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Looking at opportunities on the margins

Jonathan Neufeld, CEO, Tecterra

New technology must be “privacy-first” for stakeholders to continue to place their trust in companies

Artificial Intelligence will prove to be as massive a disruption in this decade as the internet was in the previous, but contrary to the perception of the mainstream media, AI will not take over the world and destroy jobs. Rather it will radically transform business by, acting as a force multiplier for the work that we are already doing. Perhaps in coming decades we will see an Artificial General Intelligence, but this decade will be the shift from shovels to backhoes, strengthening and enabling human workforce to accomplish more than what we have ever before.

The other obvious disruption is the roll-out of a consumer accessible 5G network. 5G will change the way that we create and consume geospatial data. High data rates with low latency will mean that we will be able to move data to the Cloud faster and more effectively, which will enable deeper and faster processing. This will open avenues for data collection that were not previously feasible — enabling real-time understanding of massive raw datasets.

Prioritizing digitalization, innovation

Digitalization has reduced friction and accelerated interaction time. This means the analyses that used to take days or months, can now be completed in hours. The only downside to digitalization is the mindset that “if it’s not digital, it doesn’t exist”. In the digital-first 2020s we need to remember that the map is not the terrain, and to recognize the huge opportunity that exists in historical and analog data assets.

Also Read: Exploring true potential of 3D geospatial

As a non-profit dedicated to supporting innovation in companies, we are seeing a trend of continued investment in R&D. Companies are using the low interest rates and high customer awareness of digital geospatial technology to drive forward on big opportunities. Technology has become the main intermediary between customers and business, and the former expect a positive and near-effortless interaction. While speed and accuracy remain paramount, there is doubt that the best companies will differentiate by providing a thoughtful and frictionless User Experience. The companies that we support are working on innovative technologies and businesses that will create jobs, enable growth and move the state of geospatial technology forward.

Handling privacy

New technology must be designed in a “privacy-first” manner for stakeholders to continue to place their trust in tech companies. The next decade will see a major shift in the way technology businesses handle this issue as individuals become more aware of the need to protect privacy, and make choices in support of their values. We can already see this shift, as users abandon major social media platforms. I am willing to bet that in the next decade, the most successful companies will be “privacy-first”.

The critical element in any successful relationship is trust, and even in the digital world, our relationships are created on a person-to-person level. Companies and brands would do well to remember that trust will be built the way it always has: by acting with integrity, compassion and the intent to deal honestly with your fellow humans.

Growing in recession

In the innovation business, periods of economic slowdown can be “good times”. Most successful businesses are created during slower periods, when opportunities on the margins become more attractive and people are more willing to take chances. This downturn is notable because the tools enabling digital entrepreneurship are low cost and ubiquitous, meaning anyone can make a bet at low risk. I encourage everyone to look at opportunities on the margins, find a niche that no one else is attacking, and if the potential for growth is there, then go for it!

As we emerge into the 2020s and beyond, we will see deeper integration of geospatial technology into our digital systems, our daily lives, and the world around us. Geospatial can help us understand how people travel through their communities, their cities and the world. We can lever location tech to improve agriculture, manage critical water supplies, and understand the growing impact of climate change on our world.

Viewing the world through a geospatial lens can assist our governments and public sectors to optimize spending on infrastructure, social programs, and the key areas to improve quality of life for everyone.

Getting right mix of skillset

We are seeing companies hire people with a broad range of skills, and each of these people engages with geospatial in a unique way. Some come from the traditional geospatial routes but more commonly we see companies hiring data scientists, computer scientists, and full stack programmers to tackle the technical domain. We are also seeing companies recognize the need for well thought out sales, marketing, and communication strategies so that the value of their work is clearly seen and understood.

In Alberta, we are facing an interesting challenge with a relatively high unemployment rate in one sector and a huge and growing demand for talent in another. For the people who have been hit hard by recession there is an opportunity to grow into a new industry, to access new skills and new opportunities, and step onto a new career track. The young, growing companies that hire these retrained workers benefit from years of knowledge and experience in another industry and market.

This new decade will see unprecedented growth in the value of geospatial technology as the marginal cost to collect and analyze data approaches zero, and as geospatial algorithms and insights drive our most powerful analytics.

Also Read: Geospatial Data, AI opening new business avenues