Visualising geodata – bringing maps to life

Britain's postcodes by Jim Holden

Britain’s postcodes by Jim Holden – click to enlarge.

We often talk about the ‘power’ of geography, the ability inherent within a map to make sense of the world around us and to bring disparate sources of information together to reveal a hidden truth.

Some are serious, helping to pick up a hole in flood defences or patterns in fraudulent insurance claims. Or, like this example from San Francisco, they can map crime in such a comprehensive way that it’s possible to isolate a particular crime, whether it be burglary, arson or murder, down to an individual street on a single day at a specific time.

A map brings that information to life in way far better than any spreadsheet or database could.

Then there are the visualisation that are just plain pretty. The other week, Jim Holden (@Ouchy) got in touch with us on Twitter to share the visualisation he’d made using OS Open Data – seen here on the right.

Each point of light represents a single postcode in its geographic context – impressive stuff.

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How maps make it onto your TV screens

Have you seen Crimewatch recently? Or maybe you were a fan of The Bill or the crime series Luther? If you have, then you may have spotted some Ordnance Survey maps on TV.

Our Corporate Communications team supply mapping to be used in the background of TV series, amongst other media uses. While these are usually crime-based programmes, we have also supplied mapping extracts for Time Team for example. Very often, a map is the best way to illustrate a point or clearly show what happened and where and bring a story to life.

Still of Crimewatch with OS Street View in background, courtesy of Crimewatch

A Still from Crimewatch with OS Street View in the background.

In these pictures from a Crimewatch programme and from the set of The Bill, OS Street View is being used to show where an attack took place and OS MasterMap Imagery Layer has been used to show the locations of two people’s houses. In the case of Crimewatch, this can help jog viewer’s memories about whether they were in the area and whether they may have been witnesses to some aspect of the crime.

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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 data.gov.uk 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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Route of the week: Henley to Marlow – River Thames


The route of the week this week is courtesy of  the British Canoe Union.

Length – 9 miles and 3 locks – (It is possible to use the locks instead of getting out to portage them therefore this route is suitable for those with ambulant problems).
– A Thames Licence is required Canoe England Membership includes a Thames licence (take your membership card and sticker with you)
– ½ to 1 day depending on your speed and the desire to stop and look at the scenery etc Read More


Our first annual festive geography quiz

frustrationThinking about winding down the grey matter as Christmas approaches? Well think again, as it’s time for our first annual (hopefully) festive geography quiz! To be honest, the questions aren’t very festive but they most definitely are geography related.

Alas in the age of austerity the only prize we can offer is a sense of pride at being a geography wizard and generally more intelligent than everyone else.

The first person to leave all the correct answers as a comment will be officially crowned as the winner – thinking caps on and try not to resort to Google immediately! And you never know, just some of the answers might be lurking in previous blog posts…

1. What name do islands in England, Scotland and Wales all share?

2. Britain’s longest river rises in Wales; what is it called?

3. Which islands lie between Iceland and the Shetland Islands?

4. Which area of land in England is administered by Verderers?

5. What is the most easterly point of mainland Great Britain, and which OS Landranger Map is it on? – OSGB grid reference please!

6. What is the length of the coastline of Great Britain, including all major islands, at Mean High Water at 1:10,000 scale, to the nearest 10 kilometres?

7. What is England’s Second Largest Cathedral?

8. Why is Sixpenny Handley, Dorset, so called?

9. Name the three towns or cities that have contained Ordnance Survey’s Headquarters?

And finally,

10. What was the first map to contain the words Ordnance Survey?

[Image by Sybren A. Stüvel via Flickr]