Ordnance Survey Data Hub marks first anniversary with developer highlights

by Jeremy


One year on from its launch, the Ordnance Survey Data Hub has reported a 50% increase in like-for-like OS Open Data downloads.

The hub was one of the first things to emerge from the Geospatial Commission’s Public Sector Geospatial Agreement (PSGA), which was launched in April 2020.

Ordnance Survey said the online resource proved its mettle during the Covid-19 pandemic, when call handlers at the 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 those locations.

The OS Data Hub was able to offer the UK-wide OS Places application programming interface (API) which, it said, requires modest storage of files to work immediately. Call handlers were then able to search and verify unfamiliar or incomplete addresses more quickly.

The organisation also said NHS Digital had contacted it to support delivery of Covid-19 home testing kits. Using the OS Places API, NHS Digital has been able to capture the addresses of people requesting kits via the Gov.uk website.

Charley Glynn, OS API product manager, said: “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.” 

Ordnance Survey said 8,326 users across the public and private sectors are now signed up to the OS Data Hub – an increase of more than 600% from a year ago.

The National Library of Scotland is one user that has used the OS Maps API, which displays the latest real-time updates from OS, requiring a few lines of JavaScript. This has obviated the organisation’s previous need for substantial technical knowledge, time, computing and storage to periodically update its digital mapping archives for the public.

OS also drew attention to startup SearchLand, which 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 base map for its product, helping its customers to make property and land decisions based on relevant geospatial information.

The organisation added that 71% of existing customers have migrated from hard media (CDs) to OS Data Hub downloads, and more than 8,000 new OS Data Hub users have joined the platform from across the public and private sectors. 

Glynn added: “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. 

“The next thing that we know will be really useful to lots of our customers will be the Downloads API for our premium data. 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.” 



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