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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 »

GISCafe Industry Predictions 2020 – Part 6

February 7th, 2020 by Susan Smith

This is our final installment of Industry Predictions for 2020. Topics this week include satellites, Cloud for geospatial applications, data storage, data sentience, data sovereignty, growth, location, mapping fleets and much more.

Representatives from CubeWerx, DataCapable, T-mapy, GeoSapient, Inc. and Mapillary offer their insights into the industry and trends for the future.

“Futurists speak about “the singularity,” a point where technological growth accelerates, becomes uncontrollable and feeds on itself, with unpredictable results. We’re not quite there with geospatial, but we are witnessing something of a convergence of technological and cultural shifts that are reinforcing each other and changing the landscape of the industry.

Glenn Stowe, co-founder and vice president of CubeWerx

Saying that use of the Cloud for geospatial applications, data storage and processing will increase in 2020 is an obviously safe bet, but several other trends will create a multiplier effect for its importance.

Access to space is getting cheaper and cheaper, and miniaturization is changing the game on what you can do when you get there. CubeSats are now old news and the first experimental swarms of “ChipSats” have already been deployed. These tiny, $100 devices can communicate with each other to perform complex tasks as a unit. The possibilities are endless.

Speaking of satellites, 2020 will see us looking at new ways of interacting with them. Right now, they’re largely seen as simple assets, tightly controlled by their owners, using rigid business models and a single point of access. But what if we looked at satellite time as a commodity? Open up the interfaces and license others to task and control the hardware, and suddenly you have a different kind of market. Several companies are working on exactly these models, including Amazon, with their “Ground Station as a Service” product.

LIDAR became almost a household word in 2019, and although most people think of it as the way their self-driving car or room cleaning robot “sees”, its shift from a niche technology to mainstream use is now complete. Miniaturization of LIDAR technology for use in consumer devices opens new possibilities for data collection, smart devices and IoT applications. In 2020, we will see it used in new and interesting ways for interior mapping, construction, engineering and many other fields.

Machine Learning was probably *the* buzzword of 2019, not just in geospatial, but across all disciplines. The “food” of Machine Learning is Big Data, and no one accumulates data faster than the geospatial community. ML is critical for extracting information from the volumes of data that are now being collected on a daily basis. We have not yet scratched the surface of what might be possible with the conjunction of artificial intelligence and big geospatial data. 2020 will see many new applications.

The concept of Thematic Exploitation Platforms (TEPs) will become more mainstream in 2020 – the simple but powerful idea of bringing the processing to the data, instead of downloading the data for processing. Satellite operators, national governments and space agencies around the world are making big bets on this technology, with a major push from the European Space Agency and emerging standards from the Open Geospatial Consortium helping it along.

These are all interesting technological movements, but if they are the sparks that start a fire, Cloud Computing is the gasoline. Coupled with cloud processing and storage, these low-cost, high-power technologies allow even small startups and academic researchers to tackle problems that were previously out of their reach. No idea is now stymied due to a lack of access to the necessary computing resources. We cannot over-estimate the power of this simple fact. This will unleash a torrent of innovation, and, like the Singularity, lead us to places we cannot yet even imagine.”

Glenn Stowe is co-founder and vice president of CubeWerx, in Gatineau, Quebec, where he often wears several hats as software architect, entrepreneur and technology evangelist. He has over 25 years’ experience in the geospatial industry with a strong focus on standards-based web services and scalable solutions to big-data problems

Zac Canders, co-founder of DataCapable

“2020 will be the year of the Z. Historically, we’ve let X and Y dominate the conversation, visuals, and intelligence. As AI and IoT begin to dominate the transformation dialogue, the models, algorithms, and GIS tools supporting every industry will embrace the Z in ways we’ve all been dreaming.”

Zac Canders is the co-founder of DataCapable, a GIS real-time threat and situational awareness platform deployed at over 200 locations and growing. He is a firm believer that collaboration is the key to unlocking the value and true potential of GIS technology. 

Jaroslav Polacek, MSc GIS , geospatial product manager and partnership manager with T-mapy

“2020 is going to be the year of growth. Economic growth of companies is given by ability to sell their products and services to existing and new customers. The challenge of 2020 is to identify new potential customers and measure quality and efficiency of sales activities which is the key aspect of success and growth. Managers will need to be able to easily analyze and evaluate internal and external business data more effectively in order to help the sales team to perform better and focus on right customers in right locations. So, if you want your sales team to be successful in 2020, you will need data analytical tools, which will enable you to see where your potential customers are located, where your sales team is most active, where they win or lose sales opportunities, where they compete with other companies. Managerial maps are designed to answer all these questions very quickly. Keep in mind that amount of business data grows rapidly and around 80% of that data has a spatial component that needs to be utilized. Another statistic says that only 4 out of 100 businesses survive past the 10 year mark. One of the reason of their success is a detailed data evaluation at a managerial level. The trend of 2020 is going to be business data analytics using managerial maps.”

Jaroslav Polacek, MSc GIS is a geospatial product manager and partnership manager with T-mapy with international working experience from leading providers of Geospatial and Business Intelligence solutions in New Zealand and Europe. He is passionate about geospatial innovations and creation innovative, sustainable, and smart global products.

“Space-based Commercial Radar Systems Will Proliferate

John L. Kelley, president and co-founder of GeoSapient, Inc.

The successful deployment of commercial radar satellite systems such as ICEYE, and future constellations such as that being built by Capella Space, will enable tremendous capability different than that of traditional EO systems.  Nothing will beat SAR for persistent change monitoring in otherwise stable regions. Interferometric products are the only thing that can support subtle change on the order of millimeter per month or less.  This is a game changer in commercial SAR.  These startups will continue to put pressure on long established European systems in terms of automation and speeding up timelines for change detection and other products.  Also, the European systems business models are hard – the public/private aspect makes it challenging. The commercial only companies will be much more agile and easier to work with for commercial customers.  Radar is an all-weather, day-night imaging capability which can provide rapid change detection.  Radar is being used by a number of analytics firms for estimating global oil storage and monitoring pipeline integrity.   Radar coupled with commercial SIGINT technology for monitoring AIS signals emanating from shipping traffic is being used for maritime domain awareness applications.

Consolidations (M&A) Will Accelerate

Firms will begin “closing their networks” with mergers and partnerships to fill gaps in their offerings. This activity will be highest between incumbents and newly established innovative geocomputing firms. Thus, vertical integration of firms launching satellites to selling geocomputing will increase. There will be an expansion of tech startups offering services from hyperspectral gas detection to radar imaging that will be attractive acquisition targets.

Data Sovereignty is Evolving Quickly

Data sovereignty, beyond its residency, is the evolving concept that data, information, and cumulated knowledge which has been converted and stored in binary digital form is subject to the laws of the country in which it is located and captured from (e.g., space-borne assets).

We must rethink how GEOINT repositories and metadata generation is accessed and stored. GEOINT platforms should allow all users in the community to discover, use, contribute, synthesize, amend, and share data, products, and services. But how does “open access” impact data sovereignty, especially with the changing legal and political landscape of countries like China?

2020 contrasts an era of heightened requirements for prompt and effective response, rapid access to disparate geospatial information sources and ever-increasing rules, regulations, and political wrangling to thwart access to these sources.

Geospatial Data and Analytics Platforms Diversity (and Confusion) Will Accelerate

An open platform should connect consumers of data products and services to other consumers, consumers to producers, producers to other producers, and everyone to the larger ecosystem of raw data, services, and computational processes (e.g., artificial intelligence, machine learning, etc.). The open platform should provide the filtering and curation functionality by leveraging the interactions of all users instead of trying to first coordinate and then certify everything that goes through its aggregated pipelines.  There are challenges transforming organizations unfamiliar with geospatial data and analytics from pipelines (disparate workloads and computing systems) to cohesive fusion platforms.

The Planet’s Data Has Become Sentient

The expansion of networked computing, data, and AI models will continue unabated. Changes in sensor and imaging technology along with computing, big data, and AI, put us squarely in the “Age of Awareness.” Increasingly, digital technology will monitor everything. New geocomputing workflows will generate an improved understanding of “deep learning” leveraging cognitive computing for the planet’s big brain.  However, just because you have a picture every day of an area doesn’t make it easier to draw conclusions about the patterns of life and activity.  This continues to be a challenging problem and although we have more data and geocomputing power than ever before, it remains difficult to solve.

Beyond Imagery and Pixels

Massive change in the remote sensing industry is resulting in the democratization and commoditization of low-earth orbit and aerial products. Data that used to be static now flows in all directions. Cloud-based systems will be gathering and analyzing data on an unprecedented scale. Data collection volumes will dramatically increase as firms add to their constellations and coverage frequency.

Machine Learning Will Continue to Impress and Confuse People

Automated neural net algorithms are awesome for image processing.  They are not a silver bullet.  Expect to continue to see lots of high-profile failures in “real-world” tests of “AI”. The ease of AI with well packaged frameworks and infrastructure will result in many failed attempts at quick commercial AI remote sensing products touting great results, poor understanding of the finer points of ML will lead many to over-train their algorithms and result in early failure. We may be passed this stage in many areas of AI / ML development, but I expect we are still in the first bubble from a mainstream perspective.

Drones Will Be Big

Drone capabilities will really continue to extend into the mapping and geodesy community. When you have easy access to airspace, you should probably just operate automated aircraft rather than buy satellite data. It would probably be cheaper long term and allows much more control.  Large commercial multi-rotors (e.g., new DJI products or more established Yuneec Typhoon) are becoming SUPER cheap and have large payload capacity, enough to carry multispectral or lidar missions ideal for crop monitoring and mapping for change monitoring. Automated software (e.g. open drone map) is making it easier than ever to buy a drone and build image draped 3D terrain maps in a matter of hours from take-off to rendered 3D scenes.”

John L. Kelley is president and co-founder of GeoSapient, Inc. He has extensive experience in the field of remote sensing systems engineering and associated geospatial applications. Prior to starting GeoSapient, Mr. Kelley spent most of his career in the aerospace industry developing remote sensing systems. Mr. Kelley’s passion is the subject of remote sensing of the Earth for environmental and geospatial applications. Driven by this passion he co-founded GeoSapient to create a unique ‘Geospatial Knowledge’ platform not currently in existence. He also teaches Remote Sensing as an adjunct lecturer at Villanova University, and has guest lectured on the subject.

Muthu Sampath, GIS technical sales lead at Mapillary

“Logistics and ride-hailing fleets turning into mapping fleets, and other 2020 predictions

The world is changing like never before. The United Nations expects the world’s population to grow by 2.9 billion over the next 33 years, and 80-90% of those people will be living in cities. We are also seeing a shift in the types of work that employs people, with our streets becoming the new factory floors and offices. Ridesharing companies have millions of drivers around the world, online shopping is at an all-time high, and even groceries can be delivered within hours of having placed an order. It’s not just taxi drivers and the neighborhood postal person who need to know the ins and outs of our neighborhoods any longer. One of the biggest challenges today is to create and maintain maps that evolve along with a world that is constantly changing.

No single entity is capable of collecting all of the data needed to build and maintain the maps that the world needs today. There is only one way forward, and that is collaboration. Thankfully, the tools that enable a collaborative model of data collection for better maps are already here, and most of us carry them in our pockets—the camera on our phone.

That’s why in 2020, we will continue to see a big change in how different players access and create accurate and up-to-date maps and map data. Companies like logistics businesses and ride-hailing services have previously had to rely on others to update their maps and get the data needed to do so. That’s changing fast as fleets of logistics and ride-hailing companies are becoming mapping fleets themselves. Through tools like smartphones and dashcams in combination with platforms like Mapillary, these fleets can now capture all the fresh map data they need while they go about their day-to-day business.

It’s not just commercial entities who are taking the matters of mapping into their own hands. From mapping public transportation in Latin America to mapping accessibility in Istanbul, people like you and me are coming together in all corners of the world to map what’s important to them. As the number of smartphones in the world increases, we can expect to see more community-led mapping, particularly in the global south where maps are often dire or lacking altogether.

It’s likely that we will see an amplification of these changes in 2020, as there are now 3.5 billion smartphone users in the world. That is 3.5 billion people all over the globe, all with cameras that are capable of capturing images for updating maps wherever they go. More and more people, cities, and companies will be working together to build the maps of today and tomorrow.”

Muthu Sampath is the GIS technical sales lead at Mapillary. At Mapillary, Muthu works with government agencies, geospatial service providers and educational institutions to help them better understand the world through street-level imagery. He works directly with customers and community members in the US and beyond to help them get the maximum use of Mapillary data and imagery. Prior to Mapillary, Muthu worked on geospatial data management and analysis at organizations focused on transportation, energy, and environmental sectors.


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Categories: 3D Cities, 3D Laser Mapping, analytics, ArcGIS, asset management, autonomous driving, autonomous vehicles, Big Data, climate change, cloud, cloud network analytics, data, developers, disaster relief, drones, emergency response, field GIS, geocoding, geospatial, geotechnical, GIS, global aircraft surveillance, GNSS, government, GPS, image-delivery software, in car navigation, indoor location technology, indoor mapping, laser radar, laser scanner, lidar, location based sensor fusion, location based services, location intelligence, mapping, mobile, mobile mapping, photogrammetry, public safety, reality modeling, remote sensing, resilient cities, satellite based tracking, satellite imagery, sensors, situational intelligence, smartphones, spatial data, survey, transportation, UAVs, utilities, wireless networks

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