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Location intelligence: realising the benefits

The previous sections of this Insight briefing have introduced the topic, looked at the underpinning technologies, presented best practice case studies and indicated how to make the business case for investment.

In this final video, we attempt to bring the ideas together and walk you through a series of stages to help turn the potential it offers as part of digital transformation into reality.

An increasing number of organisations are realising that data and ICT-driven transformation is the key to saving money and to achieve better outcomes. Consequently, you may well be “pushing at an open door”.

Location intelligence is literally adding an extra “dimension” to this digital transformation, often under the banner of digital or smart place.

Internally, your authority may have created an innovation fund to stimulate new ideas. Alternatively, you might be able to identify funds from showing savings within your own department’s budget, especially if a return can be achieved within a fiscal year.
There are also sources of external funding, such as the Cabinet Office, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), Nesta and the Local Government Association (LGA).

A further opportunity is for the development of shared services. Location intelligence applications that are cross-cutting are particularly attractive in addressing better place-based outcomes. Sharing of scarce specialist resources and services has the potential to yield immediate cashable benefits.

Finally, in harnessing data and location intelligence, vendors are looking for reference sites and may be willing to work with your authority at preferential rates in the right circumstances.

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Harnessing geospatial information – the local dimension – is Socitm’s policy briefing on the use of spatially referenced data as a critical resource enabling digital transformation in local government and public services. This publication is a key reference for senior policy-makers, decision makers and managers involved in the creation, design, commissioning and delivery of a wide range of public services, including social care, inward investment and emergency services.

Geospatial Commission – the creation of the Geospatial Commission within the Cabinet Office was announced in November 2017 supported by £40B of new funding in each of the following two years. The Geospatial Commission’s aim is to promote the use of public and private sector geospatial data more productively and to help unlock its value, estimated to be up to £11B per year. The government will be launching a new UK geospatial strategy in 2019.

Geovation – is an Ordnance Survey initiative in association with HM Land Registry which is dedicated to supporting open innovation and collaboration using location and property data. Geovation has an extensive network within the geospatial industry and become a leading proponent of the value of open innovation in the public sector. Since its inception in 2015, Geovation has supported 79 technology start-ups, created nearly 200 jobs and raised £19.5M in investment funding.

Local Digital Fund – the MHCLG announced its £7.5M Local Digital Fund in July 2018 that aims to transform the way that councils invest in technology, share expertise and provide high quality digital services. The two-year funding programme will support local authorities in developing common solutions to their shared challenges. Funding is divided between supporting councils with i) exemplar digital projects to maximise efficiency savings and the move towards common data standards and design patterns, and ii) building capacity through training in both digital leadership and delivery skills.

Funding through NHS Digital – funding opportunities can be found in health and social care involving NHS Digital, the latest being announced in June 2018 in collaboration with LGA and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Care (ADASS). A share of the £1M funding has been awarded to local authorities that propose projects for innovative uses of digital technology in the design and provision of adult social care. The funding aims to generate digital solutions to the challenges of commissioning and delivery of health and social care at a local level.

Satellite imagery – government departments, emergency services and local authorities will receive free access to thousands of high-resolution satellite images of Britain in an initiative to support and strengthen public sector delivery. These images will give an unprecedented level of detail of major British cities, transport networks, National Parks and energy infrastructure. Access to the archives of images for research and development projects will be provided by the UK Space Agency’s Space for Smarter Government Programme (SSGP). A number of pilot projects are already using this type of satellite data, for example, Bournemouth Borough Council is using the data alongside machine learning techniques to help identify the best locations for electric vehicle charge points across the city.

Flood risk maps for free – since 2015, the Environment Agency has made mapping data available as open data to enhance flood risk knowledge. The free data improves the quality of flood risk modelling used by local authorities, communities and businesses and allows for the development of innovative tools and techniques to further benefit the environment. Two Light Detection & Ranging (LIDAR) data products are available under the Open Government Licence and are accessible through Datashare. The full tiled dataset consists of historic LIDAR data which has been gathered since 1998 and the composite dataset is derived from a combination of the full tiled dataset which has been merged and re-sampled to give the best possible spatial coverage.

Innovate UK – is a government organisation that drives productivity and economic growth across the public and private sector and can provide useful contacts. Innovate UK has created a network of Catapult centres, those most applicable to location intelligence-based innovation are:​

Nesta – is a global foundation that promotes innovation through practical programmes, investment, policy and research across a broad range of sectors. Nesta supports and funds initiatives to help the public sector reform public services, address social needs and improve citizen engagement by smarter use of data and technology. Nesta helps governments adapt to the pressures of austerity and apply the best available tools for analysis and action.

Community Research and Development Information Service (CORDIS) – is an example of various EU funding schemes that provide opportunities for applied research in the application of geospatial data. The CORDIS Innovation in Geospatial and 3D Data (VOLTA) project involves the Ordnance Survey as one of the 13 partners and is developing innovative solutions to provide metric information from images, merge and segment heterogeneous data and process large datasets via web services.

Accessible public data

Increasing volumes of public data are now free and accessible from portals such as data.gov. The number of datasets available continues to grow, stimulating the development of new smartphone applications covering a wide variety of local authority functions.

For example, the Environment Agency (EA) has made its extensive archive of aerial LiDAR data available as open data, with digital elevation models that it uses for flood analysis. These models are available together with the raw point cloud data – records of every laser point collected. This information has been used to identify field boundaries for land registration, and to determine ideal rooftop locations for solar panel placement.

Another novel dataset is aerial thermal imagery. Slough Borough Council developed thermal mapping using airborne sensors to plot heat loss from properties, identifying outbuildings that were being used illegally as dwellings.

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City models

More detailed models known as City Models are now also becoming available. These are built by merging LiDAR and high-resolution camera data with aerial imagery. Examples of 3D City Models in the UK include Sheffield, Folkestone and Jersey.

For London, the New London Architecture Model is a physical 3D model created using 3D printing from similar sources. Additional overlays showing information such as view-sheds, a geographical area that is visible from a location, are projected onto the model using coloured light.

One of the most innovative applications of such data is where underground services and surface models are combined to aid the detection of underground pipes and cables. An example of this is in Rotterdam, where the City has ambitious plans to add all underground assets to its existing 3D Model by 2020.

The internet of things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a term for networks of connected devices that collect and exchange data. For example, buildings with networked climate control sensors, or connected vehicles that collect information about road and traffic conditions. IoT is central Southend Borough Council’s plans to deploy 14,500 connected light control units as part of a street lighting upgrade. The system gives the Council real-time control of the lighting with automatic fault reporting. These sensors can also act as a platform for other smart city applications such as traffic and environmental monitoring and public WiFi networks.

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Predictive analytics

Predictive analytics is a term for software that determines patterns in data and predicts future outcomes and trends. It is used widely by retailers to make recommendations, forecast trends and target advertising.

Peterborough Council is pioneering the use of predictive analytics and IoT in social care. The council is trialling the deployment of a mix of sensors to create IoT networks in the homes of 100 people who require care. The systems can be set up to alert carers, by monitoring movement and temperature to identify anomalies in expected parameters. The aim of the system is to enable proactive social care.

Location technology is also being used to help find missing vulnerable people. Mindme is a Chichester-based service company that provides location tracking devices to people with dementia. If a vulnerable person carrying a Mindme device strays outside of a designated safe area, an alert is sent to their carer who can then easily locate them using the information from the device’s networked GPS unit. Virtually designating a place as ‘home’ like this is known as geo-fencing.

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Augumented and virtual reality

Augmented Reality (AR) is a system for overlaying digital elements on top of a view of the real world. Microsoft HoloLens is wearable AR technology currently in development; early demonstrations allow users to manipulate 3D models of furniture to see how they would look in real life. Meanwhile, Google Tango allows users to experience AR via their smartphone screen, with the first Tango-enabled smartphone released in November 2016. The device uses computer vision to determine its position and orientation within an environment. This means applications that require navigation, measurements and mapping are made possible in places where there is no GPS signal, such as inside large buildings.

AR is being used in combination with new 3D data sources, such as the Rotterdam City Model previously described, to find and locate underground utility infrastructure assets, preventing accidental excavation, increasing safety, streamlining operations and avoiding delays.

Virtual Reality (VR) is also being used with location data. VR is similar to AR but instead layers digital elements over the real world, doing so through fully-immersive headsets that track head movements, allowing the user to experience a virtual 3D world. 2016 has seen the release of many new and more sophisticated headsets, with device prices dropping and smartphone integration making the market very accessible. A location-based application of VR is Google Earth VR.

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Satellite technology

CubeSats are small, lightweight satellites that operate in low Earth orbit. This, combined with their low weight, makes CubeSats much cheaper to launch than traditional satellites, leading to a new breed of start-ups that could disrupt the Earth observation market. These new companies are using low-cost, off-the-shelf, components, small teams and rapid product iterations to develop large constellations of small satellites. Although these satellites are small, they use super-resolution techniques previously developed for microscopy to obtain high resolution imagery. CubeSat start up, Terra Bella (now owned by Google) has achieved spatial resolutions of 90cm (one image pixel equals 90cm on the ground), sufficient to identify street markings for instance.

Because these constellations – known in industry parlance as flocks – contain many satellites, they are able to revisit the same place on earth frequently making for more accurate changes over time. CubeSats make possible applications such as predicting retailer profits by counting the number of cars in store car parks, monitoring construction rates in large cities and predicting crop yields.

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