OS Data Hub: New wave of developers benefiting from power of location
Ordnance Survey (OS) created the OS Data Hub a year ago to transform the way developers access and work with OS data.
In the first 12 months the hub has enabled more people to work with OS data across Great Britain, supporting customers in the private and public sector.
The growth of the OS Data Hub has delivered benefits to thousands of existing users of OS data resolving previous customer issues around access, usability and licensing of OS data. In addition, the hub has attracted a new influx of developers and organisations, from a range of sectors and markets, to work and innovate with OS data.
The APIs are helping save time and resources, allowing users to focus on using the accurate geospatial data to underpin decisions, gain insight, support public services and drive innovation. Another significant benefit being realised is a reduction in data management overheads removing the need to spend time downloading and managing data.
The OS Data Hub provides access to data and APIs all in one place via a series of clear and easy to use data plans on offer.
- The OS OpenData Plan offers extensive access to OS OpenData via APIs and is completely free for anyone.
- The OS Premium Plan does all that but goes further, offering premium (more detailed) data via APIs with up to £1,000 worth of free premium data, including OS MasterMap, every month for those wishing to create apps, products or services to third parties, along with extensive free premium data for projects in ‘development mode’.
- For PSGA members from the public sector, there is the Public Sector Plan, which offers extensive free access to OS OpenData APIs, Premium data APIs and premium data downloads.
The OS Data Hub was one of the first outputs from the Geospatial Commissions Public Sector Geospatial Agreement, which was launched in April 2020, delivering a positive impact to all areas of government as well as supporting businesses, developers and new and emerging markets and users.
OS API Product Manager Charley Glynn has been part of a team working behind the scenes, carrying out user research to mould the OS Data Hub into a modern platform that supports all customers. The hub was built to follow intuitive self-service with clear conditions and pricing once customers arrived there. Tutorials, coding examples, and other online resources were added to demystify OS data for new customers, so they could learn how to use it without searching for information elsewhere.
“A lot of care has gone on the user experience,” Charley said.
“We have brought everything all under one roof and one platform.
“For those developers that will be searching for a map API or an address API, they are more likely to land on our pages now and discover the OS Data Hub. It is a much nicer shop window because once you land on the hub you can quickly and easily see what is available and also find out how to use it.
“Visitors can sign up to the OS Data Hub within minutes. They can create an API key, add an API, follow the documentation and find a code example, then copy and paste that. From start to finish we are talking five to 10 minutes before you are up and running. That is a massive change for our users and that matches the expectation of developers.”
Results since its launch 12 months ago have been encouraging. There has been a 50% increase in like-for-like OS Open Data downloads since the OS Data Hub went live. 71% of existing customers have migrated from hard media (CDs) to OS Data Hub downloads. And there have been over 8,000 new OS Data Hub users join the platform from across the public and private sector.
In the private sector, developers are making the most out of the improvements. Data integration platform Iventis integrated the OS Vector Tile API directly into its platform. The company made use of 3D mapping and extruded building heights to seamlessly integrate its own 3D model into the map to create this rich detailed view of Great Britain.
New start-up SearchLand was able to get up and running as a map-based property and planning data tool for developers, planners, architects and investors. It used the OS Maps API as a basemap for its product, helping its customers make property and land decisions based on relevant geospatial information.
In the public sector, the Boundary Commission for England worked with OS and the OS Maps API for its public review of new boundaries, helping to provide detailed and accurate maps to give their customers confidence in the boundary extents.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, call handlers at London Ambulance Service received unprecedented volumes of 999 calls from outside its area, but did not have systems in place to verify and check addresses from these locations. The OS Data Hub was able to offer the GB wide OS Places API which require no huge storage of files to work immediately, so call handlers could search and verify unfamiliar or incomplete addresses much more quickly – a critical time saver in life or death situations.
And NHS Digital contacted OS for support in its delivery of Covid-19 home testing kits as part of the government’s national testing strategy. Using the OS Places API, NHS Digital has been able to efficiently capture the addresses of people requesting kits via the Gov.uk website.
Charley said: “We have had some really nice feedback, especially from the public sector. The OS Data Hub has extended our strong and trusted relationship with users across the public sector and helped to grow the use of OS data and the value it delivers.
"I also believe that the relationship with the public sector is strong because they can talk to a human and sort things out. Ordnance Survey’s customer service support is quite incredible. We have support at the end of the line and people really appreciate that.”
There is confidence the OS Data Hub will evolve and continue to meet customer demands in future.
“The next thing which we know will be really useful to lots of our customers will be the Downloads API for our premium data,” Charley said.
“We are launching that in October, so that will be for PSGA members and partner users on the premium plan. They can automate their downloads of our premium data, and we believe that is a big time saver and could support efficiency savings.
“People I have spoken to a lot are quite excited about this development. Customers have been requesting it for years.”
Charley added he hoped to see more users trying combinations of APIs together to supercharge the benefits of geospatial data in their applications in future.
More information about the OS Data Hub platform and its suite of APIs is available here.