Information Advantage: Connecting geography, space and data via geospatial technology

Connecting geography, space and data via geospatial technology

By Atanu Sinha, Director, India & SAARC, Hexagon Geospatial-

Ever wondered what went into a studio’s decision to produce your favourite TV shows? As it turns out, location intelligence and geo-information might have played a role in that decision. One of the reasons for the worldwide success of these original series is the data analytics used while deciding which programming to invest in.

Where is location intelligence used today? While doing market research for some of the original series, geospatial information is used in data analytics to identify where specific types of shows will succeed. Mobile apps like Waze use up-to-date and dynamic crowd-sourced traffic information to provide intelligent routing options to users. Farmers can use remotely sensed data to identify which parts of their fields need attention, thereby focusing their work where it can generate the highest yield.

Besides, other well-known companies like Uber, Ola, Domino’s and Big Basket derive tremendous benefits from geospatial information and are incorporating it in their businesses. Every sale happens at a specific location. Every package is somewhere. And, with the internet of things (IoT), this network of geospatially interconnected nodes will continue to expand, as will the information we can derive from it.

Location intelligence + Data analytics = Better results

Today, geospatial technology is seeing an unprecedented growth in both the number of data sources and the ways to use the information. This explosion has been noticed by industries in a number of non-traditional verticals. They see the important value offered by location intelligence and are actively seeking to incorporate it in their operations. Analysing data using a geographic information system within businesses is becoming a critical core strategy for successful decision making in an increasingly competitive global economy.

Timely, dynamic and powerful

With the proposed Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016, the government has made it evident that geospatial information lies at the core of all its key programmes. The prime minister has reiterated his focus on geo-enablement for good governance, development and economic growth.

To this end, we must have spatial data that is relevant and current. Therefore, we need to propose an act that will ease the approval process and have clear guidelines for the acquisition of geospatial information.

As per the proposed Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016: “Save as otherwise provided in this Act, rules or regulations made thereunder, or with the general or special permission of the Security Vetting Authority, no person shall acquire geospatial imagery or data including value addition of any part of India either through any space or aerial platforms such as satellite, aircrafts, airships, balloons, unmanned aerial vehicles or terrestrial vehicles, or any other means whatsoever.”

Henceforth, the bill needs to provide clarity on what the legal process and timeline for the acquisition of location intelligence will be, to enable citizen-related issues to be addressed in real time. The absence of current and updated information will certainly cripple operations in many services (G2G or G2C) which rely on time-critical information. Some of these are:

  • Utilities such as telecom, electricity, gas, water and sewerage that use geospatial information for managing their distribution network
  • Smart cities with IoT sensors which provide the real-time dynamic traffic information essential for many monitoring and decision- making applications
  • Car manufacturers whose navigation devices allow e-commerce delivery service providers to plot packages and services on a map
  • Real estate with housing listings and neighbourhood information such as groceries, pharmacies, banks, hospitals, etc.

Need for timely information with security

Thus, we can reiterate that safety, security and sovereignty are the foremost requirements for getting this bill enacted. These challenges call for a clear framework and policy for accessibility to data. This, however, must be balanced by citizens’ and stakeholders’ need for dynamic actionable information.

The geospatial bill should therefore focus on resolving the following:

  • How can we improve access to geospatial applications and solutions across society and the economy?
  • Where can we better promote technology innovation and entrepreneurial and industrial development?
  • How do we protect the security, sovereignty and integrity of the country while still articulating a judicious balance between security, national development, the rights of civil society, citizen empowerment, industrial development and overall governance?

India is one of the most innovative and progressive countries in the world, especially when it comes to the adoption of technology. To realise the country’s development goals, geospatial information needs to be made freely available to all stakeholders in a timely manner, without unnecessary procedural delays and bureaucratic uncertainties.