The second in our new series of blogs from the teams behind our apps, maps and services, sharing their experiences in software engineering, cartographic design, user experience and more. Chris Hall, based at our London Geovation Hub, shares his experience on updating OS Maps’ route ratings.
Whilst I was using our OS Maps app to find a new route, I stumbled upon a frustrating experience with the route discovery process in OS Maps. Through some research and visual exploration, I was able to solve the problem.
OS Maps allows users to find and follow routes all over the country. Users can plot their own routes, and share them with the community publicly. To aid the discovery process we allow users to grade their route out of three options to reflect its difficulty. Routes are currently displayed as a pin on the map with a gradient indicator: Green for leisurely; orange for moderate; and red for challenging. This has created a great spread of the types of routes we get in the app, which for the most part works really well. However, one day I discovered this route:
The first in a new series of blogs from the teams behind many of our apps, maps and services, sharing their experiences in software engineering, cartographic design, user experience and more. We start with a tale of collaboration, a rapid feedback process and pies!
It’s never good to be faced with a new problem deep into a project, but it is very satisfying when an effective solution is developed swiftly. During a recent app development sprint, one of our software engineers hit upon one such problem.
The app in question allows the user to select a group of properties which are rendered as point features on the map. Following standard web map convention, these points are aggregated, or clustered, as the user zooms out. This is to make the map more legible and to improve performance; it saves rendering potentially thousands of points in a single map view. Clustering is a fantastic and much-used technique in web mapping applications. Lots of effort has been put into developing slick clustering behaviour and designing effective markers. It works perfectly well if your points are all representing the same phenomena – and that’s where we ran into a problem.
The app we’re developing splits the point features into four discrete categories, therefore, if we apply standard clustering behaviour, we are effectively grouping these categories into one and hiding a level of information from the user. The user will still see a total value to show how many points are aggregated into each cluster – but in this instance they are also interested in how that total is split amongst the four categories.
Cue an informal meeting between software engineer, cartographic designer and UX designer; a mini brainstorm…
Really helpful to find out more of what will happen at the Geovation Camp and how the Challenge application process works. It was also great to bounce ideas off other people and network with them.
The workshop schedule was great and I learned a lot!
Our 10th Geovation Challenge has launched – ‘How can we better manage underground assets in Britain?’ We’re looking for innovative ideas to help solve the problems in the underground utility space, which offer lucrative business opportunities.
To support understanding around this Challenge, to help build your confidence to enter, and to encourage collaboration among those interested in tackling this challenge area, we’re running a national tour of workshops.
Our graduate recruitment scheme for 2017 launched this month and we’re looking for graduates who want to change the world. Our Consultant Data Scientists will have the chance to get stuck into what we do, right away. We think that’s more important than sitting in training courses.
You’ll get exposure to all parts of the business, working with different teams to get to know what we do, how we do it and who our customers are. We’ll get you started on the most interesting projects, and give you the space to innovate and deliver to make a real difference.
You may be surprised at the wide range of projects we’ve worked on. Take a look at these five examples to gain an insight into OS and the work we do.
1. We’re making Oculus Rift games
We created a virtual reality Ben Nevis; Britain’s highest mountain, and gamified it for Oculus Rift, and Google Cardboard. Not content with turning OS data into a Minecraft world (see more below), our OS Labs team created a virtual Ben Nevis to explore on Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard. In Oculus Rift, our developers created a game where players race against the clock to find a hidden trig pillar. For those without access to Oculus Rift, our dev team built a virtual reality tour of Ben Nevis. You can try it out on iOS and Android along with Google Cardboard to experience the virtual reality 3D affect.
Over the last few months, Geovation has worked with the utility industry to identify their biggest challenges in managing our underground assets. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, an innovator or a developer we’re now inviting you to come up with solutions to tackle these real-world problems using location data.
As a result of consultations with senior figures from utility companies, the owners of underground pipe and cable networks, and those responsible for their maintenance, 55 problem areas have been brought to the surface. These have been grouped into 4 themes: Asset Location, Asset Management & Maintenance, Stakeholder Impact and Predicting Asset Future.
It is thought that through improved asset management and operations and the digitisation of records, production could be increased by 15% and profitability by 20-30%. Also revealed was the value of sharing data between utility companies and innovators to effectively resolve problems.
If you haven’t used or heard of it before, AddressBase is a family of three addressing products we’ve offered since 2011. These products provide the most comprehensive and definitive source of spatial addressing information for England, Scotland and Wales, amounting to over 41 million records.
The products are made up of numerous authoritative sources, all collated and compiled by GeoPlace, a partnership between Ordnance Survey and the Local Government Association.
The task of compiling these data sources and creating a product every six weeks is not to be underestimated, but during 2015 the Location Analytics Product team at OS began to question the possibilities of extending the address content coverage.
Take a look behind the scenes at the type of project an OS intern can work on.
We’re Khushaali and Jon and we’re graduates from The University of Southampton in Geography and Computer Science respectively. We’ve spent 12 enjoyable and interesting weeks at Ordnance Survey on an internship in the Product Development department.
After spending a few days getting to know people and learning about OS we were given our project brief: ‘to develop a product that aids and improves mobility and enables OS to be a part of mobility.’ In response to this we’ve created a dataset that provides accessibility information for users on a multi-modal journey, known as MAD (Mobility Accessibility Dataset).
On Sunday 2 October, Southampton FC legend Francis Benali starts his challenge to run and cycle to every English League Premier and Championship club. Franny is building on his 2014 challenge, where he visited the 20 Premier League football grounds, by running 50 miles a day for three weeks and raising over £265,000 for Cancer Research UK.
This year he plans to go one better and to break the £1 million barrier for Cancer Research UK with his challenge:
- 44 stadiums in 14 days.
- 100 miles per day.
- 26 miles running and the rest cycling.
How are OS involved in Benali’s Big Race?
We are excited to announce that our 10th Geovation Challenge will focus on our underground assets. The Challenge ‘How can we better manage underground assets in Britain?’ recognises successful innovation depends on developing innovative solutions to real problems. The challenge opens for entries on 19 October, 2016 with the focus on using geographical data and design thinking to address the problems associated with underground asset location, management, impacts on stakeholders and predicting asset future.
To help you understand the Challenge focus, how to enter, timescales and the benefits should you win, we are holding a launch event at the Geovation Hub on 12 October from 4pm to 7pm.
By Rollo Home, Strategic Product Manager
For 225 years we’ve worked with governments, private industry, and individuals alike, since the data we produce touches and connects the lives of everyone in the country. We know the location of every road, water network, mast, residential and commercial address and the type of terrain, plus much more. And this data is invaluable for identifying areas of risk, to improve planning and services and more. Put simply location is the glue that holds disparate pieces of information together in a single logical view of the world.
Traditionally this information has been shared with people in the form of a (digital) map, but the world moves on and we’re preparing for a new ‘data driven’ future where machines rather than people will be the primary consumers of our data. Rather than a person querying the data for some form of insight, it could mean in simplistic terms, a computer running some route optimisation analysis, based on a trigger from a sensor (Internet of Things (IoT)) measuring traffic and/or customer demand, for which it would retrieve the necessary data from an OS server. This means restructuring our data around explicit references to objects. The map will remain, but simply as a derivative representation of the data. Data will be king. And that requires a new way to deliver data.