7
Jun
2010
0

The history of the OS Explorer Map

Here’s the first in our two part series on the history of the OS Explorer map.

OS Explorer Maps – the beginning

The iconic OS Explorer Map, used daily by thousands of people from ramblers to rock climbers and named by the Design Council as an official millennium product, has a fascinating history. Did you know, for example, that it wasn’t until 2005 that the whole of Great Britain was covered, including remote areas of the Scottish Highlands?

OS Explorer Map 218 Wyre Forest and Kidderminster

OS Explorer Map 218 Wyre Forest and Kidderminster

1:25 000 was born

Amazingly, it has now been nearly a century since the famous walking map was born. The first time maps were produced at the familiar 1:25 000 scale (2½ inches on the map being equivalent to 1 mile on the ground or 4 cm to 1 km) was in the early 20th century, but back then, in 1914, only the military had access to this level of detail on a paper map and used them to plan and execute their operations. The first military map from Ordnance Survey covered East Anglia.

Mapping was extremely important during the two world wars but it wasn’t until 1938 that it was suggested that a series of public maps was produced. At this time, it was felt that it would be useful for schools to have access to detailed maps. Students could learn much more about geography with a detailed Ordnance Survey map to hand.

It was decided that if the idea took off in schools, then the mapping might eventually cover the whole of the country to give outdoors enthusiasts unrivalled access to the great British countryside! The first experimental (or Provisional) maps at this scale appeared after the Second World War ended in 1945.

Outdoor Leisure maps

Interest in outdoor pursuits and leisure time spent in the countryside began to grow over time and consideration was given to boosting interest in 1:25 000 scale mapping. In 1972 the first Outdoor Leisure map was published of the Dark Peak area of the Peak District. OL1 can still be purchased today in the map shop. Subsequently other OL maps were published concentrating on the national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty.

The Pathfinder

As a result of the success of the first 1:25 000 scale maps of national parks, many of the maps were redesigned to broaden their appeal further. They now covered twice the land area and were given green covers to distinguish them. The new maps were given the name Pathfinder. Those Pathfinders covering England and Wales showed all public rights of way. It was now possible to plan walking routes and ramble freely without trespassing!

Read part two next week.

26
May
2010
0

Using OS OpenData to fight fraud

We are really excited that CIFAS – The UK’s Fraud Prevention Service, a not for profit organisation, has been using OS OpenData to help them recruit local authorities into membership.

Simon Fitzgerald, CIFAS Programme & New Developments Manager, was very enthusiastic about the release of OS OpenData, and downloaded OS Street View, Boundary Line and Code Point Open for the London Boroughs as soon as the service went live. Using a freely available open source Geographic Information System, Simon set about loading elements of the fraud data that CIFAS collects from its Member organisations spread across the financial services sector and beyond.

Illustrating the fraud-scape of Britain

Illustrating the fraud-scape of Britain

By plotting the location of frauds against our mapping and data, Simon was able to show investigators the density of fraud taking place within their localities and that he understood the challenges they were facing.

Simon says: “Being able to show people where fraud is taking place is a very powerful tool. It’s good to demonstrate that our fraud hotspots are the same as a local authority’s, and goes a long way towards making the case for public–private data sharing to prevent fraud.”

Simon is now using maps to present to a number of Local Authorities, showing fraud hotspots by postcode. This is fantastic use of our data and it’s great to see OS OpenData already being used by organisations, to unlock the power of their own data and to create engaging dialogue with their customers and stakeholders.

So, what do you think? Is this one of the best uses of OS OpenData or have you spotted something better out there?

25
May
2010
0

Why children need the freedom to explore

Back in January, Mission:Explore was announced as one of the winners of the GeoVation Awards Programme, the initiative supporting exciting ideas that use geography. Everyone that met the team was impressed with their passion, vision and sense of adventure. Here, Daniel Raven-Ellison who gave the pitch which secured the award, writes about the project and it’s aims in the first of a series of guest posts.

Mission:Explore

Mission:Explore is a project to encourage people to see, explore and act innew ways. We started the project because while children’s geographies are being extended in some areas (such as social networks), they are being restricted and bound in others.

As a subject geography is often marginalised and in schools and neighbourhoods children’s physical geographies are being reduced due to risk aversion. Our geographies directly impact on our wellbeing and our understanding of those geographies can help us to improve the wellbeing not only of ourselves but our communities.

Mission:Explore encourages children to look at the world differently

Mission:Explore encourages children to look at the world differently

We believe that it is vital that young people are given the opportunity to explore. Exploration is a state of mind and a process of enquiry. It is about searching for answers even if we do not know the questions and can be physical, emotional or imagined.

Exploration is strongly linked to creativity: both search for originality (if only for the participant) and involve taking and managing risk. These are skills that we need young people to develop and along with their health and education, are being held back when children are not allowed to explore.

Mission:Explore aims to engage young people with geography on their own terms by challenging them to complete challenges. Each mission challenges the explorer to complete quirky, funny, important, strange or just fun activity. The people involved can choose to follow the mission to the letter or just use it to inspire their own ideas.

How far can you get while sucking a mint?!

How far can you get while sucking a mint?!

We have just launched the Mission:Explore children’s book which includes 102 missions. All of our royalties are being invested in free copies of the book for children who would never normally come across them. The first books have been given to Play Tower Hamlets who are distributing them on our behalf.

The book is powerful. As a parent it is a fantastic way to encourage your children to play outdoors in a meaningful way. As an object that can be carried around it can create a purpose for doing the missions and a reason to speak to members of the community.

Missions like “how far can you get while sucking the same mint” involves some basic science while “map (un)friendly places” engages young people with politics and encourages them to question who creates places and cultures. If all the children on a street had a copy of the book it could change that community forever.

The book is available nationally and we would love to hear what you think of it.

We are going a step further though. With the help of GeoVation we, along with The Workshop, are turning Mission:Explore into a website and iPhone App. We will be sharing more details on this innovation in the next blog post.

Daniel Raven-Ellison.

25
May
2010
0

OS hosts global standards event ISO/TC 211

 

Delegate signing in for the Monday workshop

Delegate signing in for the Monday workshop

We’re being inundated with mapping experts from across the world this week…over 100 prominent players in the international geographic information (GI) community from more than 30 countries are taking part in the International Organisation for Standardisation’s Technical Committee for Geographic Information (ISO/TC 211).

Now that sentence didn’t mean a lot to me, so I had a word with my colleague Carsten Roensdorf to find out more. Carsten told me that ISO/TC 211 is a technical committee tasked with standardising digital GI. This could be anything from data quality measures to metadata records to data formats such as GML. Much of ISO/TC211’s activities formalise the work of the Open Geospatial Consortium and then provide a basis for initiatives such as INSPIRE.

As the main sponsor of the Interoperability Workshop and the week of meetings, we’re providing our Business Centre to host the event and delegates will get the chance to have some tours around our Print Floor and Photogrammetric Services areas – always popular places to visit with the GI and map-loving population.There will be plenty to keep our mapping experts busy over the course of the week as delegates attend workshops hosted by Intelligent Addressing, Ministry of Defence, ESRI, the Netherlands Standards Institute and many more.

The 30th meeting for ISO/TC 211 is in Southampton from 24-28 May 2010. The includes a formal plenary session for official delegations, along with meetings of standards development project teams.
Mingling between workshops

Mingling between workshops

19
May
2010
0

OS VectorMap District arrives in OS OpenData

By now you some of you will have started to play with the latest addition to OS OpenData – OS VectorMap District. We’re very keen to know what you make of it, what’s good and what could be done better. It is an Alpha release and is the first product we’ve produced using some new generalisation software so please be forgiving with it! We will be making changes and improvements based on your feedback so it really is worth letting us know what you think, either here on the blog, as you did in my last OS OpenData post or by tweeting us at @ordnancesurvey.

Richard and Rob from the product team have made this short video to talk in a little more detail about the product, how we think it could be used, and why we wanted to make it freely available through OS OpenData.

It’s now also almost 7 weeks since OS OpenData was launched to much excitement both here at Ordnance Survey and in the outside world. I read lots of blogs (including this excellent post from Steven Feldman) and tweets at the time, some from people asking whether it was all really an April Fool’s joke. Well you can all let out a collective sigh of relief because OS OpenData is real and is here to stay. And once the launch day jitters were sorted it’s been a great first few weeks, with a flood of data being downloaded, viewed and ordered.

Its early days but there have already been some mash-ups and apps created. Here are a selection:

·Ordnance Survey & data.gov.uk mash-ups

·Using Code Point Open in OpenStreetMap

·Comparing OpenStreetMap with Meridian 2

·Getting Code Point Open into Google Earth

·EDINA Unlock places API

·emapsite custom delivery service

So, it’s been a good start and now it’s over to you. What are you using OS OpenData for?

18
May
2010
0

Mapping for emergencies: An update from Haiti

I’m now back in Britain having spent the last few months in Haiti working for MapAction, supporting the earthquake reconstruction work. I left with change in the air. Clouds have now moved into what was a clear sky, rain is getting increasingly frequent, almost every night, and there’s a breeze that can almost be described as cool (although unfortunately, it didn’t penetrate the canvas of our tents).

Chris working in Haiti for MapAction

Working in Haiti for MapAction

In light of the imminent rainy season and the hurricane season that will follow shortly afterward, efforts at recovery have almost been put on a back burner in favour of risk management and avoidance, as preparations (call it a battening down of hatches) are made to get through the next 4 or 5 months.

Mapping and GIS is playing a major role in these preparations with direct influence on everything from identifying camps situated in flood prone areas, finding safe alternative camp sites, modelling wind and water hazards and tracking landslide zones. While the use of remote sensing and height data has been invaluable in some of those tasks, collecting field data is still absolutely essential.

A Jacmel neighbourhood

A Jacmel neighbourhood

A couple of UN agencies have been buying GPS units in bulk and sending out large teams (up to 100) mounted on motorbikes to record information on schools (often used as health stations or shelters), spontaneous camps or road conditions. This recruitment is also extended to anyone who already has a GPS unit. I was scheduled to travel 4 hours up and over the mountains to Jacmel, a city on the southern coast of Haiti, on a field assessment and training mission to the UN base there.

Word got around and I quickly received a request from by the GIS Manager of the Logistics Cluster to turn on my GPS unit and waypoint every bridge and each instance where a landslide had caused a road blockage, adding that it’d also be appreciated by their engineers if I got out of my truck and took pictures of the bridge structure and foundations. Happy to do it, of course!

Jacmel - City of Love

Jacmel – City of Love

Unfortunately, the situation with the CNIGS (the Haitian mapping agency) has not progressed with the same urgency, with plans for alternative offices bogged down in negotiations between the various parties. This is due to both scheduling conflicts and also the sheer difficulty of travelling around Port au Prince. However, in the interim, a plan has been developed to integrate CNIGS personnel with the international mapping effort at LogBase, the UN’s main Logistics Base.

There are already 4 CNIGS staff working in rotation with the IOM’s (International Organisation for Migration – UN Cluster lead for camp management) GIS unit . The plan calls for expansion of this arrangement across the other major UN Clusters – Shelter, Logistics, Health, Education and Information Management – in addition to the creation of a central CNIGS office with a dedicated prefab unit of its own on LogBase .

This benefits all parties. The international community gains the datasets, expertise and knowledge of CNIGS mapping staff while the CNIGS staff gain valuable experience in rapid mapping techniques and disaster management from the perspectives of the various clusters. It’ll also be a good countermeasure against declining international mapping capacity as UN staff contracts end and they rotate out.

And so I’m back home. Although I won’t be on the ground this is by no means the end of my involvement with the GIS effort in Haiti. I’ll still be involved remotely and expect to be in daily contact with CNIGS and the people I’ve been working with there every evening.

Chris Phillips

6
Apr
2010
0

Time to rethink the design process: colour blindness and maps

There is a genetic disorder that affects up to 10% of men and about 0.5% of women. It impacts on their daily lives, often making the simple everyday tasks difficult and crushes the dreams of budding pilots and wannabe coast guards everywhere. Yes, it’s colour blindness. But for something that is experienced by a sizable minority of the population, colour blindness seems to play a relatively small role in the design process. Think weather forecasts, snooker and, yes, maps. The traditional rainbow of cartographic colours – greens for vegetation, reds for main roads and footpaths, and blue for motorways and rivers – can become indistinguishable, therefore making map reading really difficult.

It’s an issue that has been looked into by others, but up until recently it’s not something that we have been able to take into account when producing either our paper maps or our data. But all that has changed in recent times. With the launch of customisable data, like OS VectorMap Local, the user has far greater flexibility around how mapping is displayed and styled.

Colour blindness is the result of a deficiency of the specialised ‘cone’ cells in the eye that make colour vision possible. It is the most common genetic disorder among humans, with hundreds of thousands of people unable to tell the difference between reds and greens. Instead these colours appear as shades of grey or brown, making it difficulty to interpret colour-coded features. The Product and Cartographic Design teams here at Ordnance Survey have been working on colour schemes that can counteract this effect.

One of the styling exercises specifically for the colour blind, looks strange as it uses completely different colours for familiar map features. The result is a combination of purples, browns and oranges.

Simon Duquénoy, Technical Product Manager says:

“Cartography is a fine art, but the colours that have become so familiar to most of us are actually among the worst possible choices for those with colour blindness. Because of the technical developments in mapping data, we’ve been experimenting looking at how we can be more colour-blind friendly in our designs and colour choices.”

We are now developing a new colour palette for mapping that will work whether you are colour blind or not. This has been designed using software that can emulate the more extreme forms of the impairment. It has also been tested with a group of colour blind test pilots drawn from Ordnance Survey staff.While initially using the science of colour differentiation, we soon ran into familiarity issues – ‘Why is the motorway red ?’ asked the test group for example. Due to this we revised the colour style to make motorways blue again, but using a different shade to provide the contrast with other colours that is so important to the colour blind.

This is a major leap forward in cartographic design and leads us from thinking about specific accessibility for those with hidden impairments, to maps that are really usable by everyone.

1
Apr
2010
0

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.