Ordnance Survey announces open data innovation project

Ordnance Survey marked International Open Data Day by announcing plans to launch an open data digital map

The Ordnance Survey (OS) marked International Open Data Day (21 February 2015) by announcing plans to launch an open data digital map.

The digital map, called OS OpenMap, will be released in March 2015, allowing developers to incorporate OS map data into applications and make it easier to create visual interpretations of analysed data.

Changes to the OS’s developer licenses are also being made to provide developers with easier ways to incorporate important map data.

Secretary of state for business, innovation and skills Vince Cable described the OS's maps as "world-leading".

“Making this data more accessible means more small and medium companies will be able to use Ordnance Survey’s world-leading maps, combining geographical data from multiple sources and visualising them at a high level of detail,” he said.

The map will target public sector and commercial users to provide more detailed information about buildings and road names, as well as other notable sites, such as schools or hospitals.

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The organisation also announced plans to open an engagement hub in London to allow the OS to have meetings with developers hoping to create products and provide advice.

The department for business, innovation and skills business minister Matthew Hancock said the plans will support innovation in the UK.

“Ordnance Survey data is already being used by a range of businesses and these developments will enable its open data, as well as its commercial activity, to continue to support growth and innovation in this country,” he said.

The hub will use the OS’s skills it has developed from running its startup GeoVation programme, which has invested £650,000 in 28 businesses.

Although overall the proposition for use of open data is positive, it is not without its risks. At the end of 2014, the Open Data Institute released a roadmap for a more open UK and urged the government to create the position of chief data officer to oversee the release of this data.

Francis Maude also spoke at the Institute for Government in 2014 about the release of flood data to prevent further damage to communities, advocating open data as something that has been a long time coming.

"Now consumers instinctively check customer reviews before booking a hotel or price comparison websites before buying insurance," he said. 

"People should expect from public services the same level of visibility and the ability to make choices, because actually the public are paying for them whether they like it or not, and we need to have a transformative approach here.”

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