back to article First look: Ordnance Survey lifts kimono on next-gen map app

The UK's Ordnance Survey is making a bold stab at "disrupting" smartphone and tablet mapping apps with a freemium app that yokes the OS's peerless geographical data to modern app features. We had a sneak preview at OS HQ recently, and can bring you the first screenshots. While the Ordnance Survey already has an iPhone map, it …

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So have they written the whole thing themselves or are they using ESRI technology?

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tfb

What happens to users of the current apps?

I have a significant investment in maps for the current app (not hundreds but tens of pounds) which, in its most recent iOS version at least, is actually some good and for many purposes better than paper maps. I'd like not to lose that investment if the existing app goes away or rots or be forced into a subscription model to keep access to maps I've paid for already.

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Re: What happens to users of the current apps?

You're complaining in the wrong place. Write to the Ordnance Survey.

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Re: What happens to users of the current apps?

"I'd like not to lose that investment if the existing app goes away or rots or be forced into a subscription model to keep access to maps I've paid for already."

Sadly, I've gone through the same heartache more than once.

My map software of choice was FUGAWI, which came with the OS 1:50,000 maps (apart from some of Scotland which was a lower scale, IIRC). Four CDs covering 1/4 of the UK each. I'm not sure what the cost was, but I suspect around £50 or £60 for each one. The main package installed on the PC, and you could connect certain mobile devices to it to install the relevant software (and map selections). At the time I was using Windows Mobile 5 devices (eg a Mitac Mio A701).

However, somewhere down the line I switched to Android... and AFAIK FUGAWI have never updated that software to work on anything more modern.

I still use the desktop software - at least in theory; I haven't installed it on my current computer (now a year old) because I'm not sure where the CDs are ATM. And even if I happen across them, I already know there's one missing - because it's been missing a while: The one for the North of England, including the Lake District :(

So I went for Mapyx. The software is free, and you only need to buy 'tiles' as you need them - so I could avoid buying the whole lot again, and just buy bits as I need them. And gradually bought quite a few tiles. However, I was never all that keen on the desktop software, and I sometimes had trouble getting it to talk reliably to the phone. Despite that, I dragged it across from one machine to the next.

I didn't bother on this computer, though, because by then I'd discovered the OS had their own Android app - and tiles could be bought from within the app on the device, so I've started using that.

So I've invested in digital OS maps three times - the first involving the biggest expense, then progressively less. (I reckon I've probably spent around a tenner with the OS app).

(The OS app isn't ideal on its own: I like (and it's sensible) to have a paper map as well. I used to print out the relevant areas from FUGAWI; luckily, though, I don't throw them out, so I still have a lot of old ones I've printed, though they are becoming increasingly tatty.)

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Re: What happens to users of the current apps?

I bought memory map software and maps back on XP. There is a freeware map reader and the maps work just fine now. Some I have updated some I haven't. No issues at all running in W7 or android.

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Re: What happens to users of the current apps?

They have always done this. They regularly "update" maps and force everyone to buy them again. They are a pain.

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Re: What happens to users of the current apps?

Of course, but if you updated your MemoryMap software "officially" - it invalidated old maps unless you knew how to fix them! Not that MemoryMap WANTED to do that but were forced to by OS.

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tfb

Re: What happens to users of the current apps?

I have done so as well!

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Meh

To be a little bit fair to Google maps, looking at Google's street view, the road into OS HQ does have barriers so is clearly private property. If you ask for directions to OS HQ Google Maps does show the correct route, with driving instructions terminating at the correct part of the roundabout and a dotted line into to OS HQ, so its suggesting you use your initiative from the roundabout!.

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The idea that maps don't cover private property is something that we've learned to accept as a limitation of the Google maps dataset. If you look at paper OS maps, they quite happily show private road layouts.

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(Written by Reg staff)

I can also heartily commend to the house the DEFRA Magic Maps site, complete with its overlays of just about every dataset they have: MAGIC Maps.

Forget missing roads - I've just found out half the houses on my street are statutorily listed!

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To be a little bit fair to Google maps, looking at Google's street view, the road into OS HQ does have barriers so is clearly private property.

OS maps include vast amounts of information that is on private property. Being fair would be to point out how shit a map that is generated by driving a car around public roads can be.

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That's because they're maps, not just charts like the google stuff.

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Google map maker

It's a bit disappointing that after three years the road access to Explorer House hasn't been added. However, I'm sure one of the OS staff could log in to Google Map Maker to add their entrance road and car park.

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Although they are happy to show huge blank areas that are secret.

Like the undetectable top secret cylindrical tower in the center of London

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Can't wait

I have always preferred the OS maps because they exist to be maps rather than as a start point for all manner of add-on extras. So long as the online version holds to that then I see the OS getting a lot of trade from people who currently end up with three or four apps to cover driving/walking/etc. Even at a small charge this could get a good uptake.

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Batteries not included

Looks good, but until battery life on mobiles last more than a day (at best) I'll stick with my laminated paper versions from the OS when going around The Peak District.

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Re: Batteries not included

For me, the paper goes in the pack to be consulted only when the battery and the backup pack have died. This has yet to happen.

Not that I don't like paper per se but it can be windy, wet and blowy up top and a phone can easily be held in a bag if required, doesn't move about in the wind and allows zooming.

Crucially, it also tells you where you are and, if so enabled, where you have been.

Really, there is no contest.

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Pirate

Re: Batteries not included

My tuppenth worth.

As a climber and mountaineer, I am quite amazed that you would see the paper-based map as a secondary or backup system. Don't get me wrong, I've had a love affair with maps and sea charts all my life and really like many of the advantages that GPS/Phones can provide. Companies like MemoryMap digitised OS maps back in the early noughties which where truly excellent, but sometimes were buggy or simply crashed/conflicted with other apps. Paper-based maps don't require batteries or crash.

Obviously, this is very dependent upon where you are - walking around Windermere or a simple trek in the countryside, then all good, but anyone that regularly spends time doing this sort of thing, would be used to using a mapcase. You simply fold the map so that your proposed route is presented through the waterproof cover. Additionally, the laminated OS maps are simply excellent and well worth the investment.

Being reliant on GPS or a phone is not a good thing. Your GPS/Phone should be seen as your backup. I carry a dedicated GPS with OS 1:50000 maps of UK and have SD cards with various European maps as well. In addition, I have quite a few mapping applications on my phone.

Only saying :)

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Re: Batteries not included

@Rovindi That's exactly how I use it. Paper first, battery reliant things second as a backup. Being up a mountain in the really cold weather we've been having can kill the battery life of such devices and that's why they shouldn't be relied upon. MemoryMap was a very useful tool for planning and 'seeing' what a route would look like in 3D.

The other good thing about paper is that you have a nice big square to see your route and don't have to worry about zooming out or panning around.

£20 for a laminated map that is still going to be in good condition and relevant over the next 15 years is worth the investment verses potentially £10-20 per annum for the app.

With GPS; my mates and I say "we're never lost, we're just not where we thought we were"

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"simply fold the map..."

That's easy when your route is entirely on one side of one sheet.

OS in their wisdom sell the 1:25000 series maps in an ingenious 2 sided format which often means a hilarious fight with a square metre of paper in a soaking gale to get it to fold 'the other way', followed by 5 minutes of swearing as you try to stuff the now-wet paper into your soggy map case.

They could fix this by charging half the price for one side of the map. Then you could buy both sides and have them already pre-folded to the right place.*

It's for this reason that the map sits in the bag now, ready to be fought with if the phone disappears down the hill.

(*yes, I know - I could buy two two-sided maps at twice the price)

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Re: Batteries not included

Simply put, what we need is full Ordnance Survey detail on a screen that can extend to 72x 72 cm and can be scrunched to barely a fist-full - it has to be totally shock proof, shatter proof, rain proof, tear proof and could probably survive most tsunamis. Does that ask too much?... Oh it doesn't! has anyone tried a SplashMap? They now make fabric maps of anywhere in the world in a handy size the wraps around the neck. If you want Ordnance Survey 1:25k detail they'll do that for you too. In fact you can design it yourself using their on-line tools.

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Facepalm

Re: Batteries not included

"As a climber and mountaineer, I am quite amazed that you would see the paper-based map as a secondary or backup system."

And I am quite amazed anyone would think of an excavator as a "backup" for a shovel, just because it needs gas to function. To each his own, I suppose - I find no virtue in working much harder for the same result.

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Re: Batteries not included

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escape_and_evasion_map

I have some of these. Since they are 70 odd years old and somewhat historic, I don't use them in anger. So it's nice to see the principles of into practice once again. Tally ho!

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Re: Batteries not included

As a lifelong cartophile, I'll quote what was said on "I'm sorry I haven't a clue" and say that paper maps give me solid directions, unlike GPS which seems limp....

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Re: Batteries not included

As you said "the really cold weather we've been having can kill the battery life of such devices" so therefore if you use your paper map as your primary source and it blows away, you reach into your pack only to find the cold weather has killed your battery, therefore no backup!

That's why it's more sensible to use your phone as your primary navigation tool. If the battery goes flat, you still have your nice, dry, map and compass in your backpack as a backup.

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Spotted what's missing?

Contour lines, contour lines & contour lines - or is Southampton absolutely flat?

GoogleMaps are good - as long as you only want a 2D rendition. We live in a 3D world. Perhaps not if you spend your life in a turbocharged 4x4 or Google Bus. But self powered people (on foot or wheels) need the feel of the land to navigate. 3D is why I plan using OS Landrangers, 3D is what I need to find my way in real countryside. 2D/GPS doesn't respect cliffs. I do.

3D is a real niche OS have the perfect heritage. Don't go all googly please. Bu**er the fonts - make sure I can tell the difference between a church with a steeple and a church with a tower - please!

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Coat

Re: Spotted what's missing?

That bit largely is but by the looks of the bit around Brokenhurst it seems that is a feature. I am curious as how much is available offline as you can get fair battery life for a day's walk in airplane mode for most devices.

Mine is the one with a soon to be neglected map pocket

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Re: Spotted what's missing?

OpenStreetMap has contour lines... Same view as in the article is approximately

http://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=17/50.93745/-1.47039&layers=C

That's on the "Cycle Map" view, which highlights cycle routes, contour lines and footpaths. You can change to the "standard" view if you prefer roads.

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Re: Spotted what's missing?

@Stuart 22 - Have another look, the 'North Weirs Walk' map in the article does have contour lines. Guessing that as the other images don't have contouring, it would seem to be a selectable option.

Agree with your point about how useful 3D is and the ability to clearly understand significant landmarks (like Church steeples). Google Maps is only really good at roads navigable by car, it is terrible at footpaths and other routes off from public roads.

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Re: Spotted what's missing?

Southhampton is pretty flat- but the contour lines are there, just very faint in that screenshot... look around the motorway intersection at the bottom left.

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Re: Spotted what's missing?

I think that very zoomed in bit of Southampton IS just very flat or is so zoomed in the software has removed the contour lines. The image above clearly shows them as present and (presumably) correct.

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Re: Spotted what's missing?

The second screenshot in the article clearly shows contour lines. It would appear that they can be toggled.

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Re: Spotted what's missing?

I'm hoping that they have all these things as layers that you can drop on as you will. Boom! No more churches or tumuli to distract me!

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WTF?

Re: Spotted what's missing?

Except as far as I can see that walk is in some sort of fantasy universe version of Brockenhurst. I go there regularly and the A377 isn't that shape, there's no Argyll Road, Duryard or Pennsylvania in the area AFAIR, the town is mainly to the west of the A337 rather than the east and it's not built on steep hills as the contours would suggest. Also the idea that any walk in the immediate vicinity of Brockenhurst is challenging and would take 4.3 hours to walk 5.6 miles is ridiculous. The worst thing you meet is mud and some flooding after heavy spells of rain.

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Re: Spotted what's missing?

That screenshot of North Weirs Walk, Brockenhurst, New Forest seems to show a section of Exeter, Devon. Slightly alarming for a mapping app.

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The HERE map shows the extra road bits on the roundabout and the name of the road at the left (Adanac drive). It doesn't show the building (not even a block outline like many city buildings have let alone the fancy 3D ones like Buckingham gets).

HERE also doesn't actually put the OS building as a location per se but shows that location in a search - like a regular address.

HERE doesn't include the ponds that appear on the Google (and OS) ones. Viewing the satellite image one can see why for the smaller one, it is basically not there much I imagine.

Still, if you are driving, having the road you should use can be a big help.

I mourn the loss (murder) of the WinPhone OS maps app I had ages ago. One could get the paper map at all resolutions downloaded by the app as required (data needed but buffered locally up to a point).

The annoying thing was that the app was deleted (copyright issues) but no replacement was available, even for money. This is just plain nasty.

I imagine there is a reasonable chance this app will have WinPhone targeted but I have had to make do with OSM and others, very annoying.

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mi.taylor@elsevier.com

If that was the map app that included the historic 1920s layer, than it is sorely missed. Yes, used for hiking. Also for sniffing out archaeological relics - I found so many things using that layer! Also quite enjoyed watching my planes at Heathrow taxiing through a farm, an orchard and a duck pond

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One of my favourite sites ,,,

... is the DEFRA magic site, if only it wasn't so crap at navigating. Basically they overlay land management categories and classifications over the OS. So you can see all the archeological sites in an area, kiln pits, ridge and farrow field systems, abandoned villages, etc. Each with links to their relevant English Heritage citations. Additionally, they overlay SSSI, and LNR sites with links to English Nature citations and impact assessments for the sites.

Now an app that was easy to navigate for that sort of information would be brilliant.

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Re: One of my favourite sites ,,,

Thanks for that. A quick check shows the local henge and buildings I never knew were listed. I'm a bit puzzled over a couple of listed building markers in the middle of roads, however.

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Meh

Openstreetmap and Osmand

A fair amount of the Ordnance Survey's mapping output is made available at no extra cost to we mere mortals, and ends up on the openstreetmap database. Several Android apps are already available which repackage this (at the expense of a GB or two of phone/tablet storage), including contour/relief maps. I use Osmand, which isn't perfect (its routing can be interesting, and it uses its own text-to-speech, which is (a) rubbish, and (b) American), but if the OS want to charge £18 per year, they'll need to provide the proverbial moon on a stick.

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Re: Openstreetmap and Osmand

I find Maverick (Pro) a very good [Android] application for consuming the OS Explorer maps. For a few quid, you really can't go wrong (although there's so much in the free version that I only coughed up to support the developer, rather than get any more features).

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Re: Openstreetmap and Osmand

I have to agree about Maverick. I have used it for years, and there is still a version available for my knackered and old HTC desire/bravo.

I use it daily for all sorts of stuff

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Re: Openstreetmap and Osmand

I've never had a problem with OSMAND+ voice stuff, it works well for me both here and in locations like Italy and Madeira.

Great application, excellent value for a few pence on Android. I don't think the OS people will beat it.

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Re: Openstreetmap and Osmand

Two words: MapFactor Navigator. Voice navigation based on OpenStreetMap data (that I can update myself if I want to), fully offline, for free, both on Android and Windows. 'Nuff said.

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Are they still using Silverlight on their webpage?

Because last time I tried it was rubbish on Linux machines.

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Meanwhile, there's www.streetmap.co.uk

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YAMA(Y)

Yet Another Map App (Yawn)

They built their business on taxpayers' money and have got a nerve charging as much as they do. I bet it nearly killed them to make this app even partially free. They are a stodgy lot and have woken up too late to every smartphone already having enough maps.

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Second the view that their data is better than most

I (like I suspect many here) have used the landranger series of maps extensively for hiking \ holiday planning type things ever since school and have always found that if you ever start to suspect the map is wrong, you yourself are not in fact where you thought you were.

From an IT perspective though what's interesting is that they've tried hard to stay up to date with data formats - all there data is available in various linked \ open formats (RDF) which is quite pleasing. http://data.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/ is the portal for that.

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