NOTE: This post was originally a Twitter thread – if you prefer you can read it here
I have been spending a lot of time lately digging into where the big gains in #geospatial technology will come from over the next 3-5 years. Here are my top 5
1. Climate Change
Hands down, the biggest growth area I see in #geospatial is in attacking the climate emergency. Remember those three days when Lytton BC set new temperature records here in Canada, and then burned to the ground?
Geospatial technology will be on the forefront of our fight against, and adaptation to, climate change. Whether its flooding, forest fires, heat waves, changes in the landcover, or changes in sea temperature, geospatial will be critical to connecting the dots.
Consider also the effects of human geography, densification, transportation corridors, energy production and consumption, and it’s clear that we will need to deeply understand the spatial elements of our world in order to adapt to the changing environment.
2. Emerging Industrial Applications
Factories, production plants, and industrial manufacturers of all kinds are looking for ways to automate and innovate their lines. Indoor mm-level positioning is already creating new efficiencies and opportunities. https://manufacturingglobal.com/smart-manufacturing/zerokey-harnessing-power-ultrasonics
Imagine what is possible at the intersection of high-accuracy and low-latency positioning; digital twins and #XR; autonomous robotics and hyperspectral imaging; and more.
While the cost of human labour has risen by 80%+ the cost for industrial robots has fallen by 50% and at the same time their ability to handle complex and variable tasks has increased nearly exponentially. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/operations/our-insights/automation-robotics-and-the-factory-of-the-future
This doesn’t even consider advances in nano-tech, materials science, and AI – all of which are undoubtedly happening at the same rate or faster.
The factories and industrial facilities of the next decade will look dramatically different than the ones of prior decades, assuming we can get them to adopt the technology. Which brings me to…
3. 19th century industries adopting 21st century tech
I often feel that industries like O&G, construction, mining, forestry, and other resource industries are operating with a 19th century attitude in a 21st century world. While this is probably unfair, I think it is fair to say that they are Laggards when it comes to adopting new tech.
By contribution to GDP they are monster industries:
- Construction: $141B
- Oil and Gas: $122B
- Freight + Logistics: $53B
- Mining: $34B
- Forestry $33B
and they have plenty of evolution to do as they accelerate digital transformation.
Each of these industries rely on #geospatial tech to source, plan, extract, move, upgrade, and sell, the things they produce. It’s not shocking to say that the biggest users of oil and metals, aren’t at the extraction site!
The opportunity for #resource industries goes beyond making better maps, consider:
- IoT sensor enabled sites, and the value of [near] real-time location data
- Context and awareness of your complete operations and all the expensive moving parts
- and beyond
4. Location intelligence and the “internet of behaviour”
It’s no secret that big tech companies are gobbling up our personal data and meta-data and creating profiles of our social circles, likes/dislikes, the places we go, and the things that we do. This data has created Web 2.0 and the ability to micro-personalize every transaction on the web.
While we may not love it, we (at a population level) certainly don’t hate it, and the tech companies have done a good job of balancing the creepy/awesome ratio.
Without massive social change this genie isn’t going back in the bottle. The big opportunity for #geospatial will be in creating new products and services that benefit the companies and the consumers without falling off into creepy-land.
This is the so-called “internet of behaviour”, taking the emphasis off the “things” and placing on the behaviours. The “things” are just the mechanism to track, or nudge, desired behaviours in the people around us. https://iotdesignpro.com/articles/what-is-internet-of-behavior-iob
I’ve written before about #privacy, and I’ll say it again. There is a huge opportunity in #geospatial for a system that enables customizable audience creation while respecting the privacy of the users.
But maybe I’m an old man yelling at a cloud on this one.
Research shows that Gen Z is less concerned about privacy than previous generations… as long as they get their hit of customization in return. Gen Z and Millennials are both increasingly aware of the value of their data and are willing to trade it for something of value in return.
5. Novel Data Capture Methods
Data capture used to be the hardest part of #geospatial, you needed expensive equipment, expensive processing tools, and getting access to airspace or orbit was nearly impossible. We’re seeing that change in a dramatic way as miniaturization and the plummeting cost of components mean that our smart devices get smarter.
The iPhone 12 Pro and iPad Pro both come with very capable lidar sensors, and while not long-range or hyper-accurate (yet!) they significant expand the abilities of the iPhone.
The startup @notaSatellite has patents pending for a system to reward users who take photos through commercial airline windows.
Vehicles are loaded with sensors, collecting data (and recognizing dogs!) at rates we’ve never seen before.
As the nature of #geospatial data collection evolves, so does the opportunity to harness this information into a coherent and reliable data source.
To recap IMO the big gains in geospatial technology over the next 3-5 years will come from:
- Climate change
- Adoption by 19th cen Industries
- Emerging Industrial Applications
- Location Intelligence and always-on data analysis
- Novel data capture methods