1
Sep
2010
0

How to build an accurate 3D map

A few months ago I wrote about a 3D visualisation of the Bournemouth sea front that had been built by our Research department. It was all part of our work looking into the possible uses of three dimensional mapping and how we might try and keep a 3D mapping dataset current and up-to-date.

The team responsible for it have also been working on something else. This time it’s the London Docklands, built to be accurate to just a few centimetres across all three axis, X, Y and Z.

The Docklands

The Docklands

I spoke with the project’s architect, Jon Horgan, who explained the process behind it.

Firstly, we had to start with a solid foundation and the capture of features known as geomorphic vectors. These are used to create a very accurate terrain model, so that all the buildings and features will sit perfectly on the terrain, as they do in the real world.

The resultant terrain model was then used to add height to our OS MasterMap database prior to the photogrammetric capture of the 3D building models as well as features such as street furniture and vegetation.

Then real painstaking work of creating templates for some of the objects was undertaken where no stock 3D model existed. This included things like the lamp posts but also the cranes on the dockside and even the sculpture outside the Excel Centre entrance. The whole model is then automatically “textured” with our aerial photography.

Crucially, all of this work was done with only a block of stereo aerial photography and confidence in accuracies assured with GPS ground measurements.

It might not look like a modern computer game, but what’s important about this model is its accuracy. Just about every static feature is where it should be to within a few centimetres.

I particularly like the sculpture and you can also get an indication of the accuracy by looking at the shadows generated by the bill boards and fences.

The Excel Centre

The ExCel Centre

The big question remains of how exactly someone might use a 3D model like this. So, how would you use 3D?

30
Aug
2010
0

Five ‘must visit’ pubs

For many, hiking in Great Britain goes hand in hand with a pint of ale in a country pub. Wherever you are in this country you are never far from an Inn serving cold beer and a ploughman’s! I recently read about the remotest pub in Britain being put up for sale so I thought I’d round up a few of the interesting, famous and ‘must visit’ pubs across the country.  Whether you’re a hiker, cyclist or simply like to sample local ales, you should seek out the following pubs and hostelries.

The Old Forge – Inverie, Knoydart, Scotland.
This pub is the most remote in Great Britain and can only be access by an 18 mile hike over munros or a 7 mile sea crossing – but it’s well worth the journey. The pub started life as a smiddy’s forge before it became a workers social club. The pub is currently up for sale if you fancy becoming a publican in a pub that’s miles from anywhere!

Jamaica Inn – Bolventor, Cornwall
Made famous by  Daphne du Maurier’s novel by the same name, this old coaching inn is now a museum and hotel where ghost hunters can learn about the smugglers that used to pass through. Bodmin Moor is close by, adding to the mystery and intrigue offered at this inn.

The Old Smith’s Arms – Godmanstone
This is said to be the smallest pub in Great Britain. The story goes that Charles II stopped at a blacksmiths forge where he asked the smithy for a glass of porter and granted him a license to sell beer and porter. The bar measures 20ft. x 10ft, perfect for a cosy pint after a winter walk!

The Old Smith's Arms - FreeFoto.com

The Old Smith’s Arms – FreeFoto.com

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks – St Albans
One of several pubs that claim to be the oldest in Great Britain, this pub is currently in the Guiness Book of Records with some parts of the building dating back to the 11th century. It was originally used as a pigeon house which is why it has an interesting octagonal shape.

The Tan Hill Inn – Yorkshire
The Tan Hill Inn is on the Pennine Way and is Britain’s highest pub standing on a lonely spot 1,732ft above sea level. The pub is said to be haunted by Mrs Peacock who ran it for 40 years. It is surrounded by unspoilt moorland in the Yorkshire Dales.

 

27
Aug
2010
0

Ever passed “Go” and wondered where it is?

I think most of us have played Monopoly at some point in our lives and we all know that friend or family member who can be a bit liberal at their banking…does the thought of taking more than 200 Monopoly dollars to pass “Go” ring any bells? But have you ever wondered where “Go” actually is? 

OS OpenData Monopoly map

OS OpenData Monopoly map

The rest of the board game is well-labelled and “Go” actually sits between Mayfair and Old Kent Road – but where is it? Monopoly celebrated its 75th anniversary on Wednesday and we joined forces with them to pinpoint the location of “Go”.

“Go” is actually centred on Lambeth North Tube Station, close to Queen’s Walk, where Monopoly held their celebration event. As well as locating “Go” we worked with Monopoly to create a bespoke map: from the range of free Ordnance Survey data available within OS OpenData, OS VectorMap District was chosen as the base for the new map. 

Highly customisable, OS VectorMap District was stripped back to basics to allow for the Monopoly data to be added and overlaid. The map of London was quickly transformed to highlight the roads and areas shown on the Monopoly board before adding the locations and the title deeds for each property and station. 

It was fantastic fun to work with Monopoly and as well as plotting “Go” on the map we also marked the locations of all the other Monopoly board positions. The final ‘Monopoly map’ looks great and really brings the game to life, giving it a whole new dimension. 

Visit OS OpenData to create and connect exciting ideas, applications and datasets.

24
Aug
2010
0

What happened to old OS maps?

I’ve talked in previous posts about the new head office we’ll be moving to later this year and how excited I am about a shiny new building – but what about all that packing? If you think that there are around 1,100 of us currently living in a building intended for around 3,500–4,000, you can imagine how much space we’ve got. And if you think about what you do with any spare space in your home (come on, I bet your lofts, garages, sheds and cupboards are packed to bursting!), then you can imagine the task facing us after 40 plus years at Romsey Road. 

Paul’s already updated us on the historic artefacts we’ve uncovered, but there are also thousands and thousands of old maps and map-related records. So, what do we do with them? There are actually several routes we follow. Our Historic Map Archive has been used to complete collections and libraries up and down the country for example.

A photo of one of the maps being transferred to The National Archives

A photo of one of the maps being transferred to The National Archives

But that was quite an easy one. What would you do with a large scale metric survey of Shetland? It was actually gratefully received by The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Even more unusual has been the discovery of a 30-foot aerial photo covering the length of Britain. Dating from 1942, it was a training flight by the Spitfire Air Reconnaissance based in Scotland. It has now been passed to The National Archives (TNA) at Kew.

Aside from the unusual cases, the majority of our records are transferred to TNA as they are of historic value. We have trig records (our surveyors used them to show where measuring points were) which often include an old photo of a former surveyor pointing at some item on the ground!

There are also flight plans being packaged up and transferred to TNA. Before 2000 all our aerial photography involved photos and films, and the flight plans were used to show exactly how the images were captured along a route. This helped our colleagues with their digital orthorectification. This involves removing any height distortions in a flat photograph of the earth’s service so that the orthorectified image accurately reflects the position of features on the ground.

So, that’s what we do with our old maps. Before you know it, our old maps could be in deep store in a redundant Cheshire salt mine under the safeguard of the TNA. Or they could be in your local library, waiting to be used!

20
Aug
2010
0

Green credentials at our new head office

I’ve already shown you some pictures of our new head office and told you about its previous life as a Bronze Age farm…but it’s not just about having a shiny new building, we’re doing our best to reduce our environmental impact and boost our green credentials too.

We’re hoping to reduce our carbon footprint by 250 tonnes each year, saving around 10% on our energy use with ground source heat pumps. The whole building will be heated and kept cool by the largest ground source heat pump system in Hampshire which consists of nearly 100 bore holes 90 metres deep connected to heat pumps which can either heat or cool the building (or both). Their cooling effect is the equivalent of 260 tonnes of ice melting over a 24 hour period – amazing! 

We’re also aiming to reduce our reliance on mains water by harvesting rainwater on our roof to be stored in 80,000 litre tanks underground. This could mean a 60% reduction in mains water usage and the water we harvest will be filtered and used for flushing the toilets and keeping the site irrigated. It makes the little water butts many of us have at home seem a little tame in comparison, maybe we should start thinking bigger! 

Combine that with the natural lighting from north-facing floor to ceiling windows, naturally ventilated offices with computer controlled windows, and kitchen waste being recycled on site and it looks like we’ll all be doing a bit more for the environment. Not to mention the computerised lighting system that responds to levels of external daylight and switches off and on to achieve lighting levels and reduce electricity consumption.  

As I’ve said before, it all sounds fantastic and I can’t wait for the autumn day when I get to move in and start using it. If you’d like to find out more or see more pictures, check out our website.

18
Aug
2010
0

Our favourite OS OpenSpace mash-ups

The range of OS OpenSpace applications never ceases to amaze me. So, to celebrate the launch of the new OS OpenSpace Wiki, where you can find links to a range of the latest mash-up as well as tutorials and guides, here’s a run down of some of my favourites.

Secret Bases

For years secret military bases were ‘hidden’ from Ordnance Survey maps for fear of espionage and national security. But, with the arrival of readily available aerial imagery and web mapping, it was decided to reverse that policy. Whatever you think about that, the site Secret Bases makes for fascinating reading, and a great OS OpenSpace mash-up.

Secret Bases

Emmerdale filming locations

I can’t confess to being a fan of TV soaps, but if you love Emmerdale in particular you might enjoy this map of filming locations across the country. Both this and the Secret Bases site are the work of Alan Turnbull.

Emmerdale

The Greenwich Meridian

Everyone has heard about the Greenwich Meridian, but did you also know that there are meridian markers splitting the west and east hemispheres elsewhere in the country? Well, now you do! Fine out more on the Greenwich Meridian website.

The Greenwich Meridian

 

Let us know if you’re using OS OpenSpace. We’d love to share your experiences.
17
Aug
2010
0

What the PSMA really means

As you might know, a couple of weeks ago we signed an agreement with the Government to provide geographic information to around 800 public sector organisations.

This agreement is the Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA) and it comes into effect in April next year.

The deal is being heralded as a breakthrough for the provision of GI in England and Wales (the Scots having blazed a trail with their own agreement a couple of years ago). It brings together local and central government, many NHS organisations, parish councils and organisations like the RNLI and Mountain Rescue under one, single, unified agreement for the first time.

This means they all have access to the same data, under the same conditions. And since the agreement is between Ordnance Survey and Communities and Local Government, it makes the data free at the point of use, bringing OS MasterMap  into reach for the organisations that felt it too expensive under the previous ‘user pays’ model in Central Government.

This has two massive implications.

Does the PSMA finally put a pin in the Derived Data saga?

Does the PSMA finally put a pin in the Derived Data saga? Photo by Mukumbura via Flikr

Firstly, all organisations will have access to the same data meaning there will be no disparity between the datasets available to those in Central and Local Government and Health, something that has been a real problem under the current Mapping Services (Local Government), Pan Government (Central Government) and Health agreements.

This should make joint working much easier and should result in even greater use of GI to help improve public services.

Secondly, the sharing of data, and derived data, will be greatly simplified. I would be the first to say that this has been a very complex and difficult issue for everyone, and as such there has been a lot of hearsay and rumour spread around as fact.

So, let’s be clear. Under the terms of the PSMA, all 800 members will be able to share Ordnance Survey data, and data derived from it, with any other organisation as part of their ‘core activity’.

This is basically the framework that exists under the current Pan Government Agreement (PGA) today.

For example, the Rural Payments Agency uses OS MasterMap to help it calculate the grants owed to farmers. As part of that job (or ‘core activity’) they can freely share that data with the farmers they are working with, even though the farmer is not a PGA member themselves.

This principle will also extend to organisations that want to publish key information online, like the location of public amenities, using a web mapping API.

This is great news. However, if you can feel a “but” coming, you’d be right.

Photo by satguru via Flikr

Photo by satguru via Flikr

Google’s Ed Parsons has written a blog post which asks whether the PSMA will allow members to publish data on Google Maps. Ed describes the ongoing obstacle to this as “restrictions imposed by the OS”.

I’m afraid this simply isn’t the case.

The reality is that the problem has never been with Ordnance Survey, but with the terms and conditions of Google Maps. It has absolutely nothing to do with derived data or our licensing terms but everything to do with Google claiming the right to use any data you display in Google Maps in any way it sees fit, even if it doesn’t belong to them.

Frustratingly, this is only a problem that exists with Google Maps. No such clause appears in the terms of any other mapping API, including Bing Maps and our own OS OpenSpace.

This issue is raised in a comment left on Ed’s post. At the time of writing, he hadn’t responded to it.

So I’m very sorry to say that while the PSMA is great deal for the public sector in England and Wales, it doesn’t solve this particular problem.

13
Aug
2010
0

Up, up and away at Bristol International Balloon Fiesta

The 2010 Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is underway this weekend – fingers crossed for the weather – and it’s reminded me about the old Ordnance Survey balloons.
BalloonFestival

We had two that I know of from 1999 onwards: the first lasted for three years before retiring to a ballooning museum. During its brief life, it was very active: visiting 250 schools in Scotland, England and Wales; attending 50 balloon festivals; being seen in six TV documentaries; and playing an integral part in the world record for the highest landing zone for a parachutist. Read More