Ordnance Survey Thoughts

Unlike LOST, the derived data saga continues

Not 300m from the site of one end of William Roy’s original baseline for the first Ordnance Survey of Great Britain, the modern Ordnance Survey yesterday held it’s annual business partner conference.

Well for me it was a strange experience, sitting in the audience at an Ordnance Survey partner event (although Google is not a partner) just a few months after it seems the world fell apart around the directors of the OS – talk about a LOST style flash sideways.

It became clear soon into Vanessa Lawrence’s presentation that the organisation is still recovering from these traumatic events, and that there is not a vision yet for the future of an OS that both produces commercial and free data sets.

OS Lost at Sea ?

There were 3 key aspects to the keynote;

  • The release of the free data was as many  suspected  forced upon the OS, and there is still some internal resistance to the whole idea at the top of the organisation.
  • The building of the new OS Head Office is going according to plan, although it always seems to rain when Vanessa is onsite !
  • The Queen will be opening the new building (Did I say the building was on time)

Key issues for the partner community in terms of complex pricing and licensing models remain, work on solving those has been delayed it appears as a result of all the “free data” nonsense, although a new more simple model is promised in the future.

The big issue of derived data also remains, although to his credit in the Q&A session, Peter ter Haar aimed to clarify things by reading out from his iPad a draft version of what OS view is derived data. This it is promised will also be released soon, but to paraphrase;

Derived data concerns the direct copying and manipulation of features which exist within an OS data product. If new data which does not appear within the OS data is captured with reference to OS data, then this data is inferred, not derived, so it’s OK !

Of course the free OS data has no “derived data” limitations..

I asked for the OS to communicate this on their website as some form of White paper, again we await this with interest.

Of interest clearly to OS partners in addition to pricing and licensing and the future role of OS Ltd, which was only briefly mentioned are products..

Here the OS seems to be making real progress the new VectorMap series is at last demonstrating the capability of the OS to produce products that are fit for purpose for electronic rather than paper mapping, John Carpenter delivered an excellent presentation on these new data products and the philosophy behind them, this truly was a breath of fresh air.

Clearly it has been a difficult year for the OS, the landscape has changed massively and continues to do so, Vanessa hinted that the new government spending cuts have already started to have a impact, perhaps as Thierry is suggesting a reduction in the subsidy promised to deliver free mapping?

More than ever the OS needs a new vision fit for such a radically changing environment, embracing the freemium model which has been imposed on them and establishing their role within a very different UK and global geospatial industry.

The new building deserves a new vision ?

Written and submitted from home (51.425N, 0.331W)

Data Policy Ordnance Survey

The OS free data licence

I have had a couple of questions about how the free OS data is licensed, here is the license which as you can see is basically a creative commons attribution license.

This confirms there are no derived data issues.

In fact this license makes OS Opendata more “open” than Openstreetmap.

Written and submitted from the Where 2.0 Conference (37.331N, 121.888W)


cartography Ordnance Survey

On the Map

I have really enjoyed listening to the BBC Radio 4 series “On the Map” a series on mapping presented by Mike Parker a self-confessed OS Map fan, and author of Map Addict a recommended read.

Now Mike is very much a OS paper maps man, so in today’s programme I attempt to defend digital mapping against the acquisition that digital mapping and satnavs are destroying map-making and map-reading.

And on such a momentous day in the history of the Ordnance Survey data.

Written and submitted from The Residence Inn, Palo Alto (37.392N, 122.095W)
Update & Rant : Having listened to the programme on my return to UK I’m afraid I continue to be dismayed at the attitude of the cartographic establishment to digital mapping.
Why don’t we see cartographers embracing the opportunities now possible with digital data and tools, rather than just making snide comments about “power cuts”, rejecting change and resting on their misplaced belief the Britain leads the world in cartography.