Ordnance Survey in the news


Digimap for Schools wins national Gold award

digimapgoldawardWe were really pleased when Digimap for Schools won Gold in the annual Geographical Association Awards recently. The award was made in recognition of the fact that it represents a major step forward in the way schools can access and use Ordnance Survey maps.  The pupil-friendly web service gives access to all the mapping scales that a school needs to teach geography, including providing full access our most detailed mapping of the whole of Great Britain to schools for the first time.

Maps can be used on personal computers and interactive whiteboards and can be printed or saved at A4 or A3 size. All output carries a watermark, the name of the school and copyright information, providing complete assurance to teachers that they are complying with the license terms and conditions.

Digimap for Schools has been developed by EDINA, University of Edinburgh, who are also responsible for mapping services to higher education. EDINA are working closely with the geography teaching community to enhance Digimap for Schools in line with their needs, with the first enhancements due in a few weeks time.

Any teachers wanting to find out more about Digimap for Schools should visit:


New exhibition at the Tower of London

Although we’ve spent the last 170 years based in Southampton, Ordnance Survey’s early days were actually at the Tower of London. This early period of our history is being celebrated with the new Power House exhibition in the Tower.

The exhibition gives visitors the chance to discover the stories and personalities behind the major organisations of state, who took care of Royal business behind the mighty Tower walls, from 1100 to the present day.

It showcases the roles of the major organisations that provided the bedrock of England’s power throughout the centuries – including the Ordnance Office, Ordnance Survey, the Royal Mint, Record Office, the Jewel House, Menagerie and Royal Observatory. Power House also puts the spotlight on other Tower of London functions, ranging from royal residence to state prison.

An amazing three metre high ‘bejewelled’ dragon greets visitors to the exhibition in the White Tower. The dragon is made up from parts representing the organisations in the exhibitions – our mapping forms part of the wings.

The Ordnance Survey section of Power House gives our early history. The Board of Ordnance became residents of the Tower in 1716 when a Drawing Room in the White Tower was fitted out to allow for mapping to be drawn. In 1791 Ordnance Survey became a distinct branch of the Board of Ordnance and began to map England and Wales. We remained resident at the Tower until a fire in 1841. We then became a government department in our own right and moved to Southampton, where we remain today.

Also on display is a copy of the first map produced by us. The map of Kent was completed in 1801 at the Tower of London Drawing Room. Produced at the one inch to one mile scale, it was printed by William Faden of Charing Cross, a leading cartographer and map publisher at the time.

There are some fascinating stories to be told by the other residents of the Tower too. Including the tale of William Foxley, potmaker for the Royal Mint, who fell asleep for 14 days and 15 nights. The poor soul was viewed as a curiosity and was prodded, poked and even burned in an effort to rouse him. Even King Henry VIII visited the Tower, to witness the ‘spectacle’ for himself.

If you’d like to find out more or visit the exhibition yourself, visit the Royal Armouries wesbite.


The PSMA opens its doors

Last week, 1 April, saw the launch of the Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA). This means that public sector organisations in England and Wales have access to most of Ordnance Survey’s mapping data under a single agreement for the first time.

The PSMA is open to the 750 public sector organisations previously covered by other agreements with us – such as the Pan Government and Mapping Services agreements – as well as 1,000s of others in the public sector. It covers local and central government organisations, as well as health bodies, town and parish councils, Welsh community councils, UK Search and Rescue organisations and many more.


We invited those public sector organisations already in agreements with us to sign up for the PSMA from February 2011. We were really pleased that 75% of organisations took up the opportunity. For everyone else, our new PSMA website went live on 1 April.

For the first time our public sector customers can now order and receive their data online. PSMA members can also contact each other through the new website and share ideas on the dedicated PSMA community forum.

By making it easier for PSMA members to contact each other and widening the access to data through the PSMA, this will help deliver significant cost savings for the public sector, and greater data sharing. And it’s not just about widening access.

The geographic data we provide, including our OS MasterMap products, will be free at the point of use for public sector bodies that join up. It will not be subject to limits on re-use when used internally within the public sector for public sector activities.

The new agreement also enables sharing of our data, and members’ derived data, with anyone to support delivery of the member’s public sector activity.

We’re hoping to see our data being used in new and innovative ways to improve efficiency, deliver cost savings and improve front-line services across England and Wales.

You can find more information on the PSMA and benefits for members on our website.


UK Location meet a metadata milestone for INSPIRE

UK Location launched the beta version of the Metadata Editor last week, built by us at Ordnance Survey. We built it using the GeoNetwork platform and have made the Metadata Editor available in two formats – a web-based on line version and an downloadable version. The UK Location Metadata Editor enables users to create, edit and validate UK Location compliant discovery metadata resources.

We’re one of many UK public bodies that produces data which falls within the scope of the Inspire Directive (Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe). The Directive aims to ensure that geographic information joins up between European countries. This can then help in major environmental disasters such as forest fires, floods and industrial explosions that do not respect national boundaries.

The Inspire Directive aims to find common ground among European countries (Image Andy Hyde on Flickr)

The Inspire Directive aims to find common ground among European countries (Image Andy Hyde on Flickr)

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OS MasterMap Imagery Layer being used by the emergency services

I was talking about how we capture our imagery recently and now we’re seeing it put to use by the emergency services, as Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service (LFRS) have purchased county coverage of the OS MasterMap Imagery Layer.

LFRS are going to be using the Imagery Layer in their two command support vehicles (CSVs). The CSVs are used for major county incidents and each have two computer terminals on board. These computers have geographical information systems (GIS) installed and can be used to analyse data of the incident area.

OS MasterMap Imagery Layer showing an area of Leicestershire

OS MasterMap Imagery Layer showing an area of Leicestershire

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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”. Read More


Surveying one of Snowdonia’s highest mountains

Over the past year or so, I’ve been working with a group people who are on a quest to rewrite the map of Great Britain.

John Barnard, Graham Jackson and Myrddyn Phillips have been tirelessly climbing some of the country’s most famous peaks and measuring their heights using state-of-the-art GPS equipment.  In doing so they have helped create mountains where once there were mere hills, and vice versa of course!

Their latest expedition takes them to Snowdonia and one of Wales’ most iconic mountains. Read More


OS OpenData goes live!

Today is a big day in our history with the launch of OS OpenData, giving more access to free, unrestricted Ordnance Survey mapping than ever before. You can read more about the service and the products available in our news release.

Today’s launch is the result of a huge amount of work by a great number of people both here at Ordnance Survey, in government and elsewhere, including Professor Nigel Shadbolt at the University of Southampton and Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web. To understand a little more about the project and how OS OpenData fits into the wider work of the ‘Making Public Data Public’ initiative, Nigel and Sir Tim made a film whilst here in Southampton for our recent Terra Future conference.

Keen to know what everyone thinks of the service, although please be patient with it!

Update – May will see OS VectorMap District added to OS OpenData. There are sample tiles and data available now on our website.