Royal Mail, postcode data and what you can do

With the recent takedown of the postcode geocoding API provided by Ernest Marples Ltd, there has been discussion of other ways to get hold of postcode data without paying prohibitive licence fees to Royal Mail. One solution is to collect the data from scratch, without using existing sources that are derived from the Royal Mail licensed database. This has at least some chance of avoiding the infringement of Royal Mail’s intellectual property rights.

There are several such projects already in existence. The oldest is Free The Postcode which invites visitors to collect the location of a postcode by visiting a location and recording the latitude and longitude of its postcode using a GPS. There are simple mobile applications to automate this process for the iPhone and other GPS-enabled devices.

If you don’t have a GPS, it might be worth heading over to the New Popular Edition Maps site to explore some out of copyright Ordnance Survey maps. This project collects data by allowing people to pinpoint a postcode on these maps. These data are less accurate because of the way the old maps are presented, but you don’t need a GPS to contribute, and the site has managed to collect an impressive number of postcodes this way.

Another project that has recently popped up is the Open Postcode DataBase, which is more ambitious, aiming to capture street and town names as well as postcode data.

Lastly, the Locating Postboxes site is using information collected, ironically, from an FOI request to the Royal mail concerning the location of these postboxes, and asks users to pinpoint the postboxes on a map.

These projects are placing their results into the public domain. At the moment they only provide data equivalent to a small fraction of those that the Royal Mail makes available (NPEMaps has around 45,000 postcodes, whereas Royal Mail will give you around 1.8 million). For many applications, however, where only area/district accuracy is required, they are already useful sources. Free The Postcode and NPEmaps allow download of the complete data, for individual postcodes, and averaged over postcode prefixes and sectors, and NPEmaps offers a basic geocoding API suitable for low traffic sites.

I am currently involved in both Free The Postcode and the New Popular Edition maps, and we’re interested in making these data sets more accurate and readily available. We would welcome offers of help from developers who are interested in making this happen, and of course more contributions of data!

This post is Copyright 2009 by Dominic Hargreaves, and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales licence

Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in The Independent View.
Advert

One Comment

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User Avatarjames 22nd Oct - 12:09pm
    @E so no 2nd referendum then? Or even any referendum?
  • User AvatarAnne Williams 22nd Oct - 11:56am
    I agree with Nick too.
  • User AvatarJennie 22nd Oct - 11:47am
    Yes, Caron, the Azure card was what I had in mind. Horrible, nasty, punitive thing.
  • User AvatarCaron Lindsay 22nd Oct - 11:43am
    Well said, Jennie. The Azure card scheme for asylum seekers gives a concrete example of how terrible the provision of basic services would be.
  • User AvatarE 22nd Oct - 11:38am
    Well said Jim. Whereas I agree the police response was excessive. To even consider declaring independence on the back of a flawed, illegal and unrepresentative...
  • User AvatarGlenn 22nd Oct - 11:22am
    Jennie' I completely agree.