Geo-location now firmly on developer app map

Ordnance Survey (OS) created its OS Data Hub a year ago in a move aimed to (hopefully) transform the way developers access and work with OS data.

The Computer Weekly team has followed this development and witnessed the progress as it has developed.

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.

What the OS Data Hub set out to achieve for users of OS data was a way of resolving previous customer issues around the access, usability and licensing of OS data. 

The organisation itself says that the hub has attracted a new influx of developers from a range of sectors and markets. 

It offers up APIs designed to save time and resources, allowing users to focus on using accurate geospatial data to underpin decisions.., many of which (by the nature of the way geo-location data is used) will support public services.

Data plans to order

The OS OpenData Plan offers access to OS OpenData via APIs and is completely free for anyone.

A wider OS Premium Plan goes further, offering premium (more detailed) data via APIs with up to £1,000 worth of free premium data, including OS MasterMap, plus free premium data for projects in ‘development mode’. 

The OS Data Hub was one of the first outputs from the Geospatial Commissions Public Sector Geospatial Agreement, which was launched in April 2020.

The idea behind this agreement has always been to deliver a positive impact to all areas of government as well as supporting businesses, developers and new and emerging markets and users.

Tutorials, coding examples and other online resources have been added to demystify OS data for new customers, so they could learn how to use it without searching for information elsewhere.  

Developers sign up to the OS Data Hub and create an API key, add an API, follow the documentation and find a code example, then copy and paste it. It can take as little as 10 minutes to get up and running.

A year of results 

OS says that 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. 
  • There have been over 8,000 new OS Data Hub users join the platform from across the public and private sector. 

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 requires 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.  

Geo is on-trend

Geo-location is certainly on-trend and – here at least – it appears to be being delivered in a way that is both cloud-native and API-centric, which should (anyone would surely argue) enable it to enjoy the widest possible chance of adoption, implementation and onward software application development and data-driven innovation to push it wider.

The age of mobile ubiquity has moved rapidly. It was only 15-years ago that (during Microsoft TechEd Europe in the early 2000s) that technologists would cram around an old school Nokia phone to see if it could actually produce some form of mobile-optimised web page. That time has now passed, we now expect mobile apps to work at speed and with the highest levels of sophistication, which will logically include geo-located services.

Geo-location is (if you will excuse the expression) firmly on the map.

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