Mapping on the Web
Here at The Hug we're great enthusiasts for maps as we like to walk and to sail. Ordnance Survey maps hold a particular fascination for us (and we're not alone there's even a recent book about it, Mike Parker's Map Addict: A Tale of Obsession, Fudge & the Ordnance Survey).
So that's why some years ago now after we bought our first decent GPS we set up a little web site at http://maps.the-hug.net which lets us browse Ordnance Survey maps and plan our routes which we can then download to our GPS to follow. And when we get back we can upload the track recorded on the GPS to the web site and see where we've been.
To take a trivial example this is the route we take to walk from our house to the Wrestlers pub in Cambridge for lunch but for a more interesting example this is the track recorded on our Foretrex 301 GPS when we walked up Whernside this summer. Take a look. You can interact with the maps, moving the viewing window around and zoom in or out using the controls provided or by dragging the window with your mouse and zooming using the mouse scroll wheel.
We never actively publicised our site but word got around the outdoor community and the site became well used.
The software which drove the site used Multimap's map servers to provide the map tiles, which they did for free for non-commercial use at 1:50,000 scale. It would have been nice to offer 1:25,000 but for that you had to pay Multimap and, as we were making no money from the site, we didn't see any incentive in doing that.
That changed last year when we were approached by Walkhighlands who wanted to put the same sort of software on their web site. They had a commercial licence from Multimap (now re-branded Bing and part of the Microsoft empire). So we converted our software to work on their site and they allowed registered users to use the software with 1:25,000 scale mapping enabled. That brought more people to their site and opened up free 1:25,000 mapping to people for the first time.
This Spring things moved on however when Microsoft ratcheted up their prices significantly and we started talking to Walkhighlands about migrating to another map server. The Ordnance Survey do run their own map server as part of their free to use Openspace API, and very good it is too, but although it offers all sorts of scales including 1:50,000 and 1:10,000 the "crown jewels" for walkers, 1:25,000 is not an option.
If you want to serve 1:25,000 scale tiles then you have to pay Ordnance Survey for the privilege and you have to do it from your own map server. And so Walkhighlands contracted The Hug to convert our mapping application to work with the Openspace API (which is what you can see now at http://maps.the-hug.net), to set them up their own map server, to convert the tiles provided by Ordnance Survey to work with that server, and to provide the mechanism to allow Walkhighlands to report back on the number of tiles served.
All of this we have now done and you can see the results on their site here where our mapping software, running on their site, is serving Ordnance Survey tiles from Walkhighlands own map server.
Talking about our involvement in this transition Paul Webster from Walkhighlands said:
The Hug have been a great help with our transition from Microsoft to hosting our own map server. Their comprehensive understanding of many of the technologies involved and their willingness to just pick up the ball and run with it when they didn't, with consistently good results, has really impressed us.
So if you want to put Ordnance Survey mapping on your web site, and especially if you need to run your own map server, then you might want to talk to us about how we could help you. You don't need to use our mapping front end, you may well have your own, but we can do all that is needed to make the back end map server work for you.