I found the recent rebranding announcement by GeospatialWorld fascinating. Long focused on the wide world of geospatial, they have added:
Advancing Knowledge for Sustainability
It is an interesting change. We will see how that alters the emphasis of their publications and events over time. My sense is from broad to more narrowly focused.
The bigger discussion here, and this articles topic, is the increasing attention being given to sustainability; and the part geospatial has to play.
ESG & Sustainability ..
I discussed both ESG and sustainability, and how to measure company performance against these measures, in my last article: ESG: What it is and Why Earth Observation & Geospatial are so Important. Let’s quickly review and provide some definitions:
Geospatial – Data and technology focused on places on earth.
ESG – Environmental, Social, and Governance. These are defined as (source: Investopedia):
- Environmental criteria consider how a company performs as a steward of nature.
- Social criteria examine how it manages relationships with employees, suppliers, customers, and the communities where it operates.
- Governance deals with a company’s leadership, executive pay, audits, internal controls, and shareholder rights.
Sustainability (source: Investopedia) – Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Sometimes described as the relationship between profits, planet, and people.
Climate change has been a key driver of the sustainability conversation. Increasing pressure is being put on corporations to become more ‘responsible citizens’. Some describe this new balance as conscious Capitalism:
Conscious Capitalism offers an alternative that can align business with people, profit and the planet.
Sustainability and ESG are easy to discuss. Far harder to measure, adjust, enforce.
Geospatial 2.0 to the rescue ..
Over the last year I have been writing about Geospatial 2.0. This is a broadening of the geospatial industry, driven by new data being collected by miniaturized sensors, and new methods of analyzing that data (notably using artificial intelligence and machine learning). The expert-powered, map-centric world of GIS (Geospatial 1.0) is being automated. Providing a range of outputs beyond the map.
It is this emerging Geospatial 2.0 world which is increasingly focused on sustainability and ESG. New innovative companies are emerging, while older players are upgrading their technology stacks and adjusting their business models to focus on this challenge.
Data, Data, Data ..
So we now have incredible quantities of location-based data. When it comes to sustainability, earth observation (EO) is often discussed as a critical data source. Again, we need a full definition of EO (source: Wikipedia):
Earth observation (EO) is the gathering of information about the physical, chemical, and biological systems of the planet via remote-sensing technologies, supplemented by [Earth]-surveying techniques, which encompasses the collection, analysis, and presentation of data. Earth observation is used to monitor and assess the status of and changes in natural and built environments.
Most definitions of EO point to satellite data. As the above definition indicates, the concept encompasses both “space-based or remotely-sensed data, as well as ground-based or in situ data.” (from Group on Earth Observations).
This is data about place(s) on the earth. It is also aggregated data, that is data of different types (both dynamic and static) and sources respectively, brought together. AI and ML have the ability to process these huge aggregated datasets and provide critical insights.
Increasingly these are time-sensitive insights.
Closing thoughts ..
We live in changing times. A digital revolution is underway. That is transforming the way humans work and live. There is a growing recognition that we must start tackling problems of our own creation. Sustainability, powered by digital technology, will be critical.
Geospatial will be at the heart of that brave new world we are creating.
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