Ordnance Survey: Connecting the lives of everyone in Britain

We are Britain’s mapping agency. We make the most up-to-date and accurate maps of the country. But we’re also a digital business, and we use our content to help governments, companies and individuals be more effective both here and around the world.

What we do

In fifteen short years, we’ve changed from a centuries-old venerable mapping company into a big data powerhouse. Our location data – or geographic information (GI) – is weaving itself into the very fabric of our everyday lives, right across Great Britain.

We’ve come a long way from simply being the producer of our world-famous paper maps. While our much-loved maps remain an important part of our brand, they represent only 5% of our annual revenue. We produce digital map data, online route planning and sharing services and mobile apps, plus many other location-based products so you know exactly where you are.

You’d be lost without us

Our geographic data is so big, yet at the same time so granular and accurate, that we’ve mapped the location of every fixed physical object in Great Britain, from the ground upwards, to within one metre accuracy. And we have a team of around 300 surveyors and two aircraft that produce 10,000 updates to our system a day – to our OS MasterMap database. That’s seven times every minute of every day of the year.

So the next time you walk down any street consider that the location of every road, every kerb, every wall, house or address – everything – has been recorded. You are looking at OS maps every time you turn on a sat-nav device or use an online search engine to find something in Great Britain.

And when you know precisely where everything is to within one metre, you can feel confident that you will find your way; you can start to make some really powerful decisions, as the government and some very significant businesses have found to their benefit.

Working with businesses

Many businesses use our geographic data. Accurate location data will improve decision-making and planning for any organisation, no matter what its size or activity. It is as important a driver as revenue, cost and time.

For example, insurance companies use our data to calculate more accurate premiums so that we don’t overpay. Delivery companies use it to deliver goods to your home on time. And telecommunications companies, land and property companies, utilities and many more use our location data to sharpen their business operations.

Our partners also use our geographic data to build innovative products and services for consumers and the business market.

Working with the public sector

We are a government-owned organisation and our symbiotic relationship with our shareholder, HM Government, is such that under the Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA) and One Scotland Mapping Agreement (OSMA), we provide a hugely valuable service. For a single payment from HMG, every arm of government can use our resources free of charge.

In doing this we’ve saved the government tens of millions of pounds. Our data is used by emergency services, for example, to navigate to an incident quickly and help save lives – whether it’s fighting crime, responding to a fire or carrying out a missing persons search. It’s also used at major events to help organisers plan and ease traffic – such as at The Olympics and The Commonwealth Games.

And when disaster or catastrophe strikes say in the form of severe flooding or threats to national security, our accurate mapping is crucial. With everyone using one source of information it means that first responders and central and local governments can plan the distribution of their services effectively. It means that dedicated staff are prepared for hazardous terrain, are aware of roadworks and know the height of a building – vital information that can make the difference between life and death in a crisis.

The government also uses our data to improve services in our community – to mend that broken street light quickly, collect our rubbish on time and improve transport networks.

Our international reach

Through the success of our mapping data we’ve also attracted the attention of governments across the world who want what we have in Great Britain; so we help other countries to build the same capabilities in quality data accumulation and management.

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