Lost? Follow that satellite dish!

I read a great article on the BBC recently that was giving tips on finding your way in a city. Did you know that most UK satellite dishes (all belonging to the same provider) point roughly south east? They’re pointing at the same geostationary satellite, fixed at the same point over Earth.

We’re all becoming increasingly reliant on having a GPS signal to know our location – whether it’s to find your nearest cinema/petrol station/restaurant on a mobile phone, following the soothing tones of your satnav, or plotting a route for your next countryside walk. But what happens when you lose your GPS signal, or your battery dies on the device you’re using? What are the best tips for navigation?

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Play spot the difference with our Cartography team

Have you ever wondered how our dedicated team of cartographers find the changes that they need to update on a piece of mapping data? When our 300 or so surveyors are out on the ground (or in the air) capturing changes to the landscape, it isn’t only the updated information that is supplied to the cartographers, they have to check an entire ‘chunk’ of data to find any changes.

Our cartographers manipulate and enhance the core data provided by our collection teams to produce our paper maps and small-scale data products. I’m sure you can imagine that it takes a fairly specific set of skills to do this – so do you think you’re up to the task?

Have a look at our before and after shots below. The top set has only one change, but the bottom set has six changes.

Can you find them all? Leave a comment saying where you think the changes are and we’ll reveal the answers later today.

The original

Spot any differences?

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Street maps on Kindle using OS OpenData

Maps on your KindleWe think this is pretty cool, and it’s an example of a company creating commercial value from open data.

Lovell Johns, a company that has been providing traditional mapping products for the private and public sectors for 45 years, has created a range of Street Map Guides for Amazon’s Kindle.

Maps on Kindle isn’t actually unique, but this is the best interface I’ve seen that manages to overcome the Kindle’s basic navigation functionality.

Downloadable within seconds, the guides contain OS Street View mapping covering the central area of each city – with London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Bristol, Oxford, Cambridge, Portsmouth, Cardiff and Edinburgh available so far.

Users then navigate about the map using the traditional page turning buttons, plus on page click-to-navigate tools. Personally I think this is one of the more innovative commercial uses of OS OpenData I’ve seen.

Kindle Map Guides can be found on the Amazon website.


Mapping the changing face of Britain

There isn’t a single part of Britain that doesn’t see some change to its geography. From bustling city centre to wind-swept moorland, change is everywhere. And to help illustrate the fact, we’ve made this short film that shows the cumulative changes made to the OS MasterMap database, the nation’s 21st century geographic Doomsday Book, which is updated around 5,000 times every day.

The video shows an 18 month period in which you’ll see there isn’t a single part of the country that hasn’t been updated. That’s a lot of change.

And if you want to learn more about how we map change, have a read about our Remote Sensing team, a day in the life of a surveyor or the work of our Flying Unit.

You might also like this visualisation showing 7 years of change in Swindon – it’s pretty incredible.


Tubular Fells

When I was up in the Lake District earlier this year I came across a new map of the Wainwright Fells and thought that today I would share it with you on the Ordnance Survey blog. The map is called Tubular Fells.

The Tubular Fells map is based on Henry Beck's iconic London Underground map.

The Tubular Fells map is based on Henry Beck’s iconic London Underground map.

The map has been inspired by Harry Beck and his famous schematic map of the London Underground that was produced initially in 1931. Peter Burgess, a London base Geography teacher, has taken the idea of this iconic map and creating a new one based on the Lakeland Fells shown in the Wainwright guides.

Having lived in London for nearly 20 years, Beck’s map was something Burgess was very familiar with. As a keen fell walker and being a Geographer by trade – he thought to himself “I could make a fells map like Beck’s” – and so he did (after about 10 years of thinking about it and a few weeks sat in front of a computer).

So what’s on the map? In addition to the Fells there are also all 17 of the lakes that give the Lake District it’s name. You’ve also got the Coast to Coast, Cumbria Way and Dales Way along with the wheelchair accessible route to the summit of Latrigg and other identifiable features that you’d come across on the route (for example the Skiddaw House bunkhouse). As in the London Underground map where there are connections with ferry services – so there are also ferry connections shown on this map. The fells are connected by a coloured line (as in the style of Beck’s London Underground map) – with each colour corresponding to the relevant colour of Wainwright’s pictorial guides. Read More


Maps for the colour blind now a reality

You might remember that last year I wrote a post about the work Ordnance Survey was doing looking into maps for people with colour blindness, or Colour Vision Deficiency (CVD) as it’s more accurately known.

Rather than creating separate colour schemes for those with various forms of CVD and those without, we were working on a colour palette that would work for everyone. Well a year later and we think we’ve cracked it and are now close to releasing a colour scheme for use with OS VectorMap Local, our customisable digital mapping product.

CVD basically means an inability to see certain colours; often red and green, but also other colours too. It affects approximately one in 12 men and one in 100 women in the UK and can make the colours that have traditionally used for maps virtually indistinguishable.  That’s a sizable minority of the population, all with a problem that is often forgotten or overlooked.

With the default style.

With the default style.

With the CVD style applied.

And with the CVD style applied.

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Trouble with Web Map Builder?


The GeoDoctor

In this post I’m going to focus on a particular developer issue around the use of our Web Map Builder. Questions have arisen around what you do with the code you get when you press the ‘Collect code’ button in ‘Step 4 – Generate and save code’. You are actually given a fully formed HTML document.

This is fantastic if all you want is a blank page with a map in it.

For that all I would need to do is:

1. Select all the code

2. Copy the code into a text editor, such as Notepad.

3. Save it as <name>.html, such as mymap.html.

4. Put it on my webserver

You will hopefully have something that looks like this: Read More


Focus on Cartography – part two

If you missed last week’s blog, catch up now before finding out a little more about what goes on behind the scenes in our Cartography teams…

My next stop was with Jim in Landplan. His team of 20 are responsible for the revision and update of the 1:10 000 database. This covers OS Landplan, 1:10 000 Scale Colour Raster and 1:10 000 Scale Black and White Raster, OS Street View and more recently, OS VectorMap Local.

Jim told me that the Landplan vector editing system was developed in-house during the mid 1990s. The capture programme started in September 1996 and the 10 587 tiles in the initial database were completed in 2001. It was the first production system in Ordnance Survey to use auto generalising algorithms to do Cartographic generalising for a derived product.

One of the Landplan team at work

One of the Landplan team at work

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Mapping the Southampton Blitz 70 years on

Damage to Ordnance Survey's London Road building

Damage to Ordnance Survey’s London Road building

This year is the 70th anniversary of the Blitz, and whilst for some people the word might be almost synonymous with the bombing of London, many other towns and cities across the country also suffered terribly from Luftwaffe attacks.

One of those was Southampton. As an important dockyard on the south coast of England, home of the Supermarine factory and birthplace of the Spitfire, it was a prime target.

During the nights of 30 November and 1 December 1940, the Southampton Blitz reached its climax as the city came under sustained attack. Hundreds of tonnes of bombs were dropped during the two nights, whilst on 30 November alone some 634 individual properties were left ablaze – including our then head office on London Road.

A report by the Ministry of Food describes how the resulting destruction “equalled anything so far in aerial attack on this country” but even so, it is very hard to now comprehend the scale of the damage, let alone the impact it had on the people who lived through it.

So with the help of The National Archives and Southampton City Council, we’ve built a map using OS OpenSpace that pinpoints where 712 of the bombs fell based on records from the time. We hope that by seeing the bomb sites overlaid on modern mapping, it will help people better relate to the scale of the damage and the courage and suffering of those who lived through it.

You can clearly see the heavy concentration of direct hits around the docks and industrial areas in Woolston and Itchen, as well as the city centre itself.

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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 artifacts 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

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