The changing face of geomatics

Stephanie Bentley

Prop Tech Product Executive, Data and Information Products Group (RICS)

It’s estimated that there are 2.4 million pieces of Facebook content and 227K tweets shared every minute. This is beginning to have geopolitical consequences, with recent election campaigns perhaps acting as the one of the most pertinent illustrations of this. This huge increase in the availability of data is changing the way we do things, from politics to policy.


What does this mean for geomatics professionals? We asked leading geospatial experts at our recent joint GeoLecture with Ordnance Survey (OS).

Below is a snapshot of the discussion led by Neil Ackroyd of OS.

The future is a choice

Mapping has changed, fast. Rather than solely being a tool for directing people from A to B, it is now being used to make informed decisions about social economic problems, like water and land security, urban resilience, land rights, land tenure and much more.

The ability to measure and monitor change is the most valuable asset we have.

It is now possible to monitor the variation of functional differences of a building or transport network for example, through up-to-date geospatial data. With new developments in technology and the increased availability of data comes the opportunity to make serious decisions about what kind of society we want to live in.

Data and technology can help enable those decisions by improving the ability to invest, move quickly and give government and policy makers the right tools, but ultimately it is people that are at the heart of the matter. The future is a choice we have to make.

"Smart" isn’t about technology, it’s about policy

Land tenure is the core operating system of society.

If this is the case, then there is a real need to look at land differently, reducing the current constraints on house building and planning processes.

It is therefore vital that policy changes. Data and technology is at the heart of this, improving the ability to implement land administration much more quickly and accurately at low cost but high security.

Changes in policy, combined with emerging technology, can also help resolve other issues including those we face in infrastructure. For example, many of the problems Transport for London and other transport networks have with traffic monitoring and management could be assisted with the use of real time geospatial data.

Collaborating in different ways in order to win commercial partners, connect information and add new data services and new business users are all steps that can be taken to ensure the industry remains relevant.

What does the future hold?

High resolution point cloud information is already cutting the cost of a survey and new operating models are arising out of the increasing inability to divorce production from engineering. Digital is becoming a core part of all businesses, allowing for greater partnership capability.

However, a new level of mapping is needed in order to capture the rate of change that is taking place and this requires new income streams. Many aspects are already being highly automated; companies are using other organisations geospatial information and automatically generalising the products that come out of it.

At the heart of all developments in autonomous vehicle and drone technology, is a map.

It is predicted that in three years’ time there will be 15 times the amount of data that there is now. Getting meaningful information from this data is crucial in order to increase the opportunity to invest and move the industry forward.

What should we do?

Three key points were made:

  1. There is so much data available that this is now about competency, not content. We need to find ways of gathering meaningful insight from the data, as opposed to simply investing in more gadgets to get hold of more data.
  2. It’s not whether or when but how we will use cloud infrastructure. 
  3. This is not about spatial data infrastructure or even platforms but spatial data services. There needs to be a move away from focussing solely on API’s and instead on services.

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