Because of their availability online, maps have changed many aspects of our lives – sometimes without our even realising it. Digital maps have given us greater control over our lives, from planning house purchases and home improvements to navigating an unfamiliar neighbourhood via our smartphones. Rather than reaching for a road atlas or street map, tapping a post code into an app like Google Maps is often all you need to orientate yourself these days. It’s as easy as using an online dictionary.
Digital mapping has transformed the way maps are used for business and for pleasure. Websites have appeared over the past decade specialising in specific areas, such as Ramblers.org, which uses online Ordnance Survey maps to pinpoint routes and group walks, and Old maps online.org, a portal useful for historians, genealogists or anyone looking to view or buy historical maps worldwide.
Property portals such as Zoopla use interactive maps to allow customers to custom-define their search areas by drawing on them, while companies like Online OS Maps from Promap offer layered OS maps designed for surveyors, architects, developers and environmental consultants. With the tight legal requirements governing development, planning and environmental assessments in this industry, the availability of accurate and up-to-date maps is essential. The technology has transformed the way Ordnance Survey maps are used and viewed through the internet.
Like online mapping, the introduction of satellite-based navigation has led to a complete change in the way Ordnance Survey and other map specialists provide their data. Paper-based street maps and the road atlas have experienced a significant decline as a result. Where once it was common for tourists to purchase local maps from service stations in order to complete their journey, now they rely on technology to guide them to the right address.
Technology has meant that the passenger-seat road navigator wrestling with their oversized street maps is a dying breed. On the plus side, the introduction of the sat nav has removed an entire topic of in-car arguing on family holiday trips. Although Ordnance Survey isn’t the only map supplier used by sat-nav services, it does lend significant support to the industry by making its up-to-date detailed mapping data available to all sat-nav suppliers and manufacturers.
Sat-nav services then integrate information about traffic, journey times, recommended routes and safety cameras which are drawn from other sources to produce the sat-nav experience that so many of us have come to rely upon.
Despite online maps having become essential both in business and leisure in our day-to-day lives, Ordnance Survey reported a 7% increase in the sales of their paper maps in the year 2014-2015 – after ten years of straight decline. It seems there are some things that digital mapping hasn’t been able to replace just yet, such as seeing an entire region in a detailed scale without the need to scroll or zoom in, and the risk of that inevitable battery failure or signal drop. For now, at least, paper maps still have their place