How OS Places API is helping citizens find local services

3 minute read
For the last two and a half years, GOV.UK has been extensively utilising Ordnance Survey's (OS) OS Places API to help users find local services. 

OS Places API offers a simple way to connect to detailed and authoritative address data. Available via the OS Data Hub and updated daily, it is a great option if you want to add geocoding, form-filling, or any form of addressing to applications where addressing matters.

There are over 100 areas on GOV.UK where each year millions of people need to enter their postcode to find local services, from paying council tax, finding the nearest number plate supplier or even disposing of hazardous waste.

Government Digital Service (GDS) created their postcode lookup solution, which is powered by OS Places API, to create a simple, joined-up and personalised experience of government for everyone.

Users are then provided with instant results as their postcode is matched to their local authority, supplying them with relevant links to locally provided services.

"OS Places API is a vital tool on GOV.UK as it allows us to accurately signpost users to local services. Not only is it the most accurate data available due to its daily updates, but it is also really simple to use which has resulted in an improved user experience for millions of people. It’s also benefitted us behind the scenes as our developers have less manual work to do, like importing data, which allows them to focus on other areas."

Jonathan Nichols, Lead Product Manager GOV.UK

Members of the public use ‘postcode lookups’ hundreds of thousands of times a month on the GOV.UK website. At the peak of Covid-19 tier checking, the GOV.UK postcode checker was receiving up to 6,000 requests per second.

NHS Digital also used the OS Places API to efficiently capture the addresses of people requesting Covid-19 home testing kits via the GOV.UK website, as part of the government’s national testing strategy.

The OS Places API could be quickly integrated with the NHS Digital’s online ordering systems, and the ‘Capture and Verification’ feature meant that when ordering a home testing kit, users could simply enter a postcode and easily select their address from a drop-down list. Only ‘clean’ and up-to-date addresses are captured, optimising efficient delivery of tests to anywhere in Great Britain.

In a period of extraordinary demand, the OS Places API sped up the online user journey and removed the need for manual address entries, which can result in less successful deliveries.

"Authoritative and trusted location data supports products, services and decision making across the private and public sector. Addressing data for so many services and organisations is crucial, and we are seeing OS Places API become an important tool to improve online user experiences. We are proud that OS Places API has become embedded across GOV.UK, as well as the role it played during the pandemic in the delivery of vital testing kits. We look forward to working with the team at GOV.UK to continue to expand the use of our mapping APIs."

Stephen Kuczynski, Government Relationships Manager Ordnance Survey

You can find out more about how GOV.UK uses OS Places API in their systems via their blog

Visit the OS Data Hub

To find out more about OS Places API, and the other location data APIs available from OS, visit the OS Data Hub.

By Press Office

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Products and solutions featured in this blog

  • OS Places API

    Perform accurate geocoding and reverse geocoding with our secure, scalable, and resilient address API.