Skip to content ↓



Ada team at the OS Maps Hackathon

On 6 and 7 October 2021, Ordnance Survey hosted its first virtual hackathon. Across the two-day event, individuals and teams used geospatial data and collaborated to develop new ideas and concepts to help accelerate our journey towards a more sustainable future, and a team from Ada took part. 

Hackathons are a great opportunity to collaborate and network with others, so are integral to what we do at Ada and our values of curiosity and collaboration. They can be beneficial to anyone, even those new to programming as participants will  extend their knowledge base and gain new skills. OS Map & Hack hosted teams across several industries and disciplines – ideal for anyone just starting their programmatic career and looking to put their skills to the test. 

Murray Groves, hackathon team lead from Ada shares his team’s take on the hackathon challenge by focusing on the distribution of new electric vehicle (EV) charging sites

The concept 

Our team’s idea was to determine consumer demand for EV charging sites, before focusing on the distribution of them. It’d be illogical, and not sustainable, to put them in areas of low demand, or not build enough in high-demand areas. So, we wanted to gather data on the charging demand for every 1km² grid in the UK. We could then use this data to figure out optimal placement for new charging points.

We had many different ideas for determining charging demand, such as looking at traffic hotspots, or roadway density. Unfortunately, given the hackathon’s time constraints, we decided that these methods would have resulted in more accurate data, but we wouldn't have been able to implement them in time. 

Instead, we decided to look at population density as an estimate of charging demand, since it's easy to process. And, usefully for us, the data already came in 1km² grids.

The data

We started off by using the OS Places API. The API was very useful for our concept, because it allowed us to download information on all the public car parks in the UK. We combined the data from OS with the National Chargepoint Registry, to determine what charging capacity each grid already had, and the average capacity of each charger. Finally, to find and integrate population density, we used data from the 2011 Census.

Our biggest technical challenge was determining where these new chargers should be placed. New EV chargers can only be installed in areas with the supporting infrastructure. We realised that most car parks would be suitable locations, since cars are already parked there for extended periods of time; plus, these locations are more likely to have an existing power network for ticket machines and lighting. 

Since the OS Places API has a filter function, we were able to filter for public car parks, which made downloading these locations very easy.

The experience

It was quite difficult to work at such a fast pace, remotely. It was important to make sure that we were using our time as optimally as possible. 

It was also harder to communicate and show each other what we were working on, since we weren't in the same room and couldn't just get people to come over and look at something. However, working remotely did mean there were fewer distractions since we were in our own spaces!

Within Ada, we already have projects that are like hackathons. Usually, these events only have one programmer on each team, so collaboration is generally easier as we're all working on different tasks. As such, before the OS event, we didn't really have much experience collaborating with other programmers, but it was a very worthwhile opportunity for us to give it a go.

“When I found out about the hackathon, I knew it would be a brilliant learning experience. Turns out, I was exactly right.”

Get involved

The hackathon provided participants with the chance to use OS data and OS APIs to build their solutions. Check out the OS Data Hub to see what the OS  can offer, and begin your journey of discovery. 

Well done to Murray for organising and to his team members: John Cory-Wright, Ethan Roberts, Carter Emms and Lucas Pango.