A triumph of Open Innovation

Ideas In Transit

It was great to spend the day with my colleagues, beneficiaries and sponsors of the highly successful Ideas In Transit project – A project that studied, encouraged and funded innovations in transport developed from the “bottom-up” by users.

5 years of effort against a deliberately woolly scope was a leap of faith for the sponsoring TSB, EPRSC and DfT. Certainly it would have been easier to just give the money to a large system integrator company to make another hopeless on-line application for catching trains. Some would have said safer too. But how would such a predictable “top-down” approach have dealt with the almost instant emergence of the disruptive technologies that arose within weeks of the project inception? The iPhone, the App store and the catch-up rivals at Google completely changed the landscape to favour the target groups.

Because the project scope accepted that there were big unknowns “out there” we designed the project to observe this changing use of technology, now in the user’s hands, and how it influenced behaviour. This helped define the most effective interventions that could be made to support the “little-guy” innovators.

Combining with Ordnance Surveys moves to more social innovations, their first Open API (Open Space – another of my projects… it was a busy time ;-)), and the Governments insistence upon Open Data from OS the concept of GeoVation was born. A process of camps, facilitated and mentored business plan bullet-proofing sessions and the inevitable x-factor judgements yielded 10 great new businesses. Those from the transport challenge we saw how

  • Mission Explore increased kids’ engagement in their environment and use of the national cycle network by offering adventurous challenges unique to each location.
  • FixMyTransport developed an app that made childs play out of reporting deficiencies in any part of the travel infrastructure
  • myPTP is a colossal aggregation of all the key data services to make an information tool that encourages better choices on our regular commutes
  • CycleScape that appears to harness the inner monster within each of us cyclists by providing a common platform for campaigning.
  • Access advisor finds the optimal journey for the disabled and
  • Sustaination creates a food enterprise network based around a dating site for food businesses (those that grow, those that sell and those that transport).

Most of these ideas tap into that spare mental capacity that people now appear to have for reporting, capturing data and socialising on the net. None of these ideas would come from a collective of agencies and large commercial companies and logistics experts. The essential ingredient in each is a heavy dose of passion which the presenters had in spades during their 5 minute pitches.

So what do the sponsors get from this project? A nice set of references? a very nifty logo and brand name (… you guessed it…again one of mine ;-))? No. What this project has equipped our sponsors with is a PROCESS. Tried and trusted, developed over years, refined from previous initiatives and now responsible for the new businesses returning honest tax money to Vince Cable.

Ideas in transit is an extendbale set of interventions; creative problem solving methods proven to work.  This can be standardised, grown, franchised and exported.

Thank you Ideas In Transit; this is surely a sustainable outcome we can all be proud of… but more importantly take advantage of to survive the next big disruptions.

6 steps to a Spatially Enabled Society

Colleagues from FIG (the international federation of surveyors) have boiled down the requirements for a spatially enabled society (that’s one where location is added to existing data to increase its value to society) to 6 handy and simple to achieve elements.  The added value can be considered to stem from the ease of integration of information held on land, water and other resources.  Such integration makes it simpler to manage a cities, countries or regions resources more effectively.

And here they are;-

1. a legal framework to provide the institutional structure for data sharing, discovery, and access;

2. a sound data integration concept to ensure multi-sourced data integration and interoperability;

3. a positioning infrastructure to enable and benefit from precise positioning possibilities;

4. a spatial data infrastructure to facilitate data sharing, to reduce duplication and to link data producers, providers and value adders to data users based on a common goal of data sharing;

5.land ownership information, as the dominant issue in the interactions between government, businesses and citizens relating to land and water resources;


6.data and information to respect certain basic principles and to increase the availability and interoperability of free to re-use spatial data from different actors and sectors.

Well, it’s hard to disagree with all of these, but once you read the full report you realise that the spatial data infrastructure is not just one item, but is the tool to achieve at least elements 2,3,5 and 6.  For an indepth experience on setting up such an infrastructure see our work on ESDIN.

An International Ordnance Survey? – It’s the taking part that counts.

As our Great British Athletes in Team GB are demonstrating; in the Olympics… it’s not the winning that counts…it’s the taking part and the way you play the game 😉

China and Indonesia disqualified for not playing the game
It’s the way you play that counts!

I just caught this official news after much rumouring around the network in the past few months, Ordnance Survey are now going International. Great Britain’s National Mapping Agency will offer “expert advice and services across the full spectrum of Ordnance Survey’s expertise, including data collection and maintenance, product development and geospatial data management.”…primarily to “support other national mapping agencies and their countries.” Great news! After all, why keep all the expertise to yourself. But we have to wish for a little Team GB spirit from our national mapping agency (don’t follow the example of China and Indonesia today at the Olympics!). And we have to hope that OS can recognise and encourage the team effort that has enabled its strong reputation.

Whenever there is a government intervention for a “greater good” there are both winners and losers. So when Vince Cable, our Business Secretary says “I look forward to seeing their knowledge being put to good use around the world and furthering the reputation of British business abroad.” it strikes feelings of both hope and fear for OS’s eco system of suppliers, partners, associates and competition.

Does the pursuit of the “greater good” have to have a victim? Often, Yes. Quantitative Easing (a money printing intervention supported by both our recent governments) takes money from people’s savings to support collapsing banks. The “greater good” is in maintaining a stable “looking” economy so the world continues to invest in the UK. This may work if the banks take part fairly and share this view of the common good.  So far our banks don’t look very sporting!  The victim?  You and me!

However, as Vince points out, unlike the banks, OS has a more sporting reputation for partnership and the early signs are positive. The spirit of team-work, I am sure, will be at the heart of the plan as the software and systems created in the huge Phoenix project (deriving all map products from a single database) could be packaged for international customers and involve returns for the partners who helped to build it.

Also helpful for us all may be the prevailing view from those who work within Ordnance Survey.  The culture still comes from its strong heritage where accuracy, reliability and currency come far ahead of profits.  For its employees a message that OS is increasing its revenue potential will never wash.  Their “greater good” and sense of purpose will more naturally align with Vince’s vision.  But rightfully they will also recognise that this is new territory with little or no precedent for Ordnance Survey.

It is critical therefore that Ordnance Survey recognises it needn’t employ the talent required for this success.  It needs to be agile in this new venture.   Success will be in reliance upon the eco system already in place in the UK, approaching new opportunities together and growing the sector as a community.

Many of the system suppliers and consultants in the market already rely upon an international portfolio. So such a large and significant player entering the market could be pure competition right across the board.   To get to this position I am sure Ordnance Survey has already been negotiating with potential customers and this solo effort has the greatest potential for negatively impacting the market potential for UK business.

Steven Ramage (having recently left the Open Geospatial Consortium) will lead Ordnance Surveys foray across the globe. Steve will need to view this role, not as a pure commercial revenue increasing incentive to support OS’s trading fund status.  Instead it is an opportunity to benefit the whole of GB by developing an expertise in collaboration in this specialist and rapidly growing market of Location Services.  Steve, “we’re better together” 😉

Success in Brussels! Our work on Project ELFI resulted in one of the highest review scores. Bid successful!

Recently David Overton managed a bid on behalf of Client, the National Mapping Agencies of Europe’s association, EuroGeographics.

Another Olympic success....
Triumph for David Overton, dbyhundred, EuroGeographics and the 30 partied consortium, ELFI

The bid is core to the associations central objective “to further the development of the European Spatial Data Infrastructure through collaboration”. David, assisted by the team at EG, managed 30 organisations toward this ambition. And the Reviewers at the European Commission liked it enough to score the proposal at 14 points from a possible 15.  Note that the threshold score was 9! So this isn’t just a success… it’s a measurably great success!

dbyhundred Ltd. and David congratulate the team for landing an excellent project and we wish them the best of luck in their project and their decision making as it progresses towards a start date in January 2013.