Great Britain’s Ordnance Survey Launches OS OpenSpace - Mashups Made Easy

By Joe Francica

The Ordnance Survey of Great Britain launched a service in January called OS OpenSpace Web Map Builder that allows organizations to easily create mashups without involving a software developer. The service is primarily for non-commercial organizations, clubs and charities but private entities can take advantage of it, as well. Editor in Chief Joe Francica asked Peter ter Haar, Ordnance Survey's director of products, about the new offering, its features and the licensing.

Directions Magazine (DM): Does the OpenSpace Web map builder provide the full OS database to users looking to add features and build their mashups?

Peter ter Haar (PtH): Ordnance Survey maintains a wide range of different datasets; however, not all of these are available to OS OpenSpace developers or for Web map builder users. The OS OpenSpace data library is made up of the eight products listed below, from an outline of Great Britain down to detailed street level mapping. The exception is that boundary data are not currently available for the Web map builder.

  • Streetview (1:10 000 scale)
  • 1:50 000 scale color raster
  • 1:250 000 scale color raster
  • MiniScale (1:1M scale color raster)
  • GB overview maps
  • 1:50 000 gazetteer i.e. returns map location of a place name
  • Postcode lookups using Code Point i.e. returns map location of a postcode
  • Boundary lookups derived from Boundary-Line i.e. returns boundary attribute information such as the name or the spatial boundary data
In the future the OS OpenSpace data library could also include additional datasets, but that isn't confirmed at the moment.

DM: Is the OS looking to take these community-sourced data to augment the baseline OS database?

PtH: No. User data, such as route or marker locations, aren't contributed back to augment our source data. As part of the Web map builder tool, we provide an option for the user to save their Web map builder project code into the OS OpenSpace database, but this is simply to allow users to retrieve their project.

DM: What are the licensing restrictions for users developing the mashups? Are they only for non-profit organizations and community groups? Will commercial organizations operate under a different licensing agreement?

PtH: We are keen to ensure OS OpenSpace is as widely used as possible. As such, charities, non-profit making organizations, volunteer led groups, other social and community groups, as well as entrepreneurs and commercial organizations may all use the service under the current terms. We have already seen a huge range of applications built for business, leisure, government and community use.

There are, however, some restrictions. For example, OS OpenSpace cannot be used within the ordinary day-to-day activities involved with the internal administration of a business, and applications must be publicly accessible and not restricted or protected by password, username, membership or firewalls.

But, if a developer or commercial organization does want to commercially exploit their OS OpenSpace application, for example if they want to charge end users access to it, or they require unlimited access to the data library, a paid-for OS OpenSpace Pro license is available. The personal location service "Locatorz" is one such example.

DM: Please share with us details on any additional capabilities that may be added to OpenSpace in the future.

PtH: The demand for OS OpenSpace is growing consistently for commercial and non-commercial applications and we want to ensure that in the future upgrades to the API or infrastructure improvements don't affect the operation of OS OpenSpace applications.

Currently when the service needs to be updated, delivery of data is temporarily interrupted. We also want to be able to support very large media or national events which drive substantial traffic to their Web sites. This is all going to be possible this year when OS OpenSpace is hosted within an external third-party Web service.

This environment provides virtual management of a set of servers, referred to as a cloud, and can be adapted quickly. This means that our ability to scale up or down data delivery can be done within seconds to meet demands, and we will also be able to make more frequent seamless improvements to the OS OpenSpace service.

We also want to make sure that the data OS OpenSpace provide are even more up-to-date and definitive - that's important to our users. For example we now refresh postcode lookups every three months and our 1:50 000 scale mapping is refreshed annually.

The API is based on the famous OpenLayers javascript library, an ever evolving OSGeo project that provides the Javascript components for building Web based geographic applications. OS OpenSpace API will continue to support newer versions of OpenLayers as they are released and Ordnance Survey as a whole is sponsoring OSGeo.

Published Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Written by Joe Francica

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