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Digital technologies and the future of geospatial data

Geospatial data makes it possible to use point-to-point mapping apps to reach unfamiliar destinations, track the incoming flights of loved ones before heading to the airport or even check weather forecasts. Moreover, digital technologies make it easier for professionals and laypersons alike to work with and benefit from geospatial data.

Here are some worthy examples of the blending of digital technologies and geospatial data. Some are already making an impact, and others will likely be particularly prominent within the next few years.

Assisting in the Development of Smart Cities

You've probably heard a lot about the ongoing development of smart cities. They're destinations that feature things like Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, solar-powered buildings and eco-friendly transit options. Not surprisingly, geospatial data and digital technologies work together to make smart cities possible.

Some cities collect geospatial data and upload it to touch-screen panels in public places or make it available to people through web-based interfaces. Then, individuals who live in smart cities or are thinking about moving to them can keep tabs on what's happening there. Sometimes it's possible for residents to provide input through mapping apps so developers can take it into account when making their plans.

If you want an idea of how such technologies could also save lives, consider a project called Storm Sense that combined geographic information systems (GIS) data and IoT sensors. In that case, the local governments in coastal areas increased their hurricane and flooding preparedness by using IoT sensors that monitored changes in water levels. People could see reports via an online map or use an Amazon Alexa smart speaker to hear them.

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An attendee types on the keyboard of a Key2 smartphone on display at the BlackBerry Ltd. stand on the opening day of the MWC Barcelona in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday, Feb. 25, 2019. At the wireless industry’s biggest conference, over 100,000 people are set to see the latest innovations in smartphones, artificial intelligence devices and autonomous drones exhibited by more than 2,400 companies. Photographer: Angel Garcia/Bloomberg

As cities get more connected, there's an increased demand for more in-depth map information. Companies are rising to the challenge by using resources like artificial intelligence (AI) and crowdsourcing to make better geospatial maps more efficiently than they could before.

It's easy to envision how, in addition to having a positive impact on smart cities in general, these technologies could pave the way for success with self-driving cars or unattended robots that bring things to people.

Achieving Faster, More Accurate Mapping

Mapping an area correctly can be a painstaking responsibility, but it's easier with help from drones. They work especially well for geospatial analysis needs due to their maximum altitude capabilities of 400 feet and imaging technology that enables capturing ground image data in higher resolutions than satellites or planes.

The versatility of drones makes them fantastic for a wide range of mapping projects. For example, a retail brand might use a drone to get details about terrain in the potential location of a new retail store. Then, construction companies can do something similar by factoring drone mapping data into their plans as new buildings or renovations get underway.

One of the main reasons why drones are such a hot topic now is because people associate them with the rapid delivery of things they order from e-commerce stores. Although drones do make things more convenient that way, they are also used when companies plan the most efficient distribution routes. Geospatial mapping data offers information to e-commerce enterprises, whether people receive their shipments with drones or through other means.

Making It Easy to Identify Troubled Areas and Take Appropriate Action

The prevalence of mobile apps is a primary reason why digital technologies opened more geospatial mapping opportunities. Apps let everyone from young learners to law enforcement professionals gather data that helps them achieve a richer understanding of the world.

One recent example involved an app-based mapping initiative carried out by high school and college students in Northern Ireland. Many people from outside the region believe that the 1998 Good Friday Agreement brought lasting peace to the area. It did result in substantial peacekeeping progress, but some residents still feel the effects of violence and associated issues.

Project participants were from a town called Lurgan, and they used digital apps to map out sectarian divisions in the community. The students identified the areas where they had never been or felt it was not safe to go due to remaining tensions, and then uploaded the data into GIS software. The project enabled the learners to go to San Diego to speak about their findings, and it could assist in future cross-community relations within Northern Ireland.

As the role of data in law enforcement and criminal justice grows, geospatial data is being used by law-enforcement professionals to make their jurisdictions safer.

Police forces in India increasingly use apps that function via AI and optical character recognition, along with GIS technology. They enable data analysis software to track crime alerts, plus extract trends from geospatial maps to tell them things like which areas are most prone to pickpocketing and the most-populated places at particular times of the day. Then, they can adjust their staffing responses accordingly.

Boosting the Capability of Smart Speakers

Smart speakers are among the most widely adopted technologies of recent years, and people use them throughout their everyday lives, whether cooking, entertaining guests, listening to podcasts or doing research about the topics that interest them. Geospatial mapping comes into play with those gadgets, too.

For example, people can use smart speakers to check the estimated times for their morning commutes based on traffic conditions. Other travel-related smart speaker skills are convenient when planning a vacation. They let people calculate driving distances and estimated fuel costs between two cities, or book on-demand ride-share services and see how far away the driver is from a person's location, whether it's a home, airport or hotel.

Tech-savvy consumers also tend to use smart speakers to get more information about local businesses. For example, an individual might ask a smart speaker to tell them the location of the nearest Thai restaurant. Geospatial mapping helps provide the answer.

The overview here shows that geospatial mapping and digital technologies mutually benefit each other. You can expect the advancements here to continue progressing, plus anticipate other developments you can't imagine yet but will soon become commonplace. People will keep exploring what's possible when using geospatial mapping to enhance digital technology in a wide variety of ways.

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