OS Map and Hack: a virtual and collaborative learning experience
On 6 and 7 October 2021, Ordnance Survey hosted its first virtual hackathon.
A two-day hack dedicated to using geospatial data to advance ideas and concepts for electric vehicle charging and infrastructure planning. The hackathon gathered teams across public sector, private enterprise and the start-up community.
In addition to the outputs, hackathons are a great opportunity to collaborate and network with others. This can be especially beneficial to anyone new to programming, or to their respected industry, as participants can look to extend their knowledge base and gain new skills. OS Map & Hack, for example, hosted teams across several industries and disciplines – ideal for anyone just starting their programmatic career and looking to put their skills to the test.
Murray Groves, hackathon team member from Ada, National College of Digital Skills, shares his team’s take on the hackathon challenge by focusing on the distribution of new electric vehicle (EV) charging sites.
"Our team’s idea was to determine consumer demand for EV charging sites, before focusing on the distribution of them. It’d be illogical, and not sustainable, to put them in areas of low demand, or not build enough in high-demand areas. So, we wanted to gather data on the charging demand for every 1km² grid in the UK. We could then use this data to figure out optimal placement for new charging points.
"We had many different ideas for determining charging demand, such as looking at traffic hotspots, or roadway density. Unfortunately, given the hackathon’s time constraints, we decided that these methods would have resulted in more accurate data, but we wouldn't have been able to implement them in time.
"Instead, we decided to look at population density as an estimate of charging demand, since it's easy to process. And, usefully for us, the data already came in 1km² grids.
"We started off by using the OS Places API. The API was very useful for our concept, because it allowed us to download information on all the public car parks in the UK. We combined the data from OS with the National Chargepoint Registry, to determine what charging capacity each grid already had, and the average capacity of each charger. Finally, to find and integrate population density, we used data from the 2011 Census.
"Our biggest technical challenge was determining where these new chargers should be placed. New EV chargers can only be installed in areas with the supporting infrastructure. We realised that most car parks would be suitable locations, since cars are already parked there for extended periods of time; plus, these locations are more likely to have an existing power network for ticket machines and lighting.
"Since the OS Places API has a filter function, we were able to filter for public car parks, which made downloading these locations very easy.
"It was quite difficult to work at such a fast pace, remotely. It was important to make sure that we were using our time as optimally as possible.
"It was also harder to communicate and show each other what we were working on, since we weren't in the same room and couldn't just get people to come over and look at something. However, working remotely did mean there were fewer distractions since we were in our own spaces!
"Within Ada, we already have projects that are like hackathons. Usually, these events only have one programmer on each team, so collaboration is generally easier as we're all working on different tasks. As such, before the OS event, we didn't really have much experience collaborating with other programmers, but it was a very worthwhile opportunity for us to give it a go.
“When I found out about the hackathon, I knew it would be a brilliant learning experience. Turns out, I was exactly right.”
The hackathon provided participants with the chance to use OS data and OS APIs to build their solutions. Murray and his team were able to produce their EV charger distribution concept within two days. Check out the OS Data Hub to see what we can offer, and begin your journey of discovering what new, innovative services and solutions you can lead.
We’d love to see what you come up with, and we’re already looking forward to more hackathons to come!