04 Apr Geospatial Information Systems: Emerging Trend Snapshot by InfoTech Consulting Services
What are they?
Geospatial information systems gather, curate, and display geographical data in real time. In order for it to be useful such information must be mapped to geographical coordinates. Their real value however comes from how Geospatial information brings context to geographic information fused with additional data points that are a result of disruptive technologies.
Why is this trend happening?
Traditional Geographic Information Systems or GIS have been around for decades. They used location (determined by post/ zip code, latitude and longitude, address etc.) as a primary focus and then overlaid it with other information to find causality, trends and insights. For example a city that is geographically mapped can be overlaid with a layer showing fire stations. Then that can be further overlaid with a layer that shows traffic patterns allowing planners to best decide whether and where to add fire stations for optimal coverage. However two trends are combining to create Geospatial information systems that go way beyond what GIS were used for. Firstly new scanning and mapping techniques like digital imaging and LiDar are feeding reams of 3D data into GIS’s. Secondly mobility and customer data from cellphones and IoT data are allowing for complex analysis that is informing dozens of use cases from sales to service support to smart grids and smart citizen services.
What are the benefits?
Many industries can benefit from Geospatial Information Systems. Large-scale engineering and construction for example is a niche field that requires great capital expenditure. There is very little room for error. These systems can help ensure their planning incorporates all sorts of data and eliminate errors and minimize delays. In case of massive wildfires the best way to fight them, saving lives and property in the process, will require Geospatial Information Systems. Agriculture is a massive use case. Combined with field data from drones Geospatial Information Systems can help us know how and when to water, which could abet water scarcity and increase yield helping feed hundreds of millions more. Retailers can combine such data with mobility data to figure out how their customers move and where they shop, allowing them to smartly open stores. Healthcare, tourism, retail, mining and many other sectors have use cases that can help those industries become efficient and intelligent.
What are the challenges?
Cartography has long suffered from key challenges that conform to this disruptive technology as well. Maps can be of many different scales. When you add 3D the problems of scale and perspective magnify manifold. Add to that multiple data sets from sensors, drones, satellite etc. and getting a real accurate picture requires sophisticated data management layers and incredible amounts of computing power. Additionally if real time analysis is needed, as may be the case in a natural disaster emergency, data may be spread in many silos across many public service agencies making insightful analysis impossible in a timely manner. Additionally balancing commercial needs of data with customer privacy will be a constant tension.