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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

Top Geospatial Predictions for 2014

December 19th, 2013 by Susan Smith

The following are GISCafe Voice’s Geospatial Predictions for 2014. Some of them were on last year’s list, but continue on as important predictions for change in 2014. There was big change in 2014, in the delivery of products, demand for certain types of products such as for disaster recovery, tracking and restoration and mobile apps, as well as the coming of age of indoor location mapping. See if our predictions line up with what your predictions are for 2014!

  1. Climate Change

On our list last year but definitely a burgeoning issue that will make a difference to what products and technologies are offered in the future. The climate and ensuing natural disasters propel the need for more disaster recovery and restoration. Big data will play a major role here as early warning systems will be instituted more and more to predict natural disasters, a good example may be’s Earth Engine work.

2. Satellite imagery  was on our list last year, as the year was marked by the merger of GeoEye and DigitalGlobe in a deal worth $900 million. These two companies benefitted from that merger as the cost of producing a satellite for them was unwieldy. However, in the last year, satellite imagery products sold as services will be coming from smaller satellite companies. In the last month the small satellite companies Planet Labs and Skybox have launched satellites. The International Space Station has an installation of the Urthecast instrument currently being built.

3. Indoor location mapping. A recent report by ABI Research outlines how sensor fusion will evolve to support indoor location and notes the companies best placed to succeed in this space. Location-based sensor fusion will pave the way for the use of the “quantified self, ambient intelligence,” as well as provide huge potential around advertising and retail.

GeoMetri is an example of an analytical tool for indoor/outdoor physical space that operates on WiFi technologies, similar to the website tool Google Analytics. It provides the same analytical data for either indoor or outdoor.

Cell phones give off a signal (ping) when you keep your wifi or Bluetooth on.  These bits of information (including signal strength) can be collected and anonymously aggregated for use in physical analytics. While other signal technologies are available (e.g. Bluetooth), wifi gives the best value in terms of availability, deployment, scalability, and security to  customers. GeoMetri sends out a signal asking is there any wifi in area every few seconds.

4.Building Information Modeling and Geospatial –Robots and drones or UAVs, technologies highly dependent on location technology, were deftly woven into the fabric of the Autodesk message as potential tools for building future infrastructure. Autodesk’s focus for all their technology areas is on infrastructure, a wide umbrella that includes buildings, roads, transportation, bridges, site planning, city design, utilities and much more. Increasingly, professionals in those areas recognize the need for geospatial information in their design and planning.

We are definitely seeing these worlds – of BIM and geospatial – come together into a cohesive picture now.

Crossrail, London’s ambitious rail project that will run 100 km through the city scheduled to open late 2018, and has an estimated budget of £14.8bn, has had an asset registry from the beginning of the project, and is now getting as-built 3D models from its contractors. This is the first time a project linking between 3D models and collaborative Building Information Modeling (BIM). Hybrid modeling, the combination of virtual and physical worlds through point clouds, using products by Bentley Descartes, is also being used by Network Rail, bringing together point clouds, 3D modeling and BIM to view a safe representation. With hybrid modeling large terabytes of data can be combined blending raster and vector, and clash detection can be done through point clouds and vector data. Optioneering was discussed as a way to generate more scenarios, with SiteOps Optimization Technology, an investee in Bentley, providing a simulation environment where you can upload your site characteristics and it works out of your site. They can substantiate an average of $15,000 savings per acre.

Even traditional GIS positioning companies such as TopCon, are getting into the act with their most recent collaboration with Autodesk, aimed at improving the integration of BIM workflows  and field layout. This collaboration will also involve a new Autodesk BIM 360 app for iPad to make it easier to locate BIM coordinates precisely on a construction site. Designed for general contractors and MEP professionals, the app will control a robotic total station and the new LN-100 3D positioning system from Topcon. As-built data can be fed back into the design model via BIM 360 for quality assurance. Topcon was traditionally considered a geospatial company but they have extended their reach into many other industry segments now, including the area of BIM.

Another company that has been extending its reach to various industries from a geospatial base is Leica Geosystems, who announced their new BIM Field Trip solutions to help contractors extend BIM into the field and bring that information back to the office model. The new BIM Field Trip solutions take full advantage of Leica Geosystems’ established precision measurement technologies.

An even more surprising jump is to the notion of using flying machines to deliver materials and products on the jobsite. Up until now, the geospatial community has been cognizant of “Unmanned Airborne Vehicles” (UAVs) for use in military operations only. Recently both Amazon and UPS have announced that they plan to use these for delivering lightweight packages to customers in the future – meaning maybe five years out.

5. Mobile – Bentley Systems’ new mobile apps, including Field Supervisor App, Navigator App, move operations from the site trailer to the field. I-Models, Bentley’s containers for deliverables for information mobility, have been optimized for mobile devices. eB Information Manager tracks changes among information elements that are found in i-models. A new product is Construction Work Package Server (includes ConstructSim) which will help with tracking before a design is completed. Earlier in the year Bentley Map Mobile was released, providing Bentley Map geospatial information with field technicians via Android-based mobile devices.

6. Security, Servers and Platforms. Security was on last year’s list and continues to remain there this year as concerns about the cloud and hacking remains, as well as the recent concern about the NSA data mining. Most large organizations still opt for what is called a private cloud rather than a public one, for fear of inadvertently sharing information they don’t wish to share.

While SaaS provides a model where by companies can “rent” technologies and always keep up with the latest, Safe Software announced their FME Cloud service public beta offering. FME Cloud expands its proven data integration technology into the iPaaS (integration platform as a service) market with its new cloud-based service.

Safe Software has had Cloud capability before but customers would have to get their own Amazon account and manage it, have FME Server, and install it. It took quite a bit of time to get one up and running. With FME Cloud you can deploy the Server within 8 minutes, and scale it up and down as you need.

This ability to bring smaller customers into the FME family and onto the cloud serves as an example of what the future might look like in server technology.

The meaning of “platform” is also rapidly changing to allow more people to be able to access critical information. In a session presented at Esri UC 2013, Laurie Jordan, Esri director of Imagery, talked about their long time relationship with Exelis at Esri UC, a top business partner. With Exelis Esri has seamless integration. “The meaning of platform has changed in a positive way,” said Jordan. “We positioned ArcGIS to disseminate imagery and to take imagery and turn it into useful information. This platform is now moving from just a desktop mobile and server, and cloud and focusing on this term Cloud based GIS. With the move to cloud the definition of platform has changed. The platform is an ecosystem of relationships of everything you can do with it. Through this platform we’ll be offering services, and it will be the new home for services and content including analytics – tools from ENVI are at the top of the list.”

With this platform, workflows can be presented on the desktop, in the web and on mobile on the cloud. This way people less familiar with the desktop can access the information.

7. Data, Big Data and Very Big Data.

When we look back over the past few years, actually since 9/11, the world as we know it has undergone a paradigm shift. The fright created by that event sent the geospatial industry into an exploration of ways to share data, get data into the hands of individuals who need it in a timely manner, and to be able to track the inside of buildings. The question of who will have access to big data, where big data will be housed, and what it will consist of, will continue to be pondered in 2014.

This drive has not abated because not only is national security an issue, but climate change and the ensuing uncertainty of the ground under our feet, create the need for more early warning systems and ways to deal with disasters when they happen.

There is also the issue of national security encroaching on our personal privacy. These events will not go away, but it will be interesting to track just how they evolve and how geospatial technology evolves to meet the needs of the changing times.

Top Geospatial Predictions for 2013

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Categories: Autodesk, Bentley, climate change, Esri, LBS, location based services, mobile, remote sensing, satellite imagery

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