Ordnance Survey has a rich cartographic history – we have been mapping the Great British landscape for 229 years! From navigating the countryside on foot to helping utility companies manage and track their assets underfoot, our maps offer a range of functions. As a result, our cartographers make lots of intricate design decisions to ensure that our maps meet the needs of each of our different users.
Our paper maps (and their digital raster data equivalents) carry their own beautiful cartography which is well established and well understood. A great example of this is our OS Explorer Maps. For many, these maps have a sentimental or nostalgic value – they can evoke memories of adventure and can connect the map reader to locations. Cartography is a powerful form of visual communication.
Fast, customisable, versatile web maps
Web mapping has come a long way since the first map server was built in 1993 at the famed Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. Since then, users have come to expect intuitive, beautiful and instant maps on their desktop and mobile devices.
The typical modern map user accesses map data on devices that usually don’t have the storage capacity for high resolution maps of the entire world. Instead, apps and websites show mapping data that is served as needed over the web.
When a web map is loaded, it is set to a zoom level and extent, which defines the level of detail and the area that will be visible in the viewer. A map server sends grid sections of the map, called “tiles”, to the user, where they are arranged in the right configuration to appear as a map. As the user pans and zoom in and out, requests for the correct tiles are sent, and the response is used to update the screen.
The Geospatial Commission announced the Public Sector Geospatial Agreement (PSGA) in April, a contract which will see OS helping to generate significant economic value to the UK economy over the next 10 years. We’ve been working hard to ensure the first releases of new data, access and freedoms under the PSGA would be ready to deliver to customers on 1 July. We caught up with Chris Chambers, Head of PSGA at OS, to find out more and follow up on his last blog.
Chris, we’ve had public sector contracts before, what makes this different?
Since last autumn we’ve been asking people to trial our new OS Data Hub and our new APIs. A big thank-you to everyone who took part, we’ve had over 700 people sign up for the trial, use our APIs and download data. Since October last year we’ve seen:
- 14,448 OS OpenData downloads
- 15.5 million map tile requests for our OS Maps API
- 1.5 million OS Features API requests
- 1,464 API Projects created
All of this has helped us to shape the OS Data Hub and APIs through customer testing and feedback. We’ve already seen some innovative uses of our APIs, including a community support tool for people shielding from Coronavirus and stunning 3D visualisations of the Scottish Highlands. We look forward to seeing more creative applications in the near future.
Update: 1 July 2020, OS APIs now live and available via our OS Data Hub, sign up here
Our OS Explorer Maps and OS Landranger Maps are iconic, and so are their digital counterparts! 1:25 000 Scale Colour Raster and 1:50 000 Scale Colour Raster can be downloaded as georeferenced image files for use on commercial terms – and they’re also available via API.
These maps have enjoyed a successful transition from paper to digital, and you can easily integrate them into your GIS, web and mobile applications. Alongside 1: 2500 000 Scale Colour Raster and Miniscale, they form part of our Leisure style which is available via our new OS Maps API.
Guest blog by Alasdair Rae, University of Sheffield
Thanks to the new Ordnance Survey Data Hub, it’s easier than ever for users to get their hands on the treasure trove of geographic data covering the length and breadth of Britain. In this article, I’ll explain how I used some of Ordnance Survey’s digital terrain model data to create a new map of the Scottish Highlands. I will also say a bit about the software and methods, and I’ve shared the data below so anyone who is interested can try it for themselves. But before that, let’s take a look back at the first ‘3D map’ of the Highlands.