How Ordnance Survey Ireland is delivering new services, developing its data platforms and strengthening its underlying systems to make it easier for everyone to benefit from authoritative geospatial information.

Geospatial information is an incredibly powerful tool. It plays a critical role in enabling policy makers to understand local, national and global issues, develop effective policies and monitor the success of government initiatives. Citizens can use geospatial information to discover more about the areas where they live and work and access information about amenities that could help them improve their quality of life. Equally, geospatial information provides the insight businesses need to make the best decisions about how and where to deliver their products or services so that they can operate efficiently and improve their profitability.

Yet geospatial information can only deliver these benefits if it is in a format that is readily accessible and easy for people to use. People shouldn’t have to hunt in multiple places to try to find the information they need, acquire technical skills or invest in specialist software to be able to take advantage of geospatial information. Furthermore, in the public sector, it is no longer acceptable for multiple government departments and local authorities to have to collect and maintain the same geospatial information, duplicating effort and wasting resources. Finally, geospatial information must be authoritative, so that everyone who wants to use it – no matter what for – can trust it.

OSi is evolving to address these challenges. We are making geospatial information easy to use by delivering a range of value-added services; we are developing our data platforms to ensure that geospatial information is accessible in a variety of formats; and we are continually strengthening our underlying IT systems, processes and facilities to ensure that all our geospatial information remains reliable and authoritative.

Easy-to-use services

Over recent years, OSi has begun to focus on developing and delivering a range of web services that deliver added value by making geospatial information easier to use. For example, we have collaborated with the Department of Expenditure and Reform to develop an interactive web app called myProjectIreland that allows people to easily explore the projects and programmes being delivered as part of Project Ireland 2040 in their own areas. This web service brings together data from multiple government departments and agencies, in the same place, for the first time, giving everyone a single portal for information on all kinds of public investments, across Ireland. In another project, we have worked with the National Council for Special Educational Needs (NCSE) to create an interactive story map displaying information about services for children with special educational needs in Ireland. This little web map makes a big difference for parents, by making it very simple for them to find the information they need.

OSi also offers data hosting and publishing services to clients including the All-Island Research Observatory (AIRO), based at Maynooth University. Through a recent collaboration between AIRO and Dublin City Council, we now publish and host the new Dublin Housing Observatory Mapping Viewer that provides detailed information on Dublin’s housing market, including rental prices, property sales and valuations, planning and zoning and census-based socio-economic data. This web service meets demand for an authoritative source of information on housing in Dublin and will play a key role in informing policy decisions about planning and affordable homes for years to come. These projects – and others like them – demonstrate how OSi is transitioning into a services-led organisation and delivering services to make geospatial information easier to use.

Accessible data platforms

The majority of OSi’s innovative new web services are being delivered using GeoHive, a web-based data sharing platform that allows people to view and analyse data and create maps online, without the need for specialist software or skills. GeoHive is central to OSi’s strategy for making geospatial information more accessible, to many more people, so, consequently, we are investing significant time and resources into continuing to expand and enhance this platform. In the first quarter of 2020, OSi expects to unveil a key upgrade that will allow users to link OSi’s geospatial data with non-OSi data, build data sharing communities and expand their use of geospatial information. GeoHive is so important nationally that it has now been designated as Ireland’s geospatial data hub, and OSi’s vision is for it to become a one-stop shop for all geospatial information in Ireland.

Another of OSi’s data platforms is MapGenie, which allows users to stream OSi’s geospatial information into their own in-house applications via a choice of interfaces and use it in a vast array of web services, mobile apps, desktop geographic information system (GIS) software and bespoke software solutions.  OSi also provides a range of e-commerce services, enabling people to self-service maps and data. Together, GeoHive, MapGenie and OSi ecommerce platforms give citizens, businesses and public sector bodies a choice of ways to access OSi’s geospatial information. By continually developing all these platforms, we are making our geospatial information ever more accessible.

Robust underlying systems

The more hosted services, web services and online apps OSi delivers, the more important it becomes for OSi to ensure that its underlying IT systems are resilient, secure and high performing. Guided by our information communications technology (ICT) and security strategies, we are constantly working on projects to advance our enterprise IT architecture in line with best international practices and improve our information security. For instance, we are proactively developing a hybrid operating environment comprising both cloud and on-premises platforms, so that high demand services can expand into the cloud to cope with peaks in traffic. This cloud strategy also improves resilience and provides disaster recovery, to keep critical services up and running.

At the same time, we are continually working to improve the currency and accuracy of our geospatial information, so that this vitally important national data is a truly authoritative resource. We do this using the best available survey methodologies and practices, taking advantage of emerging technologies, and utilising automated product generation methods, where appropriate. All OSi’s systems and processes support relevant national and international policies, including the Public Sector Data Strategy, National Open Data Strategy, EU Public Sector Information (PSI) Strategy and United Nations IGIF Framework.

At ground level, OSi is developing the network of Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) base stations around the country, so that surveyors in the public and private sector can collect information of the highest quality.

Without doubt, OSi’s authoritative geospatial data is easier to use and more accessible than it has ever been before and will become even more so in the years ahead. All that remains to be seen is how citizens, businesses and policy makers will make use of this new wealth in geospatial information and what role it will play in transforming our economy, our environment and our quality of life in Ireland.

Author: Tony Murphy, Business & Marketing Manager, Ordnance Survey Ireland

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