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Commission publishes UK Geospatial Strategy


Mark Say Managing Editor


The Geospatial Commission has declared a plan to develop a national location data framework to support future technologies by 2025.

The ambition is a key element within the newly published UK Geospatial Strategy, titled Unlocking the power of location, along with plans for a nationwide roll out of the National Underground Asset Register (NUAR), guidance on managing risks while unlocking the value in data, and developing a set of harmonised and machine readable licences by next year.

Andrew Dilnot

Sir Andrew Dilnot (pictured), chair of the Geospatial Commission – the body in the Cabinet Office co-ordinating the effort – said: “Location data already has a significant impact on our lives. Better location data will help us to make more informed decisions on everything from where to build new schools and hospitals, to how to manage precious resources such as land and energy, creating economic, social and environmental value.

“It will guide development of future technologies, such as autonomous vehicles and advanced digital representations that will support improved UK competitiveness and quality of life.  The Geospatial Commission was set up to take advantage of the significant opportunities that location data and technology offer to the UK.”

The document highlights the importance of increasing the use of location data and sets out the plan for a national framework to cover data assets, standards, technologies, policies, guidance, people and organisations.

It will be based on the UN Integrated Geospatial Information Framework, which is focused on location information integrated with other types of data to deal with societal and environmental issues. This is aimed at ensuring the approach is compatible with international best practice.

Four missions

Along with this it identifies four strategic missions to deal with the various challenges involved. The first is to promote and safeguard the use of the data, with an evidenced view of its market value and guidelines on data access, privacy, ethics and security.

Elements of this include a plan to publish guidance on measuring the economic, social and environmental value of location data by 2021, developing the machine readable licences in the same timeframe, and providing guidance on the ethical issues.

Second is to improve access to good quality location data, with an early step being the national roll out of the NUAR. This follows pilot projects in London and the North East, and the Greater London Authority’s award last year of a contract for a digital register of underground assets in the city.

It also covers satellite data, with an intent to explore ways to rationalise the public sector’s procurement of Earth observation data and services.   

Other plans under this mission include improving access to data to support the building, buying and selling of houses, assessing how location data can support next generation transport networks, and identifying how it can support positive environmental outcomes.

The third mission is to enhance capabilities, skills and awareness in the sector, with the first step being the publication of a skills demand study later this year to pinpoint the need for specific roles. There are also plans to develop geospatial apprenticeships in the public and private sectors and pilot an International Geospatial Service to showcase UK expertise.

Fourthly, there is an ambition to enable innovation by maximising commercial opportunities and promoting adoption of high value location technologies. This will include setting up a Location Data Innovation Programme this year and supporting Scotland’s first Geospatial Network Integrator.

Nine areas of impact

The strategy also points to nine areas in which location data will have a significant impact – infrastructure, transport, housing, environment, public health, emergency response, ocean economy, retail and finance – all of which could benefit from the national framework.

It also highlights six trends that are underpinning the opportunities: the increasing availability of real time data; the proliferation of sensors; the emergence of artificial intelligence and machine learning; the growth of cloud and edge computing; the promise of improved connectivity through 5G networks; and the development of new data visualisation technologies.

Cabinet Office Minister Lord True said: “The application of location data is critical for navigating our new digital world, and for making the UK a better place for everyone.

“As well as making everyday lives easier, location data has the potential to unite and level up the country – by connecting people, organisations and services.

Image from Cabinet Office

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