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One map to rule them all: UK's Ordnance Survey rolls out its Data Hub and the juicy API goodness that lies therein

It's free too – until you've burned through £1,000 worth of data, that is

UK map boffins at the Ordnance Survey (OS) have opened up its shiny new Data Hub, replete with APIs and access to MasterMap data.

The move comes a fortnight after the UK Cabinet Office's Geospatial Commission unveiled a strategy to provide the country with a "coherent national location data framework" by 2025.

Unlocking the secrets held within the OS would be good start, and to that end users are being given access to the MasterMap, a highly detailed location dataset, free of charge. Sort of.

The new and enhanced APIs being unveiled come with £1,000 of free access per month to data such as the OS's 1:25,000 leisure mapping and road network data and unlimited access to OS OpenData products. Burn through that £1,000, however, the OS will expect to be paid for its premium wares.

Those looking warily at the organisation's occasionally borked apps will be relieved to know that the Data Hub is "completely separate".

The APIs include tooling to pull both vector and raster data from the OS's system and direct access to the MasterMap to get down to layers such as the building level. "We're including the building height attributes in the vector tile service buildings layer, which will enable developers to create essentially 3D models of cities all across Great Britain," explained OS developer advocate John Hoopes.

The data is served up in either GML or GeoJSON format, which should make life easier for developers keen to build the OS's smarts into their own apps.

The team is also opening up a Downloads API to pull data products locally as well as a Names API lookup service for place names, postcodes, roads and so on. A Linked Identifiers API will also assist in linking properties, streets and MasterMap features.

Royalties for offline usage are also being cut by 80 per cent and the gang is also rolling out the AddressBase Core product, a flat-file data set of 33 million addresses across Great Britain.

The National Geospatial Database itself has more than 500 million geographic features and is kept fresh by 20,000 updates a day from data collected by over 200 surveyors, two aircraft and a drone team. The MasterMaps highways network on the Data Hub is updated every month, the topography layer every six weeks and the water network every quarter. Site and greenspaces are updated every six months while the path network gets an update annually.

The system itself runs on a selection of open-source libraries, bespoke code and PaaS technologies. The OS told us that most of the stack is hosted on Azure and "API management comes from Google".

Sadly for those hoping for a play with the organisation's recent Moon map, the coverage only extends as far as Great Britain. ®

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