly map’ looks great and really brings the game to life, giving it a whole new dimension. 

Visit OS OpenData to create and connect exciting ideas, applications and datasets.


Using OS OpenData to fight fraud

We are really excited that CIFAS – The UK’s Fraud Prevention Service, a not for profit organisation, has been using OS OpenData to help them recruit local authorities into membership.

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.

Illustrating the fraud-scape of Britain

Illustrating the fraud-scape of Britain

By plotting the location of frauds against our mapping and data, Simon was able to show investigators the density of fraud taking place within their localities and that he understood the challenges they were facing.

Simon says: “Being able to show people where fraud is taking place is a very powerful tool. It’s good to demonstrate that our fraud hotspots are the same as a local authority’s, and goes a long way towards making the case for public–private data sharing to prevent fraud.”

Simon is now using maps to present to a number of Local Authorities, showing fraud hotspots by postcode. This is fantastic use of our data and it’s great to see OS OpenData already being used by organisations, to unlock the power of their own data and to create engaging dialogue with their customers and stakeholders.

So, what do you think? Is this one of the best uses of OS OpenData or have you spotted something better out there?