Which geospatial API do I need?

5 minute read
We recently introduced our new range of mapping and data APIs which are available from the OS Data Hub.

In this week’s post, we want to help you choose the right one for your use case by presenting a series of user stories and recommending the API that is the best fit. In some instances, there will be more than one option and your choice may come down to experience, software interoperability, or preference.

Told from the perspective of the individual, a user story is a short description of a feature stating the requirement and the reason behind it. Interested? Read on to find out our use case advice.

User stories

As a Mobile App Developer, I want Ordnance Survey’s iconic Leisure maps in my application so that my customers can use the mapping they know and love.

Recommendation OS Maps API as it contains our Leisure maps including 1:25 000 Scale Colour Raster (OS Explorer Maps) and 1:50 000 Scale Colour Raster (OS Landranger Maps). These maps contain tourist information, Access Land and Rights of Way.


As a Data Journalist, I want a slick web map so that I can create an interactive story map.

Recommendation – OS Vector Tile API as it offers fast-loading maps that can be customised to fit your brand or style.


As a Data Scientist, I want a slippy map so that I can embed a detailed OS map in my Jupyter Notebook.

Recommendation – OS Maps API as this is interoperable with the tooling available in Python. As an example, you can check out our tutorial.


As a Web Developer, I want detailed geometries of buildings so that my users can click on individual building footprints.

Recommendation – OS Features API gives you direct access to lots of OS data such as OS MasterMap Topography Layer which includes buildings. As well as the detailed geometries, each feature has lots of rich attribution. Take a look at our example.


As a Geospatial Analyst, I want an accurate contextual map so that I can overlay my own data and be 100% sure of the location.

Recommendation – OS Maps API is interoperable with most GIS software and you have a choice of map styles and map projections.


As a Web Developer, I want extruded buildings on my map so that my users can view their data in 3D.

Recommendation – OS Vector Tile API contains OS MasterMap Topography Layer buildings which are attributed with real world height values that you can use to extrude. OS Features API also contains the same building height attributes.


As a map user, I want an Ordnance Survey map so that I can make decisions based on authoritative and trusted data.

Recommendation – any of our mapping APIs from the OS Data Hub would be suitable as they all serve our trusted location data. Using our APIs, you can be sure that your customers are getting the most detailed and accurate maps of Great Britain.


What are our existing users saying?

We hope this blog has offered you some insight into which geospatial API you need. Our APIs are used by a wide variety of users and are relied upon for a range of use cases. Below is what some of our Partners have said about our mapping APIs.

“OS Maps API is an integral part of our solution, providing our customers with fast access to authoritative datasets.”
The Land App, who provide mapping software to rural teams and professionals.

“OS Leisure maps are well-known, well-liked and trusted by our users”
Walk Unlimited, a social enterprise working across the country delivering walking projects and offering walking advice.


In this webinar our Developer Advocate gives a quick, technical introduction to the OS Data Hub APIs. You’ll learn how to use the OS Maps API as simple, beautiful raster base maps, the OS Vector Tile API for a smooth and customisable interactive web map, and the OS Features API to access high resolution vector features with attribution. The webinar is in JavaScript, but will be useful for developers familiar with building API query strings in any language.

Try our APIs now

If you’re in the public sector, find out how to sign up for the Public Sector Plan in the OS Data Hub.

Visit our Developer site to see more examples of using APIs and how we can help you: os.uk/developers.

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Explore the OS Data Hub

With over 20,000 updates to our databases every day, you have access to a comprehensive and up-to-date set of authoritative data through the OS Data Hub

Ordnance Survey
By Ordnance Survey

Our highly accurate geospatial data and printed maps help individuals, governments and companies to understand the world, both in Britain and overseas.

Products and solutions featured in this blog

  • OS Maps API

    Accurate, up-to-date maps that offer the most convenient way to add detailed OS data to your application.

  • OS Vector Tile API

    A vector tile service providing detailed Ordnance Survey data as a customisable basemap.

  • OS Features API

    An API to filter Ordnance Survey data for buildings, roads, rivers, hospitals, playing fields, greenspaces.

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