Why geospatial is driving digital transformation

As one of the basic building blocks for digital transformation, geospatial information is vital for linking unconnected datasets.

8 minute read
Whether developing an electronic land registry, creating cutting-edge positioning infrastructure, delivering public data or digitising cadastral records, geospatial providers spend a huge amount of time, effort and money on transforming their services for the benefit of government, business and citizens.

A great example of this is Denmark's 'data distributor' - a one-stop channel giving access to a range of basic public data, ranging from information about individuals, businesses and real property, to geospatial data on buildings. The data distributor allows public authorities, utilities as well as private companies to centrally collect, combine and apply basic data for the benefit of Danish society. By providing the foundation for digital transformation, this will support the creation of innovative new digital solutions across the public and private sector.

Location is also being used to join up valuable information across Scotland to provide better analysis and faster insights. By enabling users to access local data on a national scale, the Spatial Hub centralises and structures data from 32 local authorities and two national parks. As a result, local authorities can focus resources and effort on providing efficient services, and valuable data is exposed to wider audiences with improved access for innovative start-ups delivering growth for the economy.

"Local authorities have a wealth of spatial data but it's under-used and valued because its trapped in silos,” explains Iain McKay, Head of the Data and Intelligence Team at Improvement Service. “The Spatial Hub allows us to take the individual authorities data, cleanse it, and make it widely available as national datasets for the whole public sector."

Authoritative geospatial data as part of the national infrastructure

These digital transformation examples are built on authoritative data, which is defined as data provided by a public body (or authority). This body will have an official mandate to provide and sustain it, to ensure known quality, and that is required to be used and reused by the public sector and society as a whole.

Globally governments recognise that authoritative geospatial data is part of the national infrastructure and that much of the development, oversight, and ownership rests with government.

This requires that governments invest, not only in their geospatial information capability to serve the public sector, but also to ensure their data is accessible and exploitable by partners and private companies. In so doing, they can deliver returns on their investments whilst laying the building blocks for a digital economy.

Between 1999 and 2005, the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh implemented a new computer-assisted registration of deeds system facilitated by geospatial Information. Because the system published data online, it allowed banks and other lenders to rapidly ascertain property ownership. The credit market itself increased five-fold after the system was introduced, from USD 7 billion to $35 billion. The number of property sales doubled, and the increases continued after the project ended.

By embracing mobile banking and money transfers, Sub-Saharan Africa is bringing financial services to millions of people who previously had no access to banking facilities. Geospatial information is also helping to expand innovations by providing detailed information on land tenure, land cover, land usage, population distribution and existing physical infrastructure.

Fundamental geospatial Information also plays an important role in agriculture areas like soil, land, water, crop, climate, and risk-related studies. Technologies like unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), GIS, global navigation satellite system (GNSS), and remote sensing are enabling farmers to visualise their land, crops, and management practices in unprecedented ways. These tools are increasing productivity and return on investment and also driving the demand for tailored applications.

The digital economy has the greatest potential in developing countries where digital technologies can help nations leap forward.

The IGIF in particular will help to bridge the geospatial digital divide by offering a new paradigm and mechanism to further strengthen nationally integrated geospatial information management and the desired transformational change that is required.

Countries that are yet to embark on the NSDI, for example, now have an opportunity to ‘leapfrog’ existing concepts and processes. By going through this process, they will build their NSDI along with improved governance, enabling technology and people management, and a greater understanding of the value of geospatial information as a national asset.

To maximise the use of location infrastructure and move towards achieving their SDGs, OS worked with Guyana Lands and Survey Commission (GLSC) to update their geodetic infrastructure and support the building of key capabilities for the effective use, maintenance and expansion of the network.

The project seeks to establish and sustainably maintain a modern, robust and accurate national geodetic positioning network to enable better transport, secure land tenure, better government and increased economy. The knowledge transfer of expertise from OS to GLSC is essential in transforming the services provided to government, business and the people of Guyana, and to ensure that the benefits of investment are maximised by public and private sector users.

Trevor Benn, GLSC Commissioner said: "This project will enable all users, engineers, surveyors to get more precise information to help them make decisions. It will provide a key foundation for survey, mapping and land administration."

Ordnance Survey was chosen because of its detailed understanding of the GLSC’s role as the national mapping, land and geospatial agency, and its own particular insight into the sustainable and future use of CORS technology. With support from Ordnance Survey, this project has enabled all users, engineers and surveyors to get more precise information to help them make decisions. It provides a key foundation for surveying, mapping and land administration

Digital transformation is built on authoritative data, that is provided and maintained at a high quality for public use.

Connecting digitised data to the physical world

“Geospatial data is made up of ‘time’ and ‘place’ – without it, digitised datasets are not connected to the real, physical world around us,” says Chinn Hwa Lim, Senior Director, GovTech Singapore’s Smart Nation Platform Solutions.

The Smart Nation Sensor Platform (SNSP) programme in Singapore aims to use a shared network of sensors across the country. A key initiative under the SNSP is the Lamppost-as-a-Platform (LaaP) project which uses public lampposts as infrastructure to mount and power sensors to support a myriad of public use cases and applications.

For example, sensors on these lampposts can unlock simple, energy-saving functions – such as adjusting the amount of light emitted by the lamppost based on external conditions, instead of merely being on a timer – which is critical because of the monsoon conditions experienced in Singapore.

Chinn Hwa Lim adds:” Geospatial data provides a crucial additional layer to ensuring these technologies are fully integrated and effective at improving the lives of citizens, and to the whole network of smart city infrastructure. It allows us to understand precisely where 5G cells should be installed to maximise the range of internet around the country or map traffic and footfall in real-time to optimise transport of people around a city.”

A digital model of a city improves the depth of analysis available to planners. To help Singapore plan its future more effectively, OS lent its expertise to a project with the National University of Singapore and the Singaporean government.

OS’s role was to develop data processing and 3D data modelling to support Singapore aim to be a world leader in smart technology. It contributed knowledge about the CityGML data model, an exchange compatible with BIM that stores digital 3D models of buildings and cities so that data can be automated.

In Korea, ‘Digital Twin’ is emerging as a promising platform to build a constant monitoring system for constant monitoring and prompt response to disasters, accidents and incidents. It will also form an integral part of Korea’s strategy for smart management of the national territory.

“The project, will ensure better protection of its citizens and their properties from various threats as well as adaptation to the fourth industrial revolution and the changes brought by digital infrastructure,” explains Dr Hosang Sakong, Director General of National Geographic Information Institute.

OS is already exploring the possibilities presented by Digital Twins. The Bournemouth digital twin project saw OS working with the Met Office, the University of Surrey's 5G Innovation Centre and Bournemouth Borough Council, to process and integrate 30 datasets to build a high-resolution 3D model of the town, featuring buildings, vegetation, street furniture and utility assets.

This enabled the project partners to simulate the way that obstacles, from rainfall to trees, would interfere with high-frequency 5G signals and gain valuable insight into the challenges and approaches for 5G deployment. A digital twin of infrastructure in every town and village in Britain could achieve the same for the whole country.

Building on a tradition of digital innovation

Britain has a proud history of digital innovation – from the earliest days of computing to the development of the World Wide Web. With the digitalisation of the last of OS’s 230,000 maps in 1995, it also became the first country in the world to complete a programme of large-scale electronic mapping.

We are building on this rich legacy by providing the expertise, training and tools to enable nations seeking to grow their economies, drive sustainable development, support decision-making and policy-setting, to benefit from geospatial information as a critical enabler.

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By Andrew McMenamin

International Solution Consultant