The Geospatial Commission was established in 2018 by the government as an expert committee responsible for setting the UK’s geospatial strategy and coordinating public sector geospatial activity. It is part of the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, playing a crucial role to deliver improved public services, create new better-paid jobs and grow the economy.

The Geospatial Strategy 2030 has three principle missions. The first is to enable technologies to accelerate geospatial innovation. The second is to drive greater use of geospatial applications and insights across the economy. Thirdly, it will build confidence in the future geospatial ecosystem. The strategy maps out the innovative use of geospatial data across nine key opportunity areas. They are Infrastructure, Transport, Housing, Environment, Public Health, Emergency Response, Ocean Economy, Retail and Finance.

Mapping out our future

Infrastructure is one of the most important aspects of society that affect people every day. Their commute to work, the school run, shopping trips, how they get away on holiday, are all affected by transport links. How these transport links – principally roads and railway lines – interact and interconnect requires a great deal of planning, to ensure they function in an efficient way. It also defines how we traverse our city centres, or how accessible and connected rural areas remain. The strategy is encouraging companies to combine remote sensing equipment with drones, to create robots that can explore and scan whole infrastructure projects, while highlighting faults and issues and creating certainty for everyone involved.

Furthermore, with regards to the movement of transport, spatial analysis on big data can allow us to understand traffic patterns and plan infrastructure accordingly, to ease the burden on travellers and commuters. When it comes to housing, this is another area that affects everyone on a daily basis. The strategy looks at how location data is enabling policymakers, civil society and others to develop better insights into the distribution of housing needs and ways to optimise development planning and investments, whilst also delivering better policies and interventions.

The world around us

Our environment is something we need to safeguard for the future and promote sustainable options wherever possible. This is especially true of aspects like agriculture. Technologies like unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) and remote sensing are enabling farmers to analyse and visualise their land, crops and management practices in unique ways. These tools are increasing productivity and return on investment, and also driving demand for tailored applications.

The strategy will also help with Emergency responses. Spatial modelling on crime, health and natural hazards allows us to assign services to areas on a more proactive basis, which will save time when responding to emergencies. Public health too has a huge impact on the economy. Location data is critical to understanding the community health impacts of facilities like parks, gyms and social hubs, which all play a key role in the health and wellbeing of UK citizens. Location data is also useful in ensuring services – health clinics, hospitals, dentists, pharmacies, etc – are accessible to all.

Personalised and unique geospatial services

The strategy can also be used with regards to our Ocean Economy, to help us make better financial and environmental decisions around our oceans and seas, and also our Retail economy. Location data is key to delivering ‘personalised’ and unique geospatial services that people use every day to discover new experiences such as restaurants, coffee shops or to have online orders delivered. And it can also help with finance. Location data can help banks catch fraudulent card use, by identifying when cards are used far away from a customer’s normal location.

The Geospatial Strategy 2030 is a timely initiative that encourages the information we as surveyors collate and analyse to have far-reaching uses beyond those boundaries. It should provide useful data that can go towards defining the shape of future development and living.