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Sir Michael Pitt's Report into the summer 2007 floods city models in themselves are not new, but the difference
highlighted several issues that needed to be addressed between our work and the 3D maps already produced is
and made 92 recommendations. He proposed that the that we are not just trying to understand how to build a
flooding threat must be addressed more comprehensively visualisation. Our goal is the creation of a seamless
than in the past through better risk assessment and database that incorporates a detailed terrain model of
contingency planning. Ordnance Survey is one of a number our most accurate mapping data. This is more than a
of public-sector organisations working on a project called visually attractive 3D map but is a valuable and intelligent
the Atlantis Initiative. I believe that the Atlantis Initiative resource that can be maintained and updated for use by
has a key role to play in achieving this goal. existing business and Government users, as well as
Atlantis was established with the objective ‘to provide
those interested in the third dimension.
integrated base geographic and environmental datasets The result of this work is a startling representation of the
to better support water management in flooding and beachfront in Bournemouth, created using a combination
water quality for the 21st century’. Atlantis is not about of aerial and terrestrial LiDar, aerial photography and
delivering a single product. It is about collaboration more traditional surveying techniques. The project aimed
where each of the organisations involved maintains a to create the most detailed 3D map possible, not because
number of datasets that are fundamental to addressing it simply looks impressive, but because we wish to get an
the problems associated with water management. idea of the costs involved balanced against the needs of
Current Government organisations involved with Atlantis
our customers. We have been talking with a number of
are the British Geological Survey, Centre for Ecology and
potential users of the data, some in areas you might
Hydrology, Environment Agency, Met Office, UK Hydro-
expect, like architecture and planning; but other possible
graphic Office and ourselves at Ordnance Survey. Each
applications are more unusual. For example, one company
of these organisations maintains a number of definitive
is interested in renting roof space for solar panels, some-
datasets that are fundamental to understanding the
thing for which good quality 3D mapping would be very
problem, from geological and tidal data to topographic
useful for visualising changing shadows and the relation-
information. The explicit aim of the Atlantis Initiative is
ship between adjacent buildings. Perhaps this is a small
to ensure that these critical datasets are engineered to
example, but I think it aptly demonstrates the value of GI
enable them to work together and complement each
and how people are continually finding uses for it that we
other in a consistent manner, irrespective of the location.
might never have envisioned.
Atlantis is a huge benefit to a range of organisations -
Three dimensional mapping might be something for the
from local Government to insurance companies. For
future, but today there are already organisations making
example, insurance companies can spend some 25-50%
real use of GI to improve the way they work. As well as
of their time sourcing relevant information and getting it
the 500 business partners I referred to earlier, the vast
to work together. Access to this consistent national
majority of public-sector organisations in Britain have
framework is made available to all key stakeholders
access to a huge range of Ordnance Survey data. This
quickly and easily to allow for a rapid response when it is
data is helping each of these organisations provide public
needed most. This in turn helps improve flood modelling
services in a better and more efficient way. East Riding of
and forecasting as well as planning and reconstruction,
Yorkshire Council, for example, saves £160,000 a year
something which I fear will become ever more pertinent
and tonnes of carbon emissions by evaluating their refuse
over the coming years.
collection routes using GI. In addition, Daventry District
Council has recently won a National Environmental Award
Atlantis is a large-scale project concentrating on a
for their ‘Walking Bus’ scheme, providing an alternative
specific environmental challenge, but GI has so many
to parents who would usually drive their children to
uses that sometimes even I am surprised by the diversity.
school; all underpinned by our data.
The range of applications, and users, is only likely to
broaden further as technology drives greater change and
I hope these few examples have helped illustrate the
innovation. Fostering that change is one of Ordnance
power of geography. At Ordnance Survey our mantra is
Survey’s core goals, and looking to the future and main-
‘everything happens somewhere’ because every human
taining our investment programme is at the centre of
or natural activity is played out on a geographic stage.
everything we do. Ordnance Survey’s Research department
Understanding that relationship is incredibly important
has the responsibility for working on new ways of improving
and that is why I am convinced that geography has a vital
what we do best, namely creating the most accurate and
role to play in combating climate change. GI may help us
up-to-date digital representation of the country.
deal with the implications of a changing world with
initiatives such as Atlantis, or it could be through helping
Over the last three years our research department has
our leaders make better decisions for our future based
been doing some pioneering work on mapping in three
on the best available GI.
dimensions; the GI ‘Holy Grail’ for decades. Of course 3D
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