Five drivers of change in geospatial information

© iStockphoto / hxdyl

The United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) has released the third edition of its “Future Trends in Geospatial Information: The Five to Ten Year Vision”.

The report highlights the growing role that geospatial information and technology will play in the framework of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The pandemic has accelerated many of the trends highlighted in the report, with the global response to COVID-19 reinforcing the increased need for human and physical geographies to work side-by-side in the geospatial industry.

Last year’s impact also underscored how geospatial infrastructure has become an essential part of disease forecasting, prevention and response:

  • big spatial data analysis to trace the movements of people
  • contextualized data, digital maps and technologies to predict behavior
  • visualizations that make data easily accessible
  • machine learning techniques that use aerial and satellite data to assess the impact of environmental changes on the transmission of infectious diseases.

In addition, areas such as data interoperability, real-time information and connectivity have gained momentum, strengthening the interconnectedness of our world and improving the overall understanding of interactions between people and places.

“Over the past year, COVID-19 has accelerated the application of many trends in the report in ways that could not have been imagined before – since the temporary halt in data collection in the field which required the rapid identification and use of alternative data sources, the need to integrate data from multiple sources while preserving provenance and trust, ”said David Henderson, geospatial director of the Ordnance Survey of the UK.

“In the post-pandemic future, it is likely that a number of trends will accelerate to an even higher status of ‘high impact’ and ‘high predictability’ sooner than expected. “

The report aims to establish clarity as the various influences on geospatial information management continue to grow. Based on high-level analysis, the report identified key drivers and trends that may affect geospatial information management over the next decade.

Recognizing that disruptions and changes in the geospatial community are likely to occur due to the interconnection of several trends, the report explores a diverse set of emerging and developing themes. These include data privacy and ethics, digital twins, artificial intelligence, data analytics, and capacity building.

All countries and sectors need geospatial information and enabling technologies to make decisions on national policy, strategic priorities and sustainable development. However, many countries have yet to bridge the geospatial digital divide.

Thus, the report is strongly aligned with the Integrated Geospatial Information Framework (IGIF) and its nine strategic pathways, helping to ensure that the IGIF incorporates and takes advantage of the latest innovations and trends identified in the Future Trends report.

“The report has already proven to be a valuable resource for many countries by highlighting the importance of geospatial information and reflecting a wide range of emerging and developing trends that could be exploited by all member states to increase use. geospatial information for societal, technological and economic well-being, ”said Greg Scott, interregional adviser, UN-GGIM at the United Nations.

“Recognizing that ongoing disruptions and changes in the geospatial community are likely to occur due to the linking of multiple trends, the report explores a diverse set of emerging and developing trends. “

What is driving the change?

The report identified five drivers of change in the geospatial industry over the next decade, and “provides a consensus perspective for the professional geospatial community to predict how these drivers are expected to evolve over the next five to ten years. “.

The first driver is technological progress. The report notes that “the disruption in the management of geospatial information is caused by automation, artificial intelligence, sensor technology and the Internet of Things. In addition, technological advancements such as high-performance cloud computing, ubiquitous high-speed connectivity, new sensor networks and sensor platforms, geospatial analysis and autonomous intelligent machines have created an evolution towards a more centered world. on machines. This machine-to-machine world is about location-based computing and results in a largely “mapless” environment.

“With new developments in Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) and the growth of Big Data and Big Data exploration, there has been a significant increase in the demand for geospatial information, especially highly detailed data. (almost) in real time. In addition, “BIM developments allow city planners to monitor building information, facilities, infrastructure and the indoor environment to enable seamless mapping, modeling and data management between indoor and outdoor. “.

The report “Future Trends in Geospatial Information Management: The Five to Ten Year Vision” provides expert opinion on medium and long term developments in geospatial information.

The second driver is the development of new data sources and analytical methods. The report states that it is “anticipated that mobile data collection, crowdsourcing and social media will likely have the greatest impact over the next decade. These forms of data collection will enable precise (near) real-time applications that are increasingly in demand by various users of geospatial data.

“The availability of low cost, high quality, high frequency Earth observation satellite data has contributed to the steadily increasing data volumes,” he says. “Combined with artificial intelligence and computational capabilities, both developed and developing countries will experience productivity increases in the processes of obtaining, maintaining and managing data. “

But this range of data represents “a real obstacle to interoperability and the development of solutions based on different data sources,” the report says. “Integrating different datasets when license terms differ remains a significant challenge. Over the next decade, the industry anticipates the evolution of license harmonizations towards a set of simple, standard and concise licenses.

The third factor includes what the report’s authors refer to as “structural industry change”. They note that the management of geospatial information has “undergone significant disruptive changes in terms of map generation technologies, use cases, business models and user requirements.” This means that expertise in “consolidating a large number of data sources, understanding mapping requirements and new sets of tools developed to automate map creation will be essential for the future.”

An example given is that of intelligent transport systems, driven by the automotive and telecommunications industries. “Developments show that GPS assisted tracking systems can be used for car tracking, traffic control and surveillance for the selection of alternative routes on demand. This technology can help model moving objects and reduce the number or severity of car crashes and fatalities, ”the report says.

The fourth driver is the changing needs of users. The report says the demand for near real-time data is “driven by the expectation of instant and frictionless access to information on mobile devices.”

For example, urban municipalities “have become very engaged users of geospatial information, especially since smart city solutions and Digital Twin technology became available. The first examples of digital representations of urban infrastructure allowed municipalities to monitor and simulate scenarios related to climate change and flooding while mitigating risks and increasing infrastructure resilience.

The fifth driver is the legislative environment. The report notes that the “growing number of connected devices and volumes of data has also started to raise questions regarding data privacy and cybersecurity, which may lead to calls for changes in the legislative or regulatory environment. to be taken into account in one way or another ”.

The report cites the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook data scandal of 2018, which “led to calls for stricter data privacy regulations and data ethics frameworks,” and notes that “governments and international institutions have created guidelines on ethical considerations when using geospatial data and technologies. ”.

Basically, the report’s authors state that “there is evidence that the immediate reaction to a disruption is often to introduce legislation to address the perceived risk before the potential benefits are understood and a balanced approach to the legislation can be achieved. developed ”.

Finally, the report makes it clear that there are other trends that “highlight the wider impact on society, business and politics. Nonetheless, in terms of impact and predictability, no geospatial driver is advancing change in the global geospatial information management landscape ”.

“It is the combination of all the trends from the five industry drivers that is shaping the transformation of the industry over the next five to ten years. “

Information provided courtesy of the Ordnance Survey and the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management. The report can be downloaded from

This article first appeared in issue 115 of Position magazine.

Stay up to date by receiving stories like this in your inbox.
Sign up to receive our free weekly Spatial Source newsletter.

Comments are closed.