Ordnance Survey set to ‘give away’ digital mapping

The Ordnance Survey is set to shake-up the mapping world by giving away digital map downloads and software with its paper maps. Over the next 12 months Ordnance Survey is to replace all 607 of its current paper map titles (OS Explorer, OS Landranger and OS Tour series) with a new design and an additional mobile download of the map that can be accessed for no extra cost. Starting from 10 June when the OS Explorer Outdoor Leisure (OL) paper maps begin hitting retailers’ shelves.

The move to give away the Ordnance Survey’s own digital mapping solution with paper maps is a major shake-up for the industry, and could be controversial. Ordnance Survey’s partner businesses that sell their own software based around data licensed from the OS are likely to be affected by the move. In November last year, the Independent and the Times reported that a formal complaint had been lodged with the European Commission alleging that the OS was effectively receiving illegal state aid and using public money to fund an expansion of its activities, trying to squeeze out partners and competitors by anti-competitive means. The OS has recently been converted to become a Government-owned compay or GovCo, and there has been speculation that this is a precursor to an eventual privatisation.

The Outdoor Leisure maps, which cover all of Britain’s national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty, will come with an iOS and Android compatible download of the area covered by the map. The downloaded map will allow users to plot and store routes electronically. All the map data will be stored locally and be available regardless of whether the device has a signal. Another feature will be the ability to record walks or cycle rides in real-time when out and about, so the route is instantly remembered for future exploration.

This news follows last year’s announcement that sales of OS paper maps had increased for the first time in a decade.

The  new look maps

The new look maps

Nick Giles, Managing Director of Ordnance Survey Leisure, said: “Maps are the guide to the outdoors, the ideal tool for adventure and discovery. Feedback from customers showed that more and more people are using maps on their tablets and smartphones to navigate, despite some of these digital maps being less than ideal for finding paths and tracks in the countryside. OS maps give an unparalleled level of detail and are the definitive guide for any budding or seasoned explorer. For safety reasons we always recommend anyone exploring the outdoors carries a paper map, so it made absolute sense for us to combine both paper and digital formats, to give people what they want with the security of having paper, and the added functions our digital map offers should open up greater possibilities for further adventure.”

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