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What is driving the need for real-time geodata, and how does that impact the spatial information sector?

from November issue Vector1 magazine

While integration of geospatial technologies is contributing toward an increase in real-time geodata needs, it can be argued that a shift toward demands for greater collaboration and increased sharing within and between projects is the primary driver for real-time geodata. With more people working and sharing together, often from different localities and time zones – projects never sleep. Spatial data is constantly be captured and exchanged, and many sub-systems in the work flows are automated for continuous geoprocessing and output.

Many geospatial applications today aspire to greater collaboration and sharing among those participating within and between projects. Whereas users previously worked alone with specific kinds of spatial data or because of disciplinary boundaries, many projects and contracts now depend upon people communicating together with higher levels of interaction and sharing. Technological developments have supported this change and standards also contribute toward these interactions.

  • BIM Model Sharing and Synchronization
  • the United States Geological Service (USGS) generates real-time earthquake mapping as a means to improve reaction response.
  • real-time GIS data is used to enable GeoDesign through pen-based technology.
  • Real-time and near real-time GPS-components for the Indonesian tsunami early warning system and IGS real-time products evaluation.
  • JASON-2 satellite delivers near real-time data for ocean monitoring.
  • IBM software predicts traffic patterns using real-time data.
  • Weatherbug delivers real-time agricultural data to support real-time decision making for agricultural producers.
  • ERTICO – urban test bed sites should include real-time collection (intelligent agents, WiFi etc.) from fleets.
  • Capturing the Long Tail of Sensor Web

Recently at a meeting in Rome, members of the European Environment Agency indicated that the future would see a rise in the number of general public as contributors to that agency’s web services. The notion behind this realisation is that people will begin to feedback their own expressions as part of a wider data pool, thereby contributing toward updates of these web services – the services will be dynamic in nature.

The extent of real-time requirements is not restricted to a particular technology. From field mobility tools through to satellite imagery, real-time geodata will be captured, analysed and represented in near continuous fashion. One of the clearest signals that collaboration and sharing are driving real-time data needs can be found in the building information modeling (BIM) field.

BIM seeks to integrate spatial information from a wide number of professionals in a multi-disciplinary approach. Architects, structural engineers, urban planners and transportation specialists as well as others seek to connect their work in a fused and seamless way. These BIM models inter-connect these individuals, sometimes from different locations and time zones.

It becomes more difficult to identify local projects, since the participants originate from different locations. In fact, discussions surrounding 3D city models now often speak about connecting different projects that find their foundational infrastructure all within common geodata. Few can argue with the fact the one road serves utilities, transport and developer needs at the same time.

How will all this connectedness impact the sector? Clearly efficiency is an outcome as is improved communication. Additionally, there are benefits in time saved on projects, and the ability to access components of infrastructure lifecycle using a common approach. But other impacts may be triggered.

How do we train and educate people to work at such high levels of collaboration and rates of data integration? Should people become more generalist or more specific in terms of disciplines that they study? What will be the role of surveyor’s? Should architects need to know and understand geodata? Where do the lines of ownership and liability meet and cross as real-time data draws more people into the collaborative processes?

The trend is toward greater amounts of real-time geodata. This is positive and likely to result in better decision-making and improved outcomes. It will demand improvements in hardware, particularly communication technologies and connections for moving large quantities of geodata, storing them and new innovations for improving the synthesis of vast quantities of data arriving at our work places.