Data will only be useful if it is understandable and it will only be understandable and meaningful if it contains the right information, believes Marc Melviez, CEO, Luciad
What are Luciad’s core solutions and application areas?
We are traditionally specialists in defense, intelligence and aviation. They have been our key and core business. However, today we are getting fantastic demands from other domains such as telecom, insurance, banking, logistics, transportation, port and airport security, and indoor location. We are going from macro-level geospatial information to really spatial information for people moving inside shops, for instance, and determining how they move and what they look at. There are a lot of things we have learnt from the defense world that we can today apply to new domains.
You joined Luciad in 2004 when it was just a start-up. How has been the journey so far?
The journey has been quite interesting. I joined Luciad as the CFO when it was a small company and was a team of enthusiastic people. Now it is much larger company with even more enthusiastic people. With the advent of things like Google Maps and Google Earth, maps have taken much larger place in our lives. We have seen a tremendous interest not just from the specialist communities but from the public as well. I think this is great because we are only at the beginning of the journey. So, yes 12 years at Luciad but I see the future as even more interesting.
You mentioned geointelligence community as your ﬁrst and foremost clientele. What are their major concerns today?
One of the major concerns of the intelligence community from the geospatial context is the fact that the maps that exist are not good enough. When you look at the things from macro-level, the world is divided into countries and countries have borders. Since these borders do not represent physical reality on the ground, the challenge today for the geospatial community is to create maps that represent actionable reality, maps with which you can do something. Of course, we need to protect borders because international law is built and designed around national borders. But, not all the political players respect boundaries and therefore you need to create maps that are actionable for or against these bodies who do not respect international boundaries.
What kind of challenges the defense community and market is facing today?
I think the biggest problem is too much data. The challenge is transforming that data into information, and doing it with less manpower as compared with what was required few years back. What we are seeing is the emergence of deep machine learning and beginning of artificial intelligence in geospatial systems, processing information that is available at a scale that did not existed before. Social media, for example, is often the only source of information you have in countries where public information is entirely controlled by governments. So, how do we make sense of all the social media information and use it to produce maps that can be used by those who make decisions based on these geospatial information is the challenge.
What role do you see for IoT and Cloud in Big Data analytics?
IoT and Cloud are of course important infrastructures, but an infrastructure is interesting and valid only if it does some-thing for you. Internet of Things is actually becoming the Internet of Everything. Internet of Everything might be applied to public lighting — a pedestrian is approaching, light sensors detect the moment and lights up just the amount necessary for that person. Think how much energy and electricity can be saved that way! So, IoT is a concept, the implementation of it will have a profound impact on our society on the way we live and how we optimize our resources.
How has Big Data analytics impacted geospatial?
Big Data analytics has impacted our lives in several ways. Luciad comes from the world of aviation and defense; for us Big Data existed long before it was even called Big Data. We had data produced from engines, planes, traffic control and so on. The thing that has appeared in the last few years is Big Data analytics. It is a new way of looking at data and discovering patterns, insights and transforming data into information on which you can take action. For example, in aviation Big Data analytics can be used to reduce time spent by an aircraft circling around an airport waiting for slots to open. Today, we can analyze traffic patterns and predict to derive the fact that the plane will have a delay before it even starts its engine, which saves tons of fuel and makes life comfortable for passengers too.
How can the geospatial community ensure that all this data is useful for the common man?
Data will only be useful if it is understandable, and it will only be understandable and meaningful if it contains the right information. There is lot of noise in the data; the challenge is how to get rid of the noise. How do we focus on the information that is relevant and how do we make sure the eye of the person looking at the screen or looking at the map catches the piece of the information we want him to catch? We at Luciad develop technologies like visual analytics that make it easier to find these unknowns in the map or in the Big Data. It is a continuous journey of finding new ideas on how to master and manage information in such a way that people can make the right decision at the right time.
What technologies will drive the future and where is this industry heading?
I think that one of the big changes over the last few years i.e. in 2003-05 was of Google Earth. The world became map-centric, but what we are seeing now is that location data is being produced by many devices. There are enormous users of geospatial information, not necessarily as the centre of the information system but as the part of the dashboards that are being used in industry, control rooms, defense intelligence, cars, and planes and so on.
You are a trained pilot. So how has this ability helped you to ﬂy high with Luciad?
I think the effect of being a pilot — flying a high-performance aircraft in European weather that is generally very bad especially at night and winters — has helped me first understand the usage of maps and the importance of heights and altitude. These have helped me understand the world of geospatial as a user first and then of course the importance of teamwork and procedures. I think a company can move forward as a team, but it needs to have certain rules that are well understood by everyone so that you don’t have to spend too much time training people on what is important, what is the right thing to do, how to work on a collaborative model… and all this comes from aviation training basically.
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