What is Geospatial Industry’s value and impact in world economy?

What is Geospatial Industry’s value and impact in world economy?


With location becoming all-pervasive in our everyday life, we are witnessing an exponential growth in the amount of spatial data being generated and captured. Geospatial analysis is increasingly being taken seriously around the world to derive new information and make informed decisions.

The Geospatial market was estimated at $400 billion in 2016. As per the Geo Buiz- Geospatial Industry Outlook and Readiness Index, which was released at Geo Buiz Summit, the pre-conference event of Geospatial World Forum 2018, this market is expected to reach approximately $440 billion by 2020.

The Summit began with a session on ‘Geospatial Value and Impact in the world economy: Market trends and business directions.’ Moderated by Rob Van Velde, Director, Geonovum, The Netherlands, the session provided the participants an in-depth insight into how factors such as location-based analytics, internet of things, indoor spatial analytics and outdoor spatial analytics are driving the world economy today. As the industry leaders discussed trends, value and impact, the transfer of knowledge was phenomenal.

While discussing various issues, everyone agreed on one thing, “Improvising everything from tracking traffic to enabling the visually challenged to better understand their environment, Geospatial has immense capability to make the world a better place to live.”

New technological advancements are empowering a whole new set of people. However, the industry is still plagued with few challenges that are hindering its growth.

Need for high-quality data

To achieve efficiency in different sectors and have people truly enjoy the benefits of the emerging technologies, we need more data, specifically more location-based data, which can help in evaluating the areas where action needs to be taken on an immediate basis.

As Peter Rabley, Venture Partner, Omidyar Network, USA mentions, “About 4 billion of the population is informal. We don’t have data about on them. This impacts urbanization, climate change, etc. This makes the role of geospatial data more crucial. We need good, fundamental data. Geospatial data is critical for understanding investments and who we are trying to help.”

Making data more accessible is a key thing to focus on, but high quality needs more attention. In the words of Francois Lombard, Head of Intelligence, Airbus Defence and Space, France, “Democratization of data, not of any data, but high-quality data, is required. Focus on high quality, high-resolution data in 3D and making it available to people will open up unforeseen value and opportunities.”

Making data more accessible

Geospatial technologies need to become ubiquitous to get harnessed optimally.  According to Dean Angelides, Corporate Director, International alliances/partners, Esri, USA, “Making knowledge broadly accessible so that people can apply it to solve real-world problems is necessary. We need a common framework for applying the methodology and the Science of Where to different sectors. That is what will bring in the efficiencies. We are barely scratching the surface currently.”

Manpower remains a concern

Technology is there to help the mankind, but we do not have enough resources to implement the technology; to take it to the lives of the common man. A key finding of the session was that the industry needs more manpower to meet the advancement and adoption. Though more and more people have started to understand the value of GIS, a dearth of right skillset to understand and apply it the right way exists. Few people understand how the Science of Where can help in taking more informed decisions and this must be taken to a broader level.

As Ron Bisio, Vice President – Geospatial, Trimble, USA, puts it, “Moving on from a small group of people who understand the value of GIS, we have evolved from having the whole new audience who see value of GIS date.  However, the biggest challenge remains to get people with the right skills who can take all this forward. We need more and more people who can build new generation apps and are able to apply location analytics for better business decisions.”

Corroborating his thoughts, Angelides says, “The real challenge we still face is actually having people who can use the technology to take better-informed decisions; transmission of knowledge to people who can actually solve the problems.”

More aware governments

Within the government sector, the awareness needs to be more widespread. There is a set of people, who know how geospatial can make citizens’ life better, but the knowledge needs to be transferred to the policymakers; they must be made aware.

According to Prashant Shukle, Director General, Natural Resources Canada, “We have open data, open government, but somehow open movement is left behind. That is essential for achieving equality for everyone. We need to end discrimination in terms of data accessibility.”

Public-private collaboration

The public and private sectors must work hand in hand to raise awareness and make the world understand how geospatial can make a difference.

Tan Boon Khai, Chief Executive Officer, Singapore Land Authority cannot agree more. He says, “The Government should act as a facilitator an enabler. It should play a critical role in defining standards, opening data. It is its responsibility to provide a safe secure environment for private business. The Government should take lead in collaboration with private sector to develop a holistic plan to not only harness tech but also develop manpower.”

Greg Scott, Inter-Regional Advisor, Global Geospatial Information Management, United Nations, reinforces, “Technologies are developing their own ecosystem; they will do what they want to do. In this scenario, governments need to rethink, transform, and change their functioning. We need to flip the coin- the government should know how to get around, how to bring the capabilities in the process to achieve the global developmental goals.”

Address security issues

As more and more data is becoming available openly, security concerns prevail. These concerns limit the usage of new generation applications, thus limiting the spread of use of geospatial technologies in solving real-life problems. This remains a challenge within the industry.

To overcome this hurdle, Khai has an interesting solution. He feels, “We should focus more on consent, adopt a consent-based architecture. Both the private and government sectors must protect people information.”

Security concerns must be addressed since Geospatial technology has become default in our lives. As Shukle points out, “You build once and use many times-integrating GIS into systems gives you that advantage.”