Unlocking the Power of Location with the UK’s Geospatial Strategy

Having a clear strategy provides tangible aims and methodologies to achieve goals. Geospatial and location data have long been important to the United Kingdom. Advances in recent years have created even more excitement and possibilities for how public services can better leverage location capabilities and information to deliver societal benefits. So we at Hexagon’s Geospatial division welcome the release of Unlocking the Power of Location: The UK’s geospatial strategy 2020 to 2025, developed by the UK Geospatial Commission.

Established in 2018 by the UK government, the Geospatial Commission is an independent committee of experts responsible for setting the country’s geospatial strategy and coordinating public sector geospatial activity. Its aim is to unlock the significant economic, social, and environmental opportunities offered by location data and boost the UK’s global geospatial expertise.

As a globally recognized technology and solutions provider in the geospatial and location intelligence space, Hexagon’s mission is to put data to work to enable autonomous, connected ecosystems that boost efficiency, productivity, and quality for all users. So how does that align with the Geospatial Commission’s strategy? To address key geospatial data asset challenges, the commission has created four strategic missions. Here’s how Hexagon fits into the Geospatial Commission’s missions.

Mission 1: Promote and safeguard the use of location data

The promotion and safeguarding of location data is inherent across the various divisions in Hexagon. With location data underpinning most activities, sharing that data between stovepiped systems, processes, and departments is paramount. The Geospatial Commission says, “Significant additional value could be unlocked if data could be combined across domains and reach a wider community of users who were able to experiment with it.” Hexagon experiences this within its customer base and also within its own divisions. Cross-divisional working, research projects, and customer implementations and deliveries have helped utilize location and operational data multiple times, which has decreased the effort required in sourcing and managing that data.

Mission 2: Improve access to better location data

Location data is useless if it cannot be located by users. Helping improve access to location data via data catalogues, publishing industry-agreed standard webservices, and using open source data via Hexagon Geospatial software, such as ERDAS APOLLO, increases the value and diversity of use of that data. Opening new markets and applications for location data is critically important to increasing adoption and helps drive quality and data assurance.

Whether location data is describing underground infrastructure assets, historical footpaths, housing, or future rail networks, it can help support mobility or manage the environment for the benefit of all users. Because everything happens somewhere, being able to visualize what was, what is, and what will be can vastly increase understanding and agreement between authorities and stakeholders, such as the public. Having access to foundational location data, onto which other data can be added, can increase positive outcomes more than separate data stores. A program like the HxGN Content Program provides a good base to make the most informed decisions as landscapes change and become more complex.

Having location data available is pointless if users cannot connect to it for use; hence, having agreed ways of publishing and connecting to data is key. However, “purposes that data can be used for are many and complex, there are often no natural incentives for compliance, and standards can sometimes become a hindrance to innovation through inflexibility,” states the Geospatial Commission. As Frank Suykens, CTO of Platforms at Hexagon’s Geospatial division and member on the OGC’s Board of Directors, recently said in an interview, “Interoperability needs open standards. You cannot have interoperability if you do not know what another system is producing, what another system is sending you, and it’s just essential.”

Mission 3: Enhance capabilities, skills, and awareness

To help enhance capabilities, skills, and awareness, Hexagon contributes to educational programs and universities, has an active intern program, and promotes location data through partner networks and directly into other industries. The mainstream use of location data is de facto today; however, the knowledge and skills required to create this data cross multiple domains of geography, computer science, demographics, and space, just to name a few. Recognizing the benefits of collaboration between business and academia, Hexagon’s Geospatial division provides education programs featuring innovative tools that visualize and analyze dynamic information, allowing users to solve real-world challenges and invest in the future with confidence.

General technology advances drive the capabilities of location data more than the geospatial industry drives general technology. This requires the geospatial industry to keep abreast of technology as well as still have the specialized geospatial skills and technology identified by the Geospatial Commission. The various divisions of Hexagon utilize general technology where possible to create the specialized solutions that our customers rely on.

Mission 4: Enable innovation

Keeping abreast of technology advances, research, and development, along with innovation, are paramount to the success of the Geospatial Commission’s strategy and Hexagon’s mission. Hexagon has a specialized team from R&D focused exclusively on helping customers accelerate data leverage, especially when bogged down by legacy technologies. Using their global reach, businesses like Hexagon can help monitor trends, share innovations, and collate market requirements to help bodies like the Geospatial Commission deliver their strategies. Innovation can happen anywhere, anytime; it’s recognizing what is innovative when applied to a problem or market that is key. Something humdrum in geospatial companies may be rocket science in another industry. Utilizing a cross-division, cross-industry view of innovation and R&D will help Hexagon and others benefit from innovation.

Three statements from Sir Andrew Dilnot, Chair of the Geospatial Commission, sum up the impact of location data:

  1. Location data already has a significant impact on our lives.
  2. In the future, better location data will improve our lives further.
  3. Over the longer term, almost all sectors of the economy will see sustainable productivity gains.

Hexagon’s mission and capabilities compliment the strategy of the Geospatial Commission by looking to broaden the adoption and understanding of location data, as well as confidence in its accuracy. Through technology, education, and access to reliable location data, the boundaries of location data are unlimited!

If you’re interested in learning more about the UK’s Geospatial Commission’s strategic missions, read its new policy paper, “Unlocking the Power of Location: The UK’s geospatial strategy 2020 to 2025.”