Open Source Computing and GIS in the UK

Travels in a digital world

Ordnance Survey Needs It's Eyes Testing

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The Ordnance Survey’s shortsighted license agreement has put paid to the fantastic 3D Virtual model of London that the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at UCL has spent six years researching and creating. The full story of the negotiations can be found in this Guardian Article, but briefly speaking the Ordnance Survey’s refusal to change the terms of their license has meant that the data cannot be made freely available on the web, although it can be used by the London Boroughs.

The sticking point is that Google want to negotiate a fixed fee for the use of the data, rather than a pay-per-transaction policy, which is how services like Streetmap and Multimap license the data. The Ordnance Survey say that this would “wreck the level playing field for other partners”.

This seems wrong on a number of levels. Firstly, they are allowing the data to be used only by the people (ie the London Boroughs) that can afford to pay commercial rates, and disallowing the people (ie the rest of us) who can’t afford it. Secondly, by refusing to be flexible and working with organisations like Google, who are, let’s face it, pretty big in the world of mapping at the moment, they are missing the chance to become involved in this upsurge of interest in mapping and neogeography. They are missing the boat and, much as I hate to agree with this comment, in grave danger of becoming irrelevant (but not for the reasons that he suggests, IMHO).

Can you imagine how great it would be if you could have Ordnance Survey mapping in your google application?

The worst thing is, this opens the door for Microsoft, who are busy creating their own 3D models of cities using their own data. So the Ordnance Survey freeze out local innovation and research and let the biggest behemoth of them all claim the prize. How’s that for your “level playing field” then?