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Digitalisation has created an ‘on-demand’ society, but in a world of information overload and an era of ‘fake news’, how can we gain, and maintain, trust? How do we instil confidence in our ability to make a difference through our actions, our technology, our data and our services?

In my welcome to Smarter Data Smarter World 2020 (SDSW20), it may have seemed strange to highlight a map from the mid-nineteenth century, but John Snow’s early use of geographic information is as relevant today as it was in 1854. You will recall that Snow, who is considered one of the founders of modern epidemiology, collected information on cholera cases and deaths, recorded where they happened and thereby traced the source of a deadly outbreak in Soho, London.

Clearly we can draw parallels with the use of location data today in the fight against Covid-19 where our industry is once again playing a key role to help protect, control and mitigate the impact of the virus through data-driven track and trace systems, big data analytics and hot-spot mapping.

Never has location data been more important but we need more than just data and technology, we need accurate trusted data underpinned by innovation to drive interoperability and ensure quality. This is true, not just in the response to the global pandemic, but also in creating a safer, smarter, more sustainable world by tackling issues such as climate change and urbanisation.

Trusted data, trusted partners and solutions you can count on

When we talked about trusted or ‘authoritative’ data at SDSW20, we were referring to data provided on behalf of a public body under an official mandate to a known criteria to ensure high quality, and that is required to be used and reused by the public sector and society as a whole. This definition was provided by EuroGeographics, the voice of the European National Mapping, Cadastral and Land Registration authorities, and when we talked about geospatial authoritative data, we were talking about data that is maintained and provided by these official sources. In Great Britain this is provided by Ordnance Survey and we heard more about how it supplies data to the public sector via its National Mapping Service, which is delivered through the Public Sector Geospatial Agreement (PSGA). Greater London Authority works with authoritative data on a daily basis, taking it from various infrastructure providers and local authorities to aggregate, transform and validate for the National Underground Asset Register (NUAR) project, of which more later.

Integrating authoritative national data reaps particularly powerful results. Take for example Ordnance Survey Ireland’s collaboration with the Central Statistics Office (CSO), first in monitoring national progress towards the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and now playing a pivotal role in the pandemic response.

Further across the Atlantic, the State of Michigan is also bringing data together through the use of 1Spatial’s technology by implementing a new state-wide geographic framework solution to integrate authoritative data from contributors at all levels of government. In California, the Department of Transportation’s enterprise data governance program is fostering increased collaboration across local, state, and federal programs as well as improving the accuracy of data for aggregation into state-wide datasets.

Global, national and state-wide challenges aside, the need for corporate users to be certain that the data they receive is accurate was demonstrated by Yvonne Reshetar, Real Estate Data Governance Program Manager at Google. With budget, office space and headcount forecasts relying on the data provided by her team, users must be able to trust that it is correct. In a candid presentation, Yvonne explained how 1Spatial is helping to establish confidence in the accuracy of their information right across the organisation.

Realising innovation through relationships founded on mutual trust

Trust, in particular around data sharing, was also a key factor in the development of the NUAR. Since its inception at Northumbrian Water Group’s (NWG) 2018 Innovation Festival, more than 30 public and private asset owners have contributed to the project to date – including the team at 1Spatial which is a partner in the pilot funded by the Geospatial Commission. This is a great example of how innovation can be achieved through cross-sector collaboration and by building relationships founded on mutual trust.

It was great to also showcase some of the other ways utility and transport organisations are using our technology, including new machine learning and augmented reality integration.

Northern Gas Networks joined us to describe the journey to put data at the heart of everything it does and how fundamental data management principles and activities played a vital role in its success. We were also pleased to hear an update from LM, a powerful joint venture between Laing O’Rourke and Murphy, with whom we have developed an Ecology Survey Data Quality Portal which is helping ensure data for HS2 conforms to the necessary specifications.

As well as a platform for our customer and industry speakers, SDSW20 is also welcome opportunity to provide perspectives from our 1Spatial experts. From the grassroots up, our organisation is founded on a passion for innovation that extends beyond our labs and into our offices across the world. We are united by our dedication to staying a step ahead in a sector where success depends on being smarter, not just smart.

It’s an ethos embedded in our approach to data quality, which is at the heart of everything we do. Our 1Spatial platform which includes our Location Master Data Management (LMDM) software and solutions and our targeted business applications were demonstrated by Seb Lessware, our Chief Technology Officer and Bob Chell, Chief Product Officer in their technology showcase.

Seb and Bob also shared their insights into our product and solution technology roadmaps, including recent releases as well as current work-in-progress. We continue to invest in new data types and APIs and were delighted to announce the launch of the 1Integrate 3D model in quarter 1 of 2021, so do keep your eyes peeled for more information.

March 2020 saw the reveal of 1Data Gateway, our self-service web-enabled portal for spatial data validation, processing, visualisation and analytics which is being used by the State of Michigan to create their state-wide authoritative data set. This year we also released new business applications that can be data agnostic or used within the Esri platform. All are customisable and available out of the box.

Our Ecology Survey solution delivers better data through evaluation against ecological survey rules whilst Realworld 4D brings together GIS and BIM to provide  repository for 2D and 3D data models for building and asset management. We also developed 1Water which uses the esri utility model network to help water and wastewater companies to operate more efficiently and smartly.

The Future is Geospatial

Like 1Spatial, our speakers from the Geospatial Commission, Rosalind Goodfellow, Deputy Director for Policy, and Commissioner Steve Unger, were both upbeat about the opportunities for geospatial, with Steve focussing on the immense value that geospatial data and services can provide to the transport and logistics sectors.

The UK’s Geospatial Strategy, 2020 to 2025, complements the National Data Strategy, and provides a path for unlocking the significant economic, social and environmental opportunities offered by location data. It’s truly an exciting time to be part of the data sector, and geospatial in particular!

Looking to the future, David Henderson, Chief Geospatial Officer, Ordnance Survey Great Britain, outlined the factors expected to shape the geospatial market over the next decade. The United Nations Future Trends in Geospatial Information Management report is well worth reading for an insight into the new ways in which we will continue to respond and prepare to recover from the global pandemic, and rise to the ever increasing challenges of new environmental, social and economic pressures.

As we head towards what Dr Anne Kemp OBE of Atkins described as an increasingly complex, parallel virtual world, we expect to see the rapid development of digital twins where digital assets are valued as much as the physical. The powerful combination of BIM and geospatial is crucial to the creation of the National Digital Twin envisaged in the National Infrastructure Commission’s 2017 Data for the Public Good Report.

Whilst I know of several examples of digital twins, I was fascinated to learn their application has directly contributed to enhanced performance in professional cycling from Paul Barratt, Head of Performance Support and Innovation Team, Team INEOS. I am sure I am not alone in recognising huge opportunities for other sectors.

Location intelligence is a fundamental enabler of the connected and autonomous world we are building today. Location or geospatial data is the link between objects, people, systems and the environment. While many of the technological barriers have already been addressed, the future winners of the geospatial market will recognise the human challenges that remain.

Trust in the data, systems and processes is vital but we also need to trust our people. And in uncertain times, we also need to trust our instincts. History tells us that companies unafraid to invest in innovation during a crisis do better. Let’s continue to collaborate to find solutions to our common challenges, coordinate our responses and work together to achieve a more sustainable, safer and smarter world.

You can revisit the fantastic presentations from our event on our On-Demand page.

Thank you once again to everyone who attended our first virtual event. We hope you can join us in person at next year’s event, taking place on 10th November 2021.Registration is now open.