Geospatial Technology To Make A Splash In 2019: Is there a smart city coming near you?

January 8, 2019 Off By Hoofer
Zerto Gartner Report

Written by Taylor Welsh

Before delving into the future of geospatial technology, we should first define it and gain an understanding of why it is so important.

According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, geospatial technology is defined as, "a term used to describe the range of modern tools contributing to the geographic mapping and analysis of the Earth and human societies." What began with maps and cartography has evolved into advanced technology that allows satellites to use digital software to take pictures of the earth and combine this imagery with other data, such as socioeconomic and environmental factors that when combined tell the story of a specific area, country, or the planet.

We often interact with geospatial technology in some form or another every day, whether it’s using GPS to find our destination, tracking a package through UPS, or checking in to a location on social media. Geospatial technology is already used in lots of businesses and industries, including urban and environmental planning, security and intelligence, risk assessment, utility administration, and logistics industries.

What Is the Future of Geospatial Technology and Analytics?


In this day and age, it can be hard to imagine life without the internet and our smartphones. Most of us depend on mobile apps daily. If you haven’t noticed, many of the apps you use request access to your geolocation to provide you with better services. This might become even more common in the future because geospatial technology is making leaps into integrating big data into software and technology with more practical daily uses.

Innovation and cutting-edge research and development (R&D) in the field of geospatial data, geospatial science, and analytics continue to yield new ways to incorporate geospatial data into new arenas and offer solutions to today’s most challenging problems. Companies and academic institutions across the country are investing in developing geospatial technologies that will further extend the use of this valuable data outside traditional markets.

The fields of remote sensing and mobile drone platforms/sensors are expanding rapidly and providing consumer markets new levels of persistent and targeted geospatial data previously available only to the military and intelligence agencies. Geospatial data and technology are a critical element to the operation of drones and small autonomous spacecraft, all of which depend on geospatial data to provide precise positioning. Numerous R&D activities are finding new ways to provide more accurate data to these platforms, thus enhancing their overall performance.

GIS research has also become a critical element in developing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies, providing an important data element to the content libraries and algorithms of these systems. AI innovations offer groundbreaking ways to perform topological data analysis, spatial analysis, change detection, and feature selection.

Geospatial technology is fast becoming one of the foundational elements of virtual reality (VR) development. There is an increase in the use of geospatial analytical data to inform policy-making. Spatial data related to urban sociology, demography, and statistics are becoming an essential element of many local, state, and federal government decision processes.

Unbeknownst to most consumers, data drives the world of retail. Today, companies such as Google, Amazon, and Walmart have realized the value of geospatial data/technologies to achieve growth and digital transformation, and now others are following suit. To tailor products, services, and goods, it is important to know the socioeconomic information of your customers. Specifically, with developments, geospatial technologies will provide businesses with retailer’s data on income, housing/rent prices, surrounding business performance, population, and age. 

It is clear to say that Geospatial technology and analytical use has expanded beyond traditional consumers and is adding value to the retail, transportation, healthcare, and financial markets, naming a few. This expansion indicates that adding geospatial analytics to any data collection or analysis effort is beneficial. Furthermore, it speaks to the ever-present need to ensure geospatial data and related tradecrafts are properly governed to provide consistency in quality, accuracy, and security.

How Geospatial Technology Supports the Development of Smart Cities


One area in world development that is being influenced by geospatial or GIS technologies is the aspect of smart cities. Aside from the fact that Geospatial technologies are actively being used to provide solutions in numerous branches of government services as well as in businesses and industry, it integrates spatial information and other relevant data into a single system that assists in the development of smart cities.

Urban areas are getting crowded each day. Development of self-sustaining cities appears to be an alternate solution to this problem. Technology is playing a major role in self-sustaining cities. These cities are enabling automation and real-time integrated city monitoring and management through a network of sensors, cameras, wireless devices and data centers. A simpler way to look at these smart cities would be to see them as a developed urban area that creates sustainable economic development and high quality of life by transcending multiple key areas like economy, environment, mobility, governance, energy efficiency, people and living conditions.

Smart cities present a substantial growth opportunity in the coming years. But they have their challenges too as these projects are rather complex with residential and commercial spaces supported by an infrastructure backbone for power, roads, water, drainage, and sewage.

A centralized information system based on Geospatial provides an IT framework, which integrates not only every stakeholder but also every aspect of smart city process – starting from conceptualization, planning, and development to maintenance. Geospatial technology is deployed at every stage of planning and development of a Smart City. It can even be employed in Spatial planning – with one or more thrust areas of deployment. One great case study of the role of geospatial technologies in smart cities in the world include Barcelona smart city in Spain which uses innovative solutions in an intelligent spatial grid for clean, sustainable efficiencies.

For instance, its transport system has an orthogonal grid, providing fast and efficient transit. Bus shelters have solar panels, screens providing waiting times, and interactive touchscreens served by several apps to plan routes. Hidden sensors in traffic lights track noise, traffic, pollution levels, crowds and even selfies posted from the street for smart analysis. The pneumatic waste management system includes digital chips plugged into garbage containers, with a subterranean vacuum network through the pipes sucking up trash from the ground below.

What is the Future of Smart Cities?

1.     Sensors Will Drive Cities

Many cities are realizing the value of an integrated security platform that combines security hardware with IT security to give a 360-degree view of their assets and to create a more efficient, secure environment.  Sensors present the data needed to provide situational awareness to database operators and government authorities.

Through the process, IoT applications (video, I.D. and access technology, sensors, GPS and geospatial trackers, social media, third-party data, etc.) feed the data into a platform that creates actionable information. This insight can be decided upon quickly to improve not only the security and safety of cities but also the efficacy of their operations.

2.     Buildings Will Predict Your Needs

Smart buildings now are only a glimpse of where they will advance by the year 2020. Buildings will be able to incorporate a fully digital and sustainable infrastructure, predicting individual and community needs based on data gathered from smartphones, tablets, video footage and sensors.

When envisioning "Smart Buildings," we tend to envision modern buildings with sleek, economically conscious technology, green solar panels, and refrigerators that let you know when your milk is running low. However, the greatest growth for the smart buildings market will include fire control, life safety, security, intelligence, and the ability to gather information 

3.     Data Will Predict the Future

Data is the transformative DNA behind every smart city system. Data will enable cities to transform the way we will live, work and interact with one another. Smart Cities are already effectively capturing real-time data on what’s happening within the city infrastructure and monitoring real-time activity and traffic in and around the city. 

Building Information Modelling (BIM)

Today, 3D technology is not only used in gaming design but also in supporting building information modeling (BIM). Combining geospatial technology with advances in computation enables more comprehensive analyses of the Earth’s surface, allowing for innovations in the A/E industry. Architects and engineers can use this data to come up with richer, more detailed models that will help in designing and facilitating smarter projects. In the future, geospatial technology-supported BIM can be further augmented by advances in the augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) spaces.

Mapping as a Service (MaaS)


Advancements in cloud data storage have brought about a variety of business models that have been and are being tested for the public scale and download of data via web-based portals. Google Maps can provide an overview of most areas around the globe, but companies like Nearmap provide high-resolution satellite imagery for nearly any location worldwide, on demand. This customized data can then be used for landscaping, engineering and even public safety.


Finally, make no mistake, a modernized geospatial technology is more than a functional tool that can be used to display information on a map or generate a report.  It’s also a powerful marketing vehicle that can be used to create a positive and professional image for any city.  It provides a stage that showcases a forward-thinking, progressive city that wants to make it easy for people to do business with. It’s time for cities to rise to the occasion and take on the competition with geospatial analytics/technologies. 


About the Author

Taylor Welsh is a writer and engineer for AX Control, Inc., an industrial automation reseller located in North Carolina, or at