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 Episode Transcript

Well happy Friday to you it’s a beautiful autumn day here in Salt Lake City. Today we’ve got a new Friday Talk we’re calling it the Geospatial-Next Friday Talk. Earlier in the week i spoke about what is essentially a rebrand. I have for 2 years now been talking about Geospatial 2.0. But numbering systems are weak. We hear three and four and five. Next is a much better way for us to describe the future path of geospatial. So in this Friday Talk let’s just talk about what is Geospatial-Next.

I often start with where we are today. I think that if we look at the traditional GIS industry, again I’m repeating myself but just to set the stage of what we’re going to be talking about, we’ve really being historically talking about and continue today to talk about 2D static maps and analysis. GIS is very much centered on map users.

We also have BI or business intelligence software. These are focused on business data visualization using 2D maps. These are targeted at business users, not the users that the GIS community currently reach. These users are essentially on the wish-list of the GIS industry.  Lastly we have data companies.  These are Google, Snap, Facebook.  They’re very important in the 2D and 3D mapping world. But they are pouring money into our future world of geospatial; that includes virtual reality, the metaverse etc. These are consumer focused organizations. Amazing things will be coming out of these data companies in time.

Let’s now talk about the geospatial revolution. It is this which really lies at the heart of fourth industrial revolution or 4IR. This is the technology at the centre of Geospatial-Next, that includes:

  • The Space Economy – we’ve now got the ability to send up micro satellites and put small sensors on them to collect imagery, SAR and inSAR other types of data.
  • Lidar – This is the 3D world. We’re beginning to look at things not just from the air but from the ground and even punching through the ground to below ground
  • Imagery – I’ll give a shout out to Myles Sutherland, a friend of mine who used to work at ESRI. A very smart guy who has a company called Geocam. They (and others) are doing really interesting work with imagery. Geocam have built a camera which can take panoramic images, but more than that can actually generate two-dimensional and three-dimensional location data from that imagery. Some pretty interesting work there.
  • Artificial intelligence, Machine learning and Deep learning – All are part of this revolution.
  • IoT and real-time sensor data
  • 5G is also very important.

Geospatial is in some ways today a startup wild west. I’ve spent a lot of the time in the Geospatial 2.0 world highlighting those who are doing new and interesting things with geospatial. A lot of those are startups and it’s kind of a crazy world. I liken it to the early internet. I remember when the internet emerged, and the crazy money pouring into crazy ideas. And a few (very few) solid businesses. We’re kind of in that place at the minute when it comes to the geospatial universe.

There has been a focus in the emerging world on both the challenging, and the nebulous. There are a lot of things that are spoken about, and money being poured in, to tackle these huge issues. Climate change and is a big one. So is spatial finance. Smart cities is more nebulous, so is digital twin. The solutions here are far away. Not immediate.

At its core the geospatial revolution is being driven by a richer set of geospatial data and new analytical tools. We’ve got new ways to collect data using miniature sensors. We’ve got both static and now dynamic data: near real-time and real-time. We have three-dimensional data, and new analytical methods (AI/ML) to process and analyse that data.

How can this new data and tools be most effectively used to solve problems today?

I think, as i’ve evolved my thinking, I’ve realised we need to be enabling the business community with geospatial. That is geo-enabling business activity, and this is the focus of Geospatial.Next. That means embedding and leveraging the power of location and geography in business workflows. That doesn’t mean business intelligence (BI) tools per-se, it means business workflows and we’ll talk a little bit more about that in a second.

Geospatial-Next 4 Core Elements

How geospatial crosses the chasm from map users to business users is at the centre of the Geospatial-Next conversation. As the diagram above shows there are essentially 4 elements:

1. Multi-Dimensional Geospatial Data – That is 2D vector data, 3D digital reality and 4D real-time or near real-time data

2. GIS and Geospatial Platforms – That includes potentially ArcGIS, QGIS, Cesium and many others

3. Business System integration or Geoenablement – Integrate non-spatial data and systems with spatial

4. Business Solutions or Outcomes – Create geospatial data products which solve business problems

What Geospatial-Next is not!

Geospatial-Next is focused on today not tomorrow. The concrete not the abstract. That means it’s not about:

  • Academic conversation
  • The impossibly challenging and the nebulous – Climate change, spatial finance are huge and far off. Smar city and digital twin are nebulous without clear definition.
  • Empty strategy discussions

Geospatial-Next is

  • What is possible today
  • Action
  • Geospatial crossing the chasm
  • Enterprise adoption of geospatial

Summary

So that’s today Friday Talk. In the past I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the the brave new world that is geospatial; startups, data, technology, AI/ML. It’s been a good theoretical conversation, but in a much more practical way what can we do about actually moving the needle forward? Much starts with data enablement: or the preparation and aggregation of location-based data. My goal is to build community around this conversation. To move from what will be possible to what is possible.

Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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