Blog: Geospatial and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Geospatial and the Fourth Industrial Revolution


The geospatial industry has faced significant disruption over recent years.

There is more to come but with disruption comes opportunity.

1Spatial CEO Claire Milverton shares her views.

The challenge of change for the geospatial industry

We have seen significant change in the traditional roles of spatial data providers.

They are experiencing increased demand for their information (often from mainstream, non-geospatial, developers). Many are redefining their role from map-makers to providers of digital insight.

Together, these factors have led to increased investment in innovation as a means of gaining competitive advantage across the sector.

At the same time, the dramatic increase in rates of data acquisition from 3D aerial survey and sensor platforms is changing the fundamental economics of data capture and maintenance. In so doing, it is challenging traditional business practices, roles and technologies.

Bringing geospatial back to mainstream

Historically geospatial technology has been developed in relative isolation from mainstream IT. As a consequence, organisations have yet to capitalise fully on the combination of location data with the power of social, mobile, analytics and cloud (SMAC).

Social media platforms, with their use of machine learning and AI, have also grown rapidly and independently from the geospatial tech sector. Neither is yet fully capitalising on the advantages of the other.

There is real competitive advantage available to those able to successfully combine these two approaches at scale.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Are we on the brink of a Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), as the World Economic Forum suggests? At 1Spatial, we believe so and we believe it presents enormous opportunity.

4IR technologies are already enabling a host of transformative rifts in the social fabric, exposing novel privacy concerns and opening up disruptive new business models, such as Uber, Deliveroo or Airbnb. Ethical questions on the use of those technologies are now being raised daily. This is an epochal change.

Location information – along with other sometimes interrelated technologies like mesh computing, digital twins, 3D data capture and change detection, drones and autonomous vehicles, machine learning, conversational UI, and augmented reality – will be central to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Awareness of a user’s context and their relation to real world events and resources is key to enabling greater productivity in the 4IR workforce.

Geospatial data and technology will be integrated with other pillars of this new revolution to produce whole new categories of application. These apps will be ever more contextual, combining users’ habits and preferences with situation and location to provide smart notification services and location-aware virtual assistants that seamlessly follow the user as she roams between different environments and devices.

Inevitably, there will be more change. 4IR technologies provide compelling practical and economic reasons (efficiency, scale, speed, ease of use) for adoption. It is a question of when, not if, these technologies will transform our sector.

Winning with location data

The last five years have shown how simple View and Query applications can be made accessible to every user. The decision support capabilities of these simple applications are limited however; the interpretation responsibility lies with the user. The coming challenge is to anticipate more of users’ information requirements and service them in real time. Locating and integrating data and services responsive to users’ needs is critical to enabling this, taking account of the data’s provenance and quality.

At 1Spatial, our focus is on automating the user’s needs for query understanding, quality checking and real-time integration.

Looking ahead and across our sector, there is a clear and urgent need to increase innovation and build the skills that will drive competition over the next three to five years.

Anticipating needs, making useful information more available and more ubiquitous while removing the clutter will require imagination. It will need us all to reach beyond our industry and combine approaches and techniques from different sectors.

The winners will be those that can successfully adapt to the new reality of bringing information of real currency and value to users.

The next generation of intelligent, location-enabled, information services is upon us. At 1Spatial, we look forward to being part of its delivery.

Share this page