26th July 2013

The Linked Data opportunity for developers

Luke Hampson

Some 20 years ago, Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. This revolutionised the way many of us access data today, using the internet to consume information such as words, pictures, videos for example. Now, he’s focusing on building a web for open, Linked Data which could revolutionise the way we use; and potentially unlock the value of data.

So, what is Linked Data? Why and how is Ordnance Survey embracing the opportunity and what is the Linked Data opportunity for developers? We thought you would be interested to learn more – so here’s a blog covering it off.

linked data platform from Ordnance Survey

Put simply, Linked Data is all about utilising and exploiting the Web in new ways, by joining related datasets that were not previously linked. The term describes a method of publishing structured datasets, so that they can become interlinked and consequently, become more valuable as a result. Linked data is data structured so that it can easily be exposed, shared and connected using a uniform resource identifier (URI) via the web.

linked data image

Across government over the last ten years there’s been a growing realisation to the power of linked data for exposing, sharing, and connecting pieces of data and information using URI’s. Ordnance Survey embraced the movement, following the launch of OS OpenData in 2010, which was the opening up of a selection of Ordnance Survey datasets as part of the drive to increase innovation and support the “Making Public Data Public” initiative.

A combined OS Linked Data dataset combines a selection of the OS OpenData products into one database to support more flexible data access. Since launch, we have used feedback to develop an improved service, making sure it’s easy to use and access adhering to new standards making the data more open.

To date, we have published a number of OS OpenData products as Linked Data, including:

1:50 000 Scale Gazetteer

50k-gazetteer image

The 1:50 000 Scale Gazetteer contains over 250 000 place names and is the most detailed gazetteer available.



Code-Point Open

code-point-open image

Code-Point® Open contains postcode units for Great Britain, each of which has a precise geographic location. There are approximately 1.7 million postcode units in England, Scotland and Wales. Each contains an average of fifteen adjoining addresses.



boundary-line image

Boundary-Line™ contains all levels of electoral and administrative boundaries, from district, wards and civil parishes or communities up to parliamentary, assembly and European constituencies.



To help those of you who are just starting out using Linked Data, we asked our internal development team to create an application linking just two different data sources. They linked our data with Land Registry Linked Data to look up the prices paid for houses in a postcode and display the area on a map. This results in a very basic application, but is an ideal start point for anyone wanting to have a go at linking data themselves. For a more technical explanation on how to build this application, we’ve listed the exact steps on our website.

Each of the datasets is accessible as Linked Data and via a range of APIs.

To find more Linked Data published as part of this initiative, visit data.gov.uk.