Using GI and maps


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 this 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 and here’s a short interview with Ordnance Survey’s Rob Gower about the product.


Ideas to get you moving

I’ve been doing some work recently for a project Ordnance Survey is involved in called Ideas in Transit which is looking at how to unleash user innovation. Since doing more with less is something that most of us are going to have to get used to over the coming years, learning how to tap into and support these kinds of bottom up initiatives is going to be increasingly vital.

Thanks to peer reviews, wikis, blogs and price comparison sites, we can now dig up every last morsel of detail about a new product or service before handing over our hard earned cash. But what’s even more interesting is the fact that we can now get involved in product and service development in a way that was never possible before – think software, leisure, public services, citizen journalism and transport.

It’s this kind of approach to transport that the project is focusing on, with location information being a key element. The project is aiming to influence intelligent transport decisions at policy, social, personal and business levels, helping us all live better and more sustainable lives. We believe that there is a real chance for these often unique ideas to make a real difference to how we think and behave, helping to create a more sustainable future whilst at the same time freeing up public and private money from expensive, ‘top down’ initiatives. Sounds like a win/win situation to me!

Check out the Innovations Portal which showcases some of the best ideas from around the world. Among them is CycleStreets – a route planner designed by a couple of Cambridge based cyclists. It’s already a great resource that has been picked up by some local authorities, saving them tens of thousands of pounds compared to commercial alternatives as more people are using GI and maps.


Could the future of maps be 3D?

Some incredibly clever people up in our Research team have spent part of a 3 year project working on this spectacular 3D map of the Bournemouth seafront. The work has been part of trials looking into how people might want to use 3 dimensional data for business, government and leisure in the future. I was gobsmacked when I first saw it.

The map was created using traditional GPS techniques combined with air and land based laser surveying, using something called Lidar, which works like light based sonar. Apparently this fly around is made up of about 700 million individual laser points!

If there was a 3D map of the whole country, can you imagine having a virtual tour of a town or mountain peak before heading off on holiday? Or, what about the emergency services being able to visualise the scene of an incident before they arrive? They would know about points of access, be able to see any obstructions and know the size and shape of any buildings involved. We’ve even spoken to someone who’s interested in renting roof space for solar panels. The possibilities are huge! How do you think you could use it?

There is still a lot of work to do before that could become a reality, such as how you would keep a 3D map up-to-date when we already make 5000 changes a day to the two dimensional mastermap of Britain, but its an exciting window into the future for using GI.

If you want to find out more about our 3D mapping project, you can read this article from the Daily Telegraph.