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Why we can't afford to ignore geospatial

Anne Kemp | 09 Dec 2015 | Comments

Every day we create more and more data (2.5 quintillion bytes a day according to IBM). And with the number of handheld devices expected to more than double in the next five years (Forbes), we can’t afford to be complacent – we need to understand and use this data to improve our society, economy and the environment.

I recently helped to edit a new report, the Association of Geographic Information (AGI) Foresight Report 2020, and what came across over and over again was how crucial one community will be in helping us understand, analyse and manage this huge influx of data: the geospatial community.

So what is geospatial? In the simplest terms, geospatial specialists gather, display and manipulate information that has a location attached to it, from an address or coordinates from a GPS. However, there is far more to geospatial than just creating maps. For geospatial practitioners, it’s always been about data, what you do with it and what outcomes you can provide.

We need to sift through a huge amount of noise now to find the information we need to make good decisions, and the geospatial community can help us do it. Geospatial analysis can help us to visualise patterns of information, create better understanding and dialogue, and make more informed decisions.

The AGI Foresight Report 2020 looks at the big issues for our industry, not only big data but things like smart cities, UAVs and BIM. With over 60 papers, I’d suggest as a starter you check out the papers from Robert Eliot at the National Physical Laboratory on Big Data and the Internet of Things (p103), Jim Plume of UNSW Australia & Building SMART on Integrating Digitally-Enabled Environment - The Internet of Places (p207) and Mark King at Leica Geosystems on SIM Cities - why BIM and GIS fit together (p157). And of course the papers from my other Atkins colleagues:

  • Jérôme Chamfray, BIM manager, David Wright, practice director & Simon Miles, principal geotechnical consultant, BIM for the sub-surface challenges (p73)
  • Geoff Darch, principle consultant, Big data in future proofing cities (p95)
  • Barry Hall (principle GIS consultant) To CAD or not to CAD? That is the question (p129)

Sadly in reading all of these great papers, it became clear to me that while the idea of “location” is more widely used than ever (mostly thanks to mobile devices), the term “geospatial” is still pretty niche. Hopefully the report can go some way towards changing this, and helping us recognise the important role the geospatial industry can play in our future. With over 2,100 downloads in the first fortnight since its release, I think we’re well on our way…

You can read the full AGI Foresight Report 2020 here.  

References: IBM and Forbes