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How data economy will change the business of geospatial data in the EU

The European Commission very recently has adopted the Communication ‘Towards a common European data space’. This Communication proposes some measures as a key step towards the creation of a common data space in the EU — a seamless digital area with the scale that will enable the development of new products and services based on data.

This is one of a number of policy and legislative initiatives adopted by the European Commission to unlock the re-use potential of different types of data and create a common European data space.

So how does it impact geospatial business?

Geospatial technologies are the fuel to data economy. The role of geospatial and location intelligence for digital governments is paramount and already finding mainstream adoption, especially in e-government services such as urban mobility, flood prediction and monitoring, emergency response and terrorism prevention.

The free flow of data and the initiatives on boosting connectivity and encouraging high-performance computing will facilitate the creation of more value-added services. The Copernicus programme, for example, is made available to public bodies, researchers, business and citizens through a free and open data policy, allowing data re-use and product development in commercial contexts.

Data-driven innovation is a key enabler of growth and jobs in Europe. Data economy stimulates research and innovation on data and increases business opportunities and availability of knowledge and capital. If more investments in ICT are encouraged, supported by favorable policy and legislative conditions; the value of European data economy may represent 4% of the overall EU GDP by 2020. This is a huge prospect laid down for geospatial industry.

In 2016, there were 254,850 companies whose main activity is producing data-related products, services, and technologies across the EU. Under a high growth scenario, the figure could increase to some 360,000 by 2020. Geospatial industry’s capability to analyze and learn from data will be the key ingredient in business success. With huge amounts of data at their disposal, and with the technical capacity and skills to analyze the data, the geospatial industry is already leading the competition.

Data is also recognized as the most critical asset for advancing new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things. European Commission has set a target to increase investments in AI research and innovation by at least €20 billion between now and the end of 2020 — across both public and private sectors. An AI-on-demand platform, too, is said to be launched in 2019, to facilitate access to high-quality AI tools, data, and services for European researchers and companies.

AI solutions hold remarkable potential benefits for both the public and the private sector. It helps to address societal and environmental challenges while improving productivity and competitiveness in a wide range of sectors. For instance, analysis of up-to-date weather or soil moisture data can help maximize crop production in the agricultural sector. Real-time sensor data supports predictive maintenance in the manufacturing sector. Data analytics on epidemics outbreak can contribute to a more timely response in public health sector. High-resolution satellite data contribute to the real-time monitoring of natural water resources to prevent drought or pollution in the environmental sector.

In this sense, the geospatial industry must focus on user need and fully integrate itself into the data economy to gain maximum advantage from EU’s data legislation. Geospatial data companies must take this opportunity to jump at the spotlight with data-driven innovations, and further raise the profile of the industry to policy-makers and consumers at large.