Ordnance Survey releases code for web 2.0 mash-ups

Web developers to get their hands on a new online platform enabling them to mash up geographic data.

In line with wider government objectives to ensure public sector information is more accessible, Ordnance Survey has launched a free, online platform that opens up source code for developers to experiment with.

The tool, dubbed OS OpenSpace, will be publicly launched early next year and the mapping agency's business partners will also be encouraged to support the innovation as well as the opportunity to deliver their own equivalent experimentation platform.

In the meantime, as part of the test phase, Ordnance Survey is using an application programming interface (API) to feed selected developers data that they can use to create non-commercial 'mash ups' using existing geographic map data covering Great Britain.

As part of the trials, developers can get their hands on up to 30,000 "tiles" or extracts of data daily, in addition to up to 1,000 place name look-ups. The JavaScript API uses "slippy map" technology, enabling users to take hold of and manipulate images in different directions.

The new platform will also be supported by a community website to aid discussion and review of the concept as well as fueling greater collaboration.

"Technology continues to expand the opportunities for benefiting from geographic information," said Vanessa Lawrence, Ordnance Survey's chief executive and director general. "Our OS OpenSpace project is all about promoting innovation and allowing non-commercial experimentation with our mapping data."

The move has been well received by others in the cartography industry. "This represents one of the most significant releases of a mapping data API," said Steve Coast, founder of OpenStreetMap and a consultant involved in the development of OS OpenSpace. "It will be interesting to see what web developers do with it."

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