How geospatial intelligence is shaping our world

The nations and businesses who successfully provide for their citizens and customers will do so by making informed decisions from trusted data.

4 minute read
How geospatial intelligence is shaping our world, is from The Power of Place report, co-authored by Ordnance Survey and the Knowledge Transfer Network.

There is a structural shift happening in the way we understand, observe and interact with the world around us.

A key driver of this shift is an increasing demand for certainty in – and assurance of the provenance and quality of – the geospatial data that is being used to underpin important decisions. At the core of the structural shift is a demand for intelligence and actionable insight, leading to positive impact, whether that be for policy, service delivery or commercial outcomes.

The nations and businesses who successfully provide for their citizens and customers will do so by making informed decisions from an analysis of trusted data. Confidence in a trusted analysis comes from high-quality geospatial data. Quality data stems from well-defined systems of capture, maintenance and information governance - and is made discoverable, accessible and usable. Quality data that is the foundation on which other datasets can be cross-referenced, combined and overlaid, leading to insights that are far greater in value and impact than the sum of their parts.

Investing in the future

To achieve this level of success requires investment. The UK Government, through the Geospatial Commission, has signalled the importance that it places on geospatial data and the opportunities it offers through the recently published geospatial strategy. Since its creation the Geospatial Commission has taken a number of steps towards supporting the realisation of these opportunities including entering into a new 10-year agreement with Ordnance Survey to ensure the UK’s geospatial assets continues to be world-leading, underpinning the effective and efficient delivery of public services, and supporting our economic recovery.

This is crucial as we manage expanding urbanisation, concerns about food production, climate change, the need for sustainable land management and growing inequality. As the next wave of technology-enabled opportunities present themselves, those who will have the greatest advantage are those who have a strong foundational national geospatial data infrastructure in place.

As societies around the world increasingly seek to expand their digital services and data economy, establishing an authoritative national base map to which those records relate is essential. A high quality trusted and authoritative national base map leads to a geospatially enabled nation; one that shares, integrates, and uses a wide range of data to achieve economic, social and environmental benefits.

Using data the right way

There are challenges, of course. As the industry goes through this profound structural shift, it will require our collective expertise to consolidate large numbers of data sources, extracting the most valuable insights from ever-greater volumes of data from an increasingly and persistently sensed planet. From space to sensors on buildings, vehicles and assets belowground, and to the multitude of sensors ‘in our pockets’ we are provided with near real-time insights on how the world is moving, changing and adapting.

Ensuring that we make decisions with the right data and in the right context and bringing to the fore organisations that can assure the authority and trust in the services that they provide is paramount.

We will continue to face challenges in determining the appropriate use of data, whether that’s at local, national or international scales. As for location data professionals, we are at the heart of these discussions; as well as trust in high-quality data, we need to assure citizens to have trust in us, protecting their privacy and using data appropriately. Important conversations are being led by The Benchmark Initiative and the establishment of Locus Charter are moving us closer to the crux of how we sustainably work with location from an ethical standpoint.

Our role as geospatial experts should be to guide high-quality geospatial data at capture, keep it maintained and updated, to release its connecting and contextualising power, with full consideration of ethical and security considerations. And thereby help us tackle some of the biggest challenges the world faces, today and in the future.

Headshot of David Henderson
By David Henderson

Chief Geospatial Officer