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Report flags up geospatial data’s tech potential

28/08/19

Mark Say Managing Editor

Geospatial data can play a key role in boosting the development of the internet of things (IoT), imaging, unmanned vehicles systems and other technologies, according to a newly published Government report.

Aerial map

Titled Future Technologies Review, the report has been funded by the Geospatial Commission in the Cabinet Office and published by tech start-up supporter Public.

It says the UK is second only to the US in the development of its geospatial sector and has a growing number of start-ups in the field, with potential to support the public and private sector. Uses can include tackling crime hotspots, finding the quickest routes for emergency services and deciding where best to locate warehouses.

Among the eight technology areas it highlights are smart sensors and the IoT – an important element in smart places – with geospatial data currently being used in telemetry systems, QR codes, barcode IDs, radio frequency identification, dashcams, event data recorders and smartphones.

But applications are emerging in a handful of other technologies, including the IoT, smart meters, intelligent sensor networks and IoT analytics; and looking to the future the report says it could also be used in smart dust.

This is a new type of sensor with the potential for blanket monitoring and surveillance of an area. The sensors can be as small as a grain of sand and remain suspended in an environment like a particle of dust, equipped with GPS to provide a locational aspect to their measurements.

They are also capable of storing and processing data on the device, and communicating it to cloud or edge computing centres.

Uses in imaging and sensing reflect the trend towards near-persistent observation, extending as far as satellite data and taking in technologies such as vehicle sensors, backpack imaging and synthetic aperture radar, which can create 3D reconstructions of objects.

Supporting drones

There is also potential in using the data to support unmanned vehicle systems and drones, which could have multiple applications in the public sector. The report points to policing, traffic management and managing energy assets.

It says the growth of new sensor capabilities in these systems will increase their value to the geospatial sector even further.

Other areas of potential highlighted in the report are survey, measurement and scanning, AI, immersive technologies, simulation and connectivity.

Sir Andrew Dilnot, chair of the Geospatial Commission, said: “I welcome this report published today which gives us a better understanding of the maturity of eight technologies and how they are likely to impact the future geospatial sector, which is rapidly growing. 

“It also outlines opportunities geospatial technologies provide to the UK, with insights into the investment landscape and snapshot case studies for external audiences who have not yet engaged with the geospatial community.”

The thinking reflected in the report was behind the establishment of the Geospatial Commission in 2017, supported by £80 million of funding over that time to drive the move to use this data more productively.

Image from Environment Agency CC BY 2.0

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