The growing importance of Geospatial Insights

New trends in geospatial technologies are expected to impact multiple sectors and foster path-breaking innovation.

Posted on: 14/10/2019

New trends in geospatial technologies are expected to impact multiple sectors and foster path-breaking innovation.

A new report by the Geospatial Commission shows how the matching of geospatial data with emerging technologies is helping the UK economy grow. KTN’s Luca Budello provides his insights into this new report.


The Fourth Industrial Revolution

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is poised to drastically change the way we live and do business. The rapid development of sensing technologies and autonomous devices is creating a new degree of interoperability, which according to the Geospatial Commission can unlock between £6 and £11 billion/year in revenue. In this article we will have a look at the economic opportunity to develop the sector; explore the leadership role of the Geospatial Commission in growing the UK’s geospatial capabilities and the matching of geospatial data with emerging technologies.

In this increasingly interconnected world, one of the most astute ways of enquiry the physical landscape is through the ‘where’ dimension in a digital space, and over the past few years we have seen exponential growth in the volume of spatial information. From smartphones to satellite sensors, from ground penetrating radars to immersive and 3D technologies, from self-driving cars to artificial intelligence, the level of ubiquity in which geospatial data is being incorporated into everyday practises is growing rapidly.


The UK Geospatial Commission Leads the Way

Space and geospatial technologies are crucial if we are to stay abreast with technology-driven economic development in an increasingly connected and autonomous future. In recognising the growing importance of location-based information to deliver the objectives of the UK Industrial Strategy, the Geospatial Commission was launched in 2017, supported by £80 million of funding. Its aim is to provide leadership in the sector and support the growth of the UK’s geospatial capabilities.

The UK government identifies location data as a valuable tool for both the public and private sector; helping to make better decisions in areas like crime, routing for emergency services, addressing climate change and maintenance of critical infrastructure. This work builds on wider Cabinet Office plans for cross-government digital transformation, which also includes the new Technology Innovation Strategy that sets out the government’s approach to boosting the adoption of new technologies across the public sector.

The Geospatial Commission has been very active in realising the opportunity of engaging key UK economic sectors with the geospatial community. Their work has been wide-ranging touching on two primary pillars:

·      Using Geospatial insights to unlock economic value of up to £6 billion to £11 billion per year in key economic sectors, and

·      Supporting the growth of the geospatial ecosystem by boosting the fungibility and searchability of data, encouraging the adoption of emerging technologies and identifying skills gaps and career pathways.

Their most recent report – the Future Technology Review – focuses on how the combination of geospatial data and emerging technologies helps the UK economy to grow.


The Opportunity

As location data gets ubiquitous and pervasive, key economic sectors are becoming interested in finding out what location data can do for them. The geospatial community is responding by opening up to new growth opportunities.

In a recent article, Josh Gilbert and Gopal Erinjippurath highlight the opportunity for Geospatial data to support the growth of the economic output and its value chain. They indicate that the current size of the geospatial analytics market is somewhere between US$35 billion and US$40 billion, with forward looking 5-year CAGR of 14–17% – and a market projected to hit $86 billion by 2023. They rightly comment that while there has been an initial focus on ‘low-hanging fruit’ applications – such as precision agriculture, finance and defence – there are huge markets where uptake of geospatial products will drive billions of dollars in value, ranging from insurance, climate change, supply chain management and intelligent city management.

The Geospatial community is growing rapidly with engagement from large incumbent corporates and emerging innovators. On one side large organisations wants to find out how location data can help them grow and streamline processes. On the other hand, an army of next-generation entrepreneurs are joining the geospatial innovation sphere by exploring the hidden power of spatial thinking, empowering platform-enabled services and optimising industrial workflows and business processes.

New trends in geospatial technologies are expected to impact multiple sectors and foster path-breaking innovation.


Eight emerging technologies that could impact geospatial industry

In this respect, The UK Geospatial Commission has identified eight emerging technologies that are poised to impact the industry in support of UK economic growth. These technologies are highlighted in  a new report which came out on August 28, 2019. The report, published by PUBLIC, an organisation that helps technology start-ups work better with the public sector, analyses the commercial opportunities for the use of geospatial data, considers the maturity of each technology in the UK, and provides numerous case studies and success stories. These eight technologies are:

  1. Cameras, Imaging and Sensing;
  2. Unmanned Vehicle Systems and Drones;
  3. Survey, Measurement and Scanning;
  4. Artificial Intelligence;
  5. Smart Sensors and Internet of Things;
  6. Immerse Technologies;
  7. Simulation; and
  8. Connectivity

While I am not going to explore each technology, which you can read in the full report, I would like to stress that I highly welcome this piece of policy work, which strengthens the UK position as a global leader in the geospatial sector.

According to the most recent global Geospatial Readiness Index (GRI), the UK’s geospatial technology sector is recognised as the second most developed in the world due to the well-developed capability in data infrastructure, policy framework (geospatial and enabling), institutional capacity (education), and industry landscape (adoption, innovation, incubation and accelerators).

It is clear to me that the Future Technology Review recognises that location-based services and data is the new oil. It also recognises that the sector has the potential to transform many areas of our lives for the better; and considering the vast array of technologies involved in this paradigm shift, developing collaborative and cross-sector opportunities and partnership models is key to support the sector as it matures.

With its large cross-sector network and expertise in various economic sectors and technologies, The Knowledge Transfer Network’s Geospatial Insights SIG  is well placed to support the Geospatial Commission and the UK geospatial community in its mission to continue growth in the sector and has the capability required to identify, appreciate and contextualise the challenges our society is facing today, with the insights geospatial intelligence provides.


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