Active Travel Hackathon

Here at OS, we encourage and promote the benefits of being active – in fact, it’s even one of our company values. We are often involved in projects and campaigns to inspire more active lifestyles and, with support from our Geovation team, next week’s Active Travel Hackathon in London is no different.

Over the past ten years Geovation, our open innovation initiative, has hosted a handful of themed challenges aimed to encourage more active means of travel. With our involvement in next week’s hackathon, we are delighted to be able to continue these efforts on a larger scale. Read More


Our Director Peter ter Haar is running the London Marathon for MapAction

Guest blog from our Director of Products, Peter ter Haar, on training for the London Marathon in support of MapAction.

Peter Ter Haar profileThis year I will run the London Marathon for MapAction. I only got into running about 18 months ago; I was 51 years old, overweight and often tired for no real reason. I have never been into team sports, probably because as a kid I was always the tall one (6’5’’) that couldn’t control his limbs. Another excuse I used for being inactive was that in my career I have always been travelling a lot, so where would I find the time?

So where did I start? I’ve always been a bit of a geek, so the trend of ‘wearables’ (Fitbit, Jawbone Up!, Garmin Vivofit and many other step counters) was something I was happy to try, to see if it would make me more active. It worked for me; getting the step counter over 10,000 steps a day a few days a week was really cool. But that was not enough, so I dug out the running shoes that my wife and I bought over 10 years ago and I went out for a run. Being honest, I did injure myself a few times in the first six months. Read More


What happened when Team OS took on the 56km London 2 Brighton Challenge?

Team OSToday’s guest blog comes from ‘Team OS’ – Tara Anglim, Rick Hunt and Andy Carlisle, who walked the 56km London 2 Brighton Challenge on Saturday 24 May to raise money for Alzheimer’s Society.

Over the Bank Holiday weekend, we joined 3,000 others in tackling the London 2 Brighton Challenge. We’d heard that it would be gruelling, but we fancied a challenge and a chance to try out our new Event maps. After leaving home at 5am to get to the start point in Richmond, we set off on our 56km challenge at 8am.

The first 10km or so was lovely. We walked beside the Thames and enjoyed the scenery, including canal boats, canoeists, and houses on the waterfront. It was so lively that the time flew by.

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A day in the life of a surveyor in London

We’re often asked about the work Ordnance Survey does, and unsurprisingly the role of surveyor crops up most often. I asked Tristan Shearing, one of our London surveying team, to give us an insight into his role…

Tristan at work in LondonWhen I tell people I work for  Ordnance Survey as a surveyor, the most common response is ‘But isn’t everything already mapped?’. Confusion truly sets in when I tell them I work in an area of North London, far from the mountains and moorland they associate with Ordnance Survey mapping. When I explain that every time a house is demolished and rebuilt, or an estate is regenerated, or a prestigious new tower block is constructed, the London surveyors are on the scene taking measurements and updating the large-scale mapping, it starts to make a little more sense.

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New exhibition at the Tower of London

Although we’ve spent the last 170 years based in Southampton, Ordnance Survey’s early days were actually at the Tower of London. This early period of our history is being celebrated with the new Power House exhibition in the Tower.

The exhibition gives visitors the chance to discover the stories and personalities behind the major organisations of state, who took care of Royal business behind the mighty Tower walls, from 1100 to the present day.

It showcases the roles of the major organisations that provided the bedrock of England’s power throughout the centuries – including the Ordnance Office, Ordnance Survey, the Royal Mint, Record Office, the Jewel House, Menagerie and Royal Observatory. Power House also puts the spotlight on other Tower of London functions, ranging from royal residence to state prison.

An amazing three metre high ‘bejewelled’ dragon greets visitors to the exhibition in the White Tower. The dragon is made up from parts representing the organisations in the exhibitions – our mapping forms part of the wings.

The Ordnance Survey section of Power House gives our early history. The Board of Ordnance became residents of the Tower in 1716 when a Drawing Room in the White Tower was fitted out to allow for mapping to be drawn. In 1791 Ordnance Survey became a distinct branch of the Board of Ordnance and began to map England and Wales. We remained resident at the Tower until a fire in 1841. We then became a government department in our own right and moved to Southampton, where we remain today.

Also on display is a copy of the first map produced by us. The map of Kent was completed in 1801 at the Tower of London Drawing Room. Produced at the one inch to one mile scale, it was printed by William Faden of Charing Cross, a leading cartographer and map publisher at the time.

There are some fascinating stories to be told by the other residents of the Tower too. Including the tale of William Foxley, potmaker for the Royal Mint, who fell asleep for 14 days and 15 nights. The poor soul was viewed as a curiosity and was prodded, poked and even burned in an effort to rouse him. Even King Henry VIII visited the Tower, to witness the ‘spectacle’ for himself.

If you’d like to find out more or visit the exhibition yourself, visit the Royal Armouries wesbite.


Mapping the Olympic Park

The Olympic Park

The Olympic Park

We received some very positive feedback following Liz’s blog post a few weeks ago about our Engineering the Olympic Park map.

The Institution of Civil Engineers was inundated with requests for copies!

The original print run has now been distributed to ICE members and to education groups visiting the Olympic site.

So, as we’re not able to send out any more copies, we thought it would be a great idea to make it available to download (pdf).

Hopefully it will give you a taster of the development that has taken place on the site since 2001 and the contribution that Civil Engineers have made.



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?