Ian Pierce recently graduated from The University of Winchester and spent a week on work experience at our head office. Ian shares his thoughts on the week – and how surprised he was by what we do.
After completing four days of work experience at Ordnance Survey I can honestly say my view of a company has never been so wrong. When I first started I can’t confess to having heard a lot about the business, although if I spoke to my parents they would tell me all about OS paper maps that people always used to have in their car. It must be a generational thing as I wasn’t alone in my lack of knowledge, or vague perception of the government-run organisation.
Although they do still make paper maps, they’ve developed new and exciting products, ranging from your own customisable paper maps to online services. Along with the rest of the world, Ordnance Survey is now a digital frontier with their data being used by individuals, businesses and other government organisations.
Their OS OpenSpace service allows users to create their own online maps, placing their own information on top. This free, interactive service lets people create their own map for their website or blog. Something no paper map could ever do.
On my first day, I was writing a press release about their charity work with The Red and White Appeal. The organisation allows staff to vote for a corporate charity to support each year and focuses fundraising efforts.
My second day saw me tagging along with the Southampton Solent Production team who were filming Ordnance Survey’s first corporate video. Whilst observing from the fringes I saw the super advanced technology they use to survey areas, with a high-tech tablet and what looked like a hand-held lamp post, they can map entire areas quickly and efficiently. Shooting then moved inside their vast data centre filled with reams of storage towers, capable of holding a petabyte (1000 terabytes, or just a ridiculously huge amount) of data. This is used to store the information for most mapping services used today. Also, if any of you are interested, look out for a possible, small cameo by myself in the video. (I must say my acting skills were almost…no-existent.)
Then came Wednesday where I found myself working on a piece about a project Ordnance Survey is involved in called Digimap for Schools. This new initiative highlights the digital frontier the company finds itself involved in as the new system is far more advanced. Digimap for Schools is a web-based service, developed by Edina, which uses Ordnance Survey’s most detailed map data. Kids can now learn about maps in a far more innovative way than drawing on a bit of paper. It’s interactive and so detailed it has the outlines of buildings and paths easily visible when zoomed in. I even got to have a little fun using the freehand drawing function to see how far I walk every day.
My last day and I was sent down to Ordnance Survey’s graphics department. Just for a different experience, not because I was annoying anyone…or actually, was it? Leaving that thought behind, I was actually down there to get a sense of what they do and write up a case study. What I found, tucked away on the bottom floor, was like a secret beating heart of the company. I was shown websites with more flash than a flash player, and documents with video inbuilt into the title (all of which is under construction by their secret army of robo-people).
Although Ordnance Survey’s paper maps are still thriving in a variety of different customisations, it’s their race into the technological era which was so interesting to discover over the last week. From their new high-tech offices inAdanacPark, Southampton I was able to witness first hand a whole new, technologically advanced side of the company which I am sure a lot of you will begin to see in the near future, if not having done so already. It leaves me to say that Ordnance Survey may not quite be Skynet (the world dominating super computer system from the Terminator films), they are making their way there, one mapped square at a time.