Geospatial intelligence is ingrained in our daily lives. We use map apps on our smart phones, companies use location-based beacon technology to target consumers, we use geo-tags with social media and we depend on a vast network of precision logistics to keep our lights on, our vehicles driving, our packages delivered and our cupboards stocked. The mechanism that supports all of these endeavors is rooted in the realization and virtualization of big data. If we needed an umbrella under which we would hang these concepts, we’d call it the Internet of Things – an amorphous framework that encompasses both legacy and leading edge technologies, big data, the literal Internet, and users spanning from industrial machines to the average consumer with a smart phone.
Despite the obvious need for geospatial data within this IoT framework, industries have found in calculating the value of that data to be a complex practice. Industries that once stood alone and operated in silos, have become interconnected by sheer necessity – collecting, analyzing, sharing and even selling data. It no longer is acceptable for companies supporting critical infrastructures to track basic data. They must gather data from all facets of operations and information technologies, analyze that data, and turn it into actionable intelligence. The value of data today truly exceeds its numerical quantity.
Geospatial Data and the Internet of Things
Geospatial data is the key to unlocking some of the critical functions that developers and end-users require to effectively empower the Internet of Things. Navigation functions on a cell phone? Geospatial data. Restaurant or entertainment recommendations in a specific area? Geospatial data. City bus route coordination? Geospatial data. Most often, we see the end result of geospatial data virtualization, but what we don’t see is just how many people touch that data to even get it to the point of deployable information.
This Data Value Chain has changed the way people and groups of people interact in our daily lives, as a whole, both internally and externally. The industries affected by geospatial data use it in innovative ways – from the collection on the ground – to analytics in the back office. It drives decision-making, project management, business intelligence, and increases productivity by streamlining workflows. These industries are directly responsible for building and maintaining the critical infrastructure upon which cities – and countries – are built and maintained. With each iteration of geospatial data along the chain, the value of that data increases.
Blended Technologies Drive a Data Value Chain
The Data Value Chain is a framework in which people can view the flow of geospatial data from the instant it is collected throughout its entire lifecycle. Each vertical industry has its own flow (and needs) of data, but eventually, that data intersects with analytics engines that can turn individual points of information into all different kinds of actionable intelligence. The Data Value Chain depends on a blended technology ecosystem that acts as disruptive force throughout the global marketplace to root out traditional, static practices and supplant them with innovative, purpose-built solutions based on data analytics.
Technology is simply a means to an end. The focus should not be on the newest tools. Rather, it is more important to know what users need in order to accomplish peak business intelligence. To do this, we first must understand how people work. Who are they, and what is their role in a project or enterprise? What information do they need? Where and how do they use it? And what is the end result?
The answers to these questions often illustrate how people use multiple types of data that come from different sources at different times. End users often need to combine and analyze the data to derive its value. Only when we understand these processes can we ask the next question: How can we use technology to gather and analyze data that will make their work easier?
The solution often lies in a technological ecosystem—a synergistic combination of core technologies to gather and manage data combined with software and tools for processing, analysis and delivery. Technological ecosystems built around geospatial information derived from big data support the needs of, and actions for, large portions of an organization.
The use of integrated or blended technologies is one of the most important trends in the geospatial and IoT arena. By combining multiple technologies, integrated solutions provide new ways to work and reduce costs, accelerate schedules and supply high-value deliverables along the value chain. And even though many geospatial practitioners are deeply interested in integrated technology, their clients may not share that passion. As long as information is complete, accurate and usable, the people using it may have little interest in how it got to them. That’s a key point to keep in mind.
It seems that every day we see new combinations of technologies that are producing ever-larger volumes of data. That trend will continue. But these systems can only deliver data. The value of the data is not realized until it is converted to information and put to work, which brings us to the need for a holistic, purpose-built data value chain across an enterprise.
The implicit value of geospatial data belongs to the 21st century workforce awash in data virtualization and the impending boom of IoT technology: from the boots on the ground mapping geographic terrain and gathering data in urban and rural settings, to engineers and project managers turning that data into knowledge and developing creative solutions for difficult infrastructural dilemmas; and even to the back-office decision makers tasked with solving the problems of today with an eye on the obstacles of tomorrow. The intersection of blended technologies, the growth of critical geospatial data collection, and the accompanying virtualization of that data have pushed IoT innovation to new heights. As we allow these industries and applications to flourish, the possibilities for a connected future are increasingly tangible.
Ron Bisio joined Trimble in 1996 and has held several marketing, sales, and general management positions prior to taking over worldwide responsibility in 2015 as Vice President of Trimble Geospatial. He holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Denver; a Master of Regional Planning from the University of Massachusetts; and an undergraduate degree in Geographic Information Systems & Cartography from Salem State University in Salem, Massachusetts.
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