back to article The Reg chats to Ordnance Survey's chief data wrangler

The UK’s mapping agency has brought in Vodafone’s director of business intelligence Caroline Bellamy to help define and drive its data offering. Bellamy, who is the Ordnance Survey’s first chief data officer, says her appointment on June 28 – which she also reckons might be a first for any national mapping agency – …

  1. HmmmYes Silver badge

    A load of buzzword bingo.

    'yes we’re thinking about moving into the cloud, Azure and Microsoft'

    Really? OS are a pretty big org, with lots of data. Are you *really* sure on that MS/Azure cloud thing?

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Top o' graphical

      At minimum if they are going to go cloudy, they should stay away from any non UK host.

      OS have set the standard for maps for literally centuries, by comparison nobody produces maps with such detail that are so clear to read.

      When I lived in the States for a while I was surprised at how poor their maps are, Spanish maps are still not accurate and neither are French maps.

      The Germans seem to make some decent maps though, perhaps cartography skills are in greater need for countries who like to put large numbers of troops in the right place.

      I expect India and most of the more recent former colonies have similar map quality.

      I still like to have a good map book in the car even when I have a laptop, tablet and a couple of phones with me and the missus. I can still read a map after it has had wine and food added to the picture, can't do that with a laptop.

      I learned my map reading in Junior School atabout the age of 8 in geography classes, do they still teach stuff like that?

      1. Tim99 Silver badge

        Re: Top o' graphical

        "At a minimum if they are going to go cloudy..." As their business is data, I'd go so far as to say ... "Use only your own in-house cloud."

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "A load of buzzword bingo."

      OS are having to deal with a public who don't seem to think paper maps are a necessity for safety when out walking. In areas like the lake district, you *can't* get enough map on a large tablet screen to be able to get proper bearings on distant landmarks, let alone get a big enough map on a mobile phone screen.

      Last time I was in the lake district (using a laminated paper map) I gave directions to three separate groups of walkers who didn't know where they were, and were relying on apps for navigation. The sky was clear, and there were no problems with visability.

      One group was heading in roughly the right direction, but didn't know which path would take them the easiest/safest way of the hill. The second group had dropped a couple of hundred meters in height from a pass before I corrected them and sent them back up to walk down to the correct village where they'd parked their car, but that was OK because it was only 2pm at the time and the weather was due to stay good. The third one of those groups had walked down into the wrong valley at dusk, and stopped outside Black Sail Youth Hostel to ask where they were. (It's a fantastic place to stay.) They got told in no uncertain terms to walk down the valley to the nearest village and get a taxi back to where they were staying.

      All that, because people can't be bothered to spend about £15 on a laminated paper map and learn how to use it.

      1. devcognito

        Disagree - GPS is the future

        I also walk in the lakes frequently and believe phone+gps+offlinemap+spare battery to be a much better solution than paper+compass.

        The paper map will not tell you where you are when visibility is poor - GPS will.

        I believe the mistake people make is failing to make their maps available offline (no data in the Lakes) and not taking a spare battery.

        1. David Harper 1

          Re: Disagree - GPS is the future

          If you need GPS to tell you where you are when visibility is poor, you should probably stick to parts of the country that don't have footpaths adjacent to sheer drops that can kill you. I hear that Norfolk is nice and flat.

          1. devcognito

            Re: Disagree - GPS is the future

            Just because some people are ill prepared when walking doesn't make GPS the problem. Almost every other aspect of travel now uses GPS - many far more dangerous/critical than walking in the Lakes. Can't see a downside myself - other than battery failure - but then GPS will not tend to blow away in the wind either.

          2. Tim99 Silver badge

            Re: Disagree - GPS is the future

            @David Harper 1

            If you need GPS to tell you where you are when visibility is poor, you should probably stick to parts of the country that don't have footpaths adjacent to sheer drops that can kill you. I hear that Norfolk is nice and flat.
            I knew this bit of Norfolk well. The weather can be foul, there are quicksands, dykes and dangerous tides, and there is a long section here with a nice drop that has killed and injured people.

            1. David Harper 1

              Re: Disagree - GPS is the future

              Probably best to stay at home then. Under the sofa, just be on the safe side. Earthquakes, you know.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Disagree - GPS is the future

              Geograph.org.uk Great site/sight, Thanks.

          3. phuzz Silver badge

            Re: Disagree - GPS is the future

            Surely somewhere flat, like Norfolk, is easier to get lost, because all it takes is one tall hedgerow and then you can't see half your surroundings?

            In somewhere with a lot of vertical range, like the Lake District, you're able to see landmarks (ie bloody great mountains) even if there's a tree between you and it.

            1. SVV Silver badge

              Re: Disagree - GPS is the future

              "In somewhere with a lot of vertical range, like the Lake District, you're able to see landmarks (ie bloody great mountains)"

              Until the clouds come down and you are stood in mist with 5 metre visibility. Which happens a lot in the Lake District. I don't see the point of an either/or approach if you want to use GPS (which I have no objection to, even if I'm too old school to want to use it), but at least take a paper map as well (we IT people should all know how essential backups are). And a compass - it's easy to learn how to use it.

              Plus, the GPS can't tell you what all the other mountains and features you're looking at actially are if you are lucky enough to walk on a fine clear day - only the paper map lets you do that easily.

              1. Phil Endecott Silver badge

                Re: Disagree - GPS is the future

                > Plus, the GPS can't tell you what all the other mountains and

                > features you're looking at actially are if you are lucky enough

                > to walk on a fine clear day - only the paper map lets you do

                > that easily.

                Not if they are off your map they can't. "Is that the Isle of Man over there?". A map on your phone can be zoomed out to,identify things in thr distance. Or there are things like https://www.peakfinder.org/

        2. Grunt #1

          Re: Disagree - GPS is the future

          I was taught how to establish my position on a map by looking at the ground and any landmarks. You should learn it sometime, it might save your life one day.

          There's nothing wrong with GPS it's fun and I love the technology. When on the hills always think of Murphy's law, e.g. what if your spare battery is a dud? Granted you could carry a wind up charger, but it all adds weight and where's the fun in that?

          1. IDoNotThinkSo
            Megaphone

            Re: Disagree - GPS is the future

            Indeed. I ALWAYS have a paper map and compass in the bag, even if I'm using a phone (with spare battery) for convenience.

            Though I don't normally have to count steps on a compass bearing in a whiteout any more, or do a box search for a summit cairn (Scottish winter can be 'interesting'), I do at least know how to do it.

            Also, if you are following a bearing in poor visibility, you do actually need a proper compass. Electronic ones are rubbish and I've never seen a sighting compass on a phone.

            Anyway, business speak or not, OS maps have always been a promise of adventure to me. Even the ones in SE England.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Disagree - GPS is the future

          "The paper map will not tell you where you are when visibility is poor - GPS will."

          If you've been using your map properly, you *won't* be lost in poor visibility in the first place, because you'll already have used a combination of path direction, the local slope, and the walls/fences/streams/rivers the path crosses to work out where you are on the map.

          GPS will tell you where you are in poor visibility, but you can't get enough map area on a mobile phone screen to see where you are, where you want to go, and how to get to the path between the two.

          If you're going to rely heavily on a GPS rather than learning to navigate, then you'd better spend an hour plotting waypoints on your GPS for every wiggle in the path before you go, and be prepared to spend your entire walk staring at your screen rather than enjoying the walk.

      2. hmv Bronze badge

        I've not done enough hill walking recently enough to start offering advice. But I suspect the problem is not non-paper maps and GPS, but not knowing how to navigate properly. Any idiot can fire up a map application on their phone to find out where they are, but that's the easy part.

        If I were heading back to the Lakes, I'd want a refresher course in proper navigation. Even soft southern hills like the South Downs can get "entertaining" in cold clammy fog with 20m visibility.

      3. Grunt #1

        OS Maps work on paper, always.

        I do hope Black Sail YHA is still the same as during my stays there as a teen.

        Water straight from the hill using water tanks filled with sand and reeds to filter it, I came to no harm. Absolutely brilliant place to stop off, so good I'm going to return soon.

  2. Simon Ward

    "Geovation"

    Geovation?! Do me a frickin' favour ...

    1. lexonic

      Re: "Geovation"

      Yeah - but have you tried googling to find someone's "innovation lab" ? Geovation takes you straight to our door ;)

      (And if you're trying to get a location-data or proptech startup off the ground we're a great place to start)

  3. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
    Stop

    Kevin

    Earlier this month the OS held a week-long sprint with Northumbrian Water to figure out how the agency could start creating an authoritative map of pipes and cables, how deep – and how critical – they are.

    That would be a best seller for anyone wanting to cripple the infrastructure.

    They could save money buy hiring my mate Kevin and his digger. Anytime he digs a hole he finds pipes or wires resulting in frantic repair jobs :(

  4. Andy Livingstone

    20,000 updates a day.

    Bought two copies of an Ordnance Survey map last year, one standard version, the other waterproof.

    According to notes in the Customer Information Section printed in both maps it had not been revised for 10 years, but was copyright dated the previous year.

    Not a happy bunny. Not rushing to buy again.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 20,000 updates a day.

      "According to notes in the Customer Information Section printed in both maps it had not been revised for 10 years, "

      Apart from the forestry commission chopping down areas of woodland that are marked on the map, I wouldn't expect any problems navigating with those maps. And even then, the old woodlands will still be full of debris making it obvious what happened.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: 20,000 updates a day.

      "According to notes in the Customer Information Section printed in both maps it had not been revised for 10 years, but was copyright dated the previous year."

      You don't generally buy OS maps for road navigation, and not that much else changes in a 10 year span. I'd be surprised if it caused any issue for you unless you specific requirements that you've not mentioned.

  5. Cuddles Silver badge

    Data?

    "demonstrates the OS’s commitment to data"

    I can't help wondering what that word is actually supposed to mean here. OS is a mapping service; it has been doing nothing but collect and distribute data for over 200 years. What on Earth does a "commitment to data" mean, and how exactly do they plan on demonstrating it any more clearly than doing nothing but handle data for longer than many countries have existed? Buzzword bingo is annoying enough when they make up their own nonsensical terms, but it would be nice if they could avoid taking words that already have meaning.

  6. andy 28

    Hmm, Vodafone aren't renown for doing anything well. And to 99% (my guess) of the general public, google does good enough maps.

    If it wasn't for the utilities and corporates that OS has over a barrel for authorative maps of Blighty there wouldn't be much left of it. VHS vs Betamax and all that, the best isn't what people want.

    1. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

      @andy28

      the best isn't what people want will pay for.

      FTFY

  7. handleoclast

    Glad to know

    I'm very glad to know that OS introduces over 20,000 changes a day.

    Unlike google maps, which does not show the cul-de-sac where I live. Despite me having lived here for the past 8 years (it was new build when I moved in). Despite me submitting an amendment to google maps three months ago.

    Openstreetmap does show my cul-de-sac. But only because I added it myself a month or so ago.

    Which makes OS better than either of those two, because it added my cul-de-sac years ago, when it got notified of planning permission. OS is that good. Yay!

    Oh. I just looked at the online OS map. Yep, the outline of the buildings is there, but not the dead-end street itself. It's not even an unnamed street. Same as google maps then. Anybody using either of those to find me is going to have a hard time, because my street doesn't exist.

    Actually, google maps is slightly better than OS because you can request satellite view of the entire area. OS maps you have to "drop a pin" before it will condescend to show you an aerial view of a tiny area surrounding the "pin." So you can't even use an aerial view to locate what you're looking for (should you happen to be able to recognize it from above) on OS.

    So, actually, OS is pretty shit.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Glad to know

      I don't have the same problems as you regarding the satellite/aerial imagery, just hit the layers button in the bottom right of osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk

      Another useful way to access the OS MasterMap rasters (and lots of other defra-owned data layers) is through the www.magic.gov.uk site.

  8. Ron Swanson

    If you are out in the wilderness, I'd suggest downloading the free OS "Locate" mobile app. It does not need a phone signal and will give you a 6 figure grid ref that you can use with a paper map in low visibility to find where you are. It also means you have a grid ref to give mountain rescue if you call them needing help.

  9. JamesPond

    Map Cost

    I've got quite a few paper OS maps built up over 20 years of travelling / walking in the UK. Having a bit of a risk averse / OCD nature, I take relevant ones on holiday even when I'm not planning on hiking, I love the detail in the maps and they look and work great.

    But I've now also got a Garmin GPS for walking and cycling that makes route planning and travel in normal conditions a lot simpler. However £350 for the UK O/S maps is a bit over the top when there are nearly as good free options available. Therefore I don't see the O/S data model for the average user lasting; perhaps for the diehards, but not the majority.

  10. MT Field
    Happy

    Map war lolz

  11. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Now let's see if all the people who can dig up a piece of road can talk to each other.

    I think the UKG tried this about 20 years ago.

    Who knows, maybe it will work this time.

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