OS finally opens the door to map data

The geo-tagged social media landscape is about to get a lot richer, at least in the UK, thanks to a historic move by Ordnance Survey. This week, OS announced the release of free map data (to scales as detailed as 1:10,000), including a system for converting post codes to grid references, all of which will be available for download by commercial and personal users.

OS maps have long been admired for their quality; but they’ve struggled to gain much traction on the web due to expensive licensing and restrictive terms of use. For example, a particularly contentious clause relating to ‘derived data’ asserted that OS would claim ownership of any content created using their underlying data. Under the new licensing system, OS simply requires that users attribute the origin of map data.

Although there is still confusion over the scope and meaning of the licensing revisions, the broad thrust of change is promising. By opening its doors, at least a crack, OS may be laying the foundations for some breakthroughs in social media.

As more users migrate to GPS-equipped mobile devices, a growing share of the social media data flow will be auto stamped with valuable location metadata. Which means that it will be possible to map, filter and navigate videos, photos, even blog posts and tweets with increasing geographical accuracy. In short – the combination of geo-tagged social media and open OS data looks like fertile ground for some exciting innovations around digital mapping and crowd sourcing. The quality and accuracy of OS map data will be especially valuable as a visual platform for other data sets, from traffic patterns and environmental issues to urban development and demographic change.

One Response to “OS finally opens the door to map data”

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