Our New Work for the Geospatial Commission

Henry Lawrence

19 June 2019

We are currently working with the Geospatial Commission to deliver a Geospatial Technology Review – here’s what we’ve found so far.  

The opportunities for geospatial technologies in the UK are huge. With the UK already one of the best countries to grow a digital business, and ranked as the second best country in the world in terms of its geospatial-readiness scale by the GeoBuiz, it’s easy to see why it’s a growing industry in the UK. 

PUBLIC have been working with the Geospatial Commission to uncover the technological changes which will allow this sector to make its prospective societal and economic impact. This week, for GovTech in Focus, we explore geospatial technologies and the innovative companies who are leveraging them.

What are we doing for the Geospatial Commission?

The Geospatial Commission was established to maximise the value of geospatial data. They are an expert, impartial committee within the UK Cabinet Office that will set the UK’s geospatial strategy.

The Commission’s Call For Evidence, published last year, partly aimed to explore future geospatial technologies.  PUBLIC are in strong position to tackle this challenge, given our proximity to the UK’s startup community and our ability to tackle thematic verticals in our research. 

What are geospatial technologies?

Geospatial technologies analyse the Earth’s land and its features, including Global Positioning Systems (GPS), Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). These technologies record location points associated with all observations, collect images remotely and provide high and low resolution images of regional/human scale phenomenon respectively.

How big is this sector?

A recent Alphabeta report estimated that as an industry, geospatial services generate US$400 billion in revenue per year. However, this doesn’t take into account the ancillary benefits of geospatial services. When measuring the benefits of geospatial technologies, studies often consider direct benefits (the revenues generated by companies developing geo services), consumer benefits (the knock-on economic effects of geospatial technologies) and the wider economic benefits (the efficiencies which could not be generated by other sectors). As such, the Geospatial Readiness Index proposes that the cumulative geospatial industry is projected to reach $439.2 billion by 2020. Early initial economic analysis estimates that the value to the UK economy could be up to £11 billion per year.

What is the government looking for in this space? 

The UK is undoubtedly seen as a leader in this field. Geospatial readiness is seen as a primary characteristic which contributes to a country’s GDP, as well as improving capabilities in a whole raft of sectors including infrastructure, environment and financial services to name a few. According to the Geospatial Readiness Index, the UK is second in the world for our ability to encourage geospatial development and innovation, only behind the US. 

Government policies have a big role to play in this development. The Geospatial Commission with six partner bodies (Ordnance Survey, HM Land Registry, UK Hydrographic Office, British Geological Survey, Coal Authority, Valuation Office Agency). These bodies will strive to set the UK’s strategy and implement a range of projects to drive the projected value of this sector.

What is the segmentation of geospatial technologies?

The market for geospatial activity is extensive and in our research we broke it down into 17 distinct categories: 

  Mapping & Addressing

  Survey & Measurement

  Data Infrastructure

  Data Analytics & AI

  Distributed Ledger technology

  Smart Sensors & IoT

  UAVs and Drones

  VR and AR

  Connectivity

  Digital Twin and Simulation

  Robotics

  Crowdsourcing

  Cameras, Imaging & Sensing

  Space Platforms and Satellites

  Cyber Security

  Quantum Processing

Key geospatial technologies and startups

The geospatial market in the UK benefits from having a number of strong incumbents pushing forward their own innovative services, a developing startup community and a genuinely ambitious policy environment.

One area of particular growth is Satellite-derived Earth Observation which offers analysts large amounts of data on the planet’s physical, chemical and biological systems. In the UK increases in commercial satellites, Copernicus, Landsat and weather satellites have spurred these capabilities. Endless startups are benefiting from the data collected, for example AVUXI have created a platform to gauge the popularity of cities by highlighting categorised heat maps, points of interests, social neighbourhoods, and public transport.

The UK has developed a 5g strategy, setting out a vision of what the future of mobile connectivity, geospatial will be required to support this role out. In terms of IoT, the UK has put the large scale CityVerve project into place in order to demonstrate how IoT technologies will connect and improve services. Additionally, there has been help for startups in this space with the Digital Catapult and Future Catapult aiming to push entrepreneurs and startups forwards. 

Perhaps the greatest value will be realised in the downstream services developing in the geospatial industry. AI is now commonly used as a tool to exploit big data produced in the geospatial sector. It’s a key factor in the growth of GNSS and Positioning, GIS/Spatial Analytics, and Earth Observation segments. For example, Global Surface Intelligence uses AI to provide satellite information for natural resource management and forest classification. Similarly, Hummingbird Technologies have developed artificial intelligence systems to utilise imagery and data analytics from satellites, drones and planes to provide farmers with high resolution crop imagery at critical decision-making junctures in the farming season. 

These are just a few examples of the startups in the field that PUBLIC believe are utilising some of the most exciting technologies in the field of geospatial. As the project continues we will undoubtedly uncover how companies and startups are utilising these technologies, and what opportunities exist within the market for them to do so. 

What are the elements of this project?

In terms of conducting the research for this review, PUBLIC have utilised a varied and encompassing methodology. Interviews have been conducted with a number of the most promising startups who are utilising geospatial technologies across the value chain. Additionally, we have hosted roundtables in a number of thematic sectors including: Infrastructure, Insurance, Housing and Planning and Cyber Security. Using our knowledge of the UK’s startup ecosystem we invited some of the most innovative and successful SMEs/Startups in the geospatial community. These roundtables were attended by some of the most established actors in their respective fields including UK Cloud and Airbus. This variety has allowed for a fruitful and informative conversation on barriers and opportunities that industry actors perceive. Finally, extensive desk research has taken place in order to inform our geospatial market overview and the primary technology sections which we delve into in the body of the report. 

Registrations for the GovTech Summit 2019 are now open – sign up now to join us in reimagining the future of public services in Paris on 14 November. 

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