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Bringing location to life

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The GeoPlace annual conference was held on 9 May 2019. With more than 550 delegates and a vast array of exhibitors, including Socitm, it is one of the biggest conferences of its type in the UK.

The conference focussed on the address and street data managed by local authority LLPG and LSG Custodians which now contains 44 million addresses and 1.39 million streets.

Socitm associate, digital advisor, business consultant, researcher, event coordinator, experienced CIO and CDO, Jos Creese attended and has written an exclusive blog explaining why he was struck by the huge progress in using GIS in local public services over the last few years.

Tools, Toys and Technologies

GeoPlace had an enormous screen display at the entrance, showing videos of the latest IT on offer, from aerial place recognition and drones to artificial intelligence agents supporting street-based planning. Today’s mapping tools are certainly visually attractive and interactive, with sophisticated capabilities to exploit rich, granular and growing geospatial data resources.

Street level 3D modelling tools can absorb data from multiple sources, presenting an augmented reality image which aids local planners and public protection agencies. They can, also, simply just promote tourism. There are even 4D time-lapse solutions available replete with AI engines able to predict patterns of use in a location and how this could change over time.

The Lego brick shift

Many of the suppliers I spoke to also offer low-code or no-code development platforms. The Lego brick approach this enables represents a fundamental shift from the time when GIS use was owned in proprietary and professional silos. It allows faster and interactive development, and greater flexibility in using GIS technologies with geospatial data to solve complex public policy priorities.

Yet, despite the amazing progress in tools and methods, it occurs to me that there is much more that could be done with geospatial data in local public services.

There’s been big growth in using geospatial data in the private sector beyond traditional transport and logistics planning. Complex and sophisticated machine learning and robotic process automation are already being used. they connect disparate data sets about people, places and services to give insight and intelligence to multiple sectors, for example: buying habits.

The Government recently published its Industrial Strategy. It says that the UK digital economy depends on ‘world-class data, from the highest quality geospatial and climatic analysis to company information’.

I’ve written a thorough report investigating the implications of GIS for the public sector and what the Industrial Strategy means in real terms. Socitm will publish this soon. In the meantime, please share your thoughts on the issue via Twitter: @joscreese @socitm.