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VOLUME 11 » ISSUE 05 | ISSN 2277–3134


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n the introduction of our last Annual Edition — just before the world realized the gravity of the COVID-19 crisis — we had written that “a lot can happen in a year.” A lot did happen in 2020: an “unknown enemy” attacked us unannounced, took away millions of lives and livelihoods, disrupted supply chains, and pushed the global economy into deep recession. The pandemic also exposed some fundamental problems plaguing our global village, such as unsustainable development and a digital divide. It was an unprecedented situation and it called for an extraordinary


response. While governments, law enforcers and healthcare professionals put their best foot forward, they also required assistance with data and technology. As always, the geospatial industry rose to the occasion and played a key role in mitigating the crisis. From infrastructure building and strengthening supply chains, to keeping people safe, geospatial data and technologies were used extensively in all Covid response efforts. Now that we have left the Covid year behind, it’s time to rethink development and rebuild societies and economies. A majority of experts from the geospatial ecosystem are


Editorial Editor's Note

6 7



Ola Rollén


Alain De Taeye


Jack Dangermond


Stefan Van Doorslaer


Ray O’Connor


Srikanth Ramachandran


Michael Burger


Blair Freebairn


Mark Heine


Björn Bremer


Clinton Crosier


Gladys Kong


Briana Brown


Ross Epstein


Shobhit Shukla


Alex Storey


President & CEO FARO Technologies, Inc CEO, Fugro

Andrew Anagnost


Massimo C Comparini


President and CEO, Autodesk



Thomas Walle

Director of Aerospace and Satellite Solutions Amazon Web Services


Bobbie H Kalra 8

CEO, Topcon Positioning Systems


Enjoy reading!

Founder & CEO, Magnasoft

President & CEO, Trimble

Founder & President, Esri


This edition of the Geospatial World Magazine, while highlighting the exemplary leadership and vision exhibited by the geospatial industry, delves into the best paths leading to social, economic and environmental recovery, and the need for sustainable development.

Rob Painter

President & CEO, Hexagon AB


of the view that this year will mark the beginning of global economic recovery, and sectors such as infrastructure, retail and agriculture will drive growth. There will be heightened focus on digitalization and innovation, which will transform our everyday lives.

Deputy CEO ESVP Observation Exploration Navigation Thales Alenia Space

Ganesh Pattabiraman


Frank Pauli


CEO & Co-founder, NextNav CEO, Cyclomedia

4 | | Jan-Feb 2021

CEO & Co-founder, Unacast Board Member, TomTom Group CEO, Ahlers

Founder & CEO, Moving Walls CEO, Geolytix

CEO & CCO Ogilvy Group Germany CEO, UberMedia Content Manager SafeGraph Vice-President, New Projects SafeGraph Co-founder & Chief Revenue Officer Near CEO & Co-founder, REOMNIFY

Paolo Minciacchi


Dr. Motoyuki Arai



Founder & CEO, Synspective Inc.

Glenn Cockerton


Rodrigo da Costa


Managing Director, Spatial Vision Executive Director European GNSS Agency

Yana Gevorgyan

NOAA GEO Program Manager


Matt O’Connell


Dylan Taylor


Operating Partner Data Collective Venture Capital Chairman & CEO Voyager Space Holdings


Dr. Christoph Strecha


Christina Zhang


CEO, Pix4D

Senior Director Corporate Strategy & Communication DJI

Dr. Bandar Saleh Almuslmani



Greg Scott


Alison Rose


Director, United Nations Statistics Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs


Deputy Chair UK Geospatial Commission

Jeffrey K. Harris

Chairman Open Geospatial Consortium


Managing Editor Prof. Arup Dasgupta


Architecture, Engineering and Construction

Consulting Editor

Sandeep K Singhal Former General Manager of Bing Maps, Geospatial, and Local Search

Robert Cardillo

Gavin Schrock


President, The Cardillo Group


Burkhard Boeckem


CTO, Hexagon AB

Mao Xunye


Vice President, CHC Navigation


Randy Noland




Global Defense and Security

Keith J. Masback Consulting Editor Nishi Malhotra Associate Editor Avneep Dhingra Sr. Assistant Editor

Defense & Intelligence

Joseph Seppi


Senior Vice President and Geospatial Sector Leader Woolpert

Meenal Dhande Chief Designer Subhash Kumar

Vijay Krishnan


General Manager, Intel Geospatial

Visualizer Pradeep Chauhan


Executive Chairman, Cyient


Lee Baldwin


Segment Director Autonomy and Positioning Division Hexagon AB


Managing Director PIXEL Softek PVT LTD

Lt Gen (Dr) AKS Chandele

John Kedar

Policy & Public Affairs

Vice President-Global Sales Hemisphere GNSS

P V Rai

Contributing Editor

Geospatial Infrastructure

Contributing Editor

Senior Vice President, Trimble

Founder & CEO, Merkator

Sir Nigel Shadbolt   Nigel Clifford

Editor-in-Chief Sanjay Kumar

Chairman & Managing Director IIC Technologies Ltd.

Geert De Coensel 69

Founder and Chairman Open Data Institute

Rajesh Alla

VOLUME: 11 / ISSUE: 05


Director, Geonovum The Netherlands

B.V.R. Mohan Reddy

Johnny Welle

Director-General Norwegian Mapping Authority

Rob van de Velde

Senior Vice President, Digital Cities Bentley Systems

Stefan Schweinfest

Chief of Place, Space and Communities Division Geoscience Australia

Head, Policy Geo-information, Ministry of the Interior, The Netherlands

Robert Mankowski

Acting President, General Authority for Survey and Geospatial Information, Saudi Arabia; and Chair, UN-GGIM Arab States

Inter-regional Advisor UN-GGIM


Bryn Fosburgh

Mark Boggett

CEO, Seraphim Capital

Noud Hooyman


Former Director General Electronics & Mechanical Engineering Indian Army

Disclaimer Geospatial World does not necessarily subscribe to the views expressed in the publication. All views expressed in this issue are those of the contributors. Geospatial World is not responsible for any loss to anyone due to the information provided. Owner, Publisher & Printer: Sanjay Kumar Printed at Virtika Offset Printers, G-14 Sector 3, Noida - 201 301, G.B. Nagar (UP) India Publication Address A - 145, Sector - 63, Noida - 201 301, India Geospatial World: The edition contains 104 pages including cover. Geospatial Media and Communications Pvt. Ltd. A - 145, Sector - 63, Noida, India, Tel + 91-120-4612500, Fax +91-120-4612555/666

Jan-Feb 2021 | | 5


Geospatial will Facilitate Sustainable Development


he world is hankering for a be controlled; cleaner air is achievable; return to normalcy. People and nature does reclaim what was taken want to forget 2020 as a bad away from its creatures by humankind dream and move on, continin its blind rush towards ‘development’. uing to do whatever they were doing Addressing Climate Change will continue in 2019. This is wishful thinking of to pose a major challenge to scientists — course because ‘normal’ is not static — they will need assistance from geospatial it changes with time. There was a time technologies to convince the world of its Prof. Arup Dasgupta when Remote Sensing was a new-fandangers and persuade governments and Managing Editor gled technology trying to muscle into industry to move towards sustainability. mapping. Today, geospatial technologies, including Remote Sensing, have taken on new Development is not a ‘bad’ word, provided it is roles far beyond just mapping. When COVID-19 hit tempered with equity and sustainability, not only the world, it was these technologies that provided for humans, but for nature itself. The term sustainvaluable information through dashboards, which able development has been around for long, but it helped frontline workers and the common public has never been as important and urgent as it is now. access healthcare facilities and other information. Planet Earth needs to be able to balance conflicting demands on its resources — and only humans can In spite of dire warnings of an economic slowbring about this equity with the same energy and down and downturn, the only technologies that innovation they used in the past to hurt nature with made good progress were geospatial systems. untrammeled greed. Location information played a key role as it became necessary to maintain supply chains right to the This balancing act, which is defined in the Sustaindoorsteps of individuals. Location was also the able Development Goals of the United Nations, will key to tracking individuals with Covid and alerting require an enormous amount of information (much people to remain safe. People left crowded cities to of it location-based) and analytics of the highest seek safety in smaller communities. This presented order. This is where geospatial systems will play a a great opportunity for real estate developers. crucial role. Politicians and administrators will need Emphasis was laid on infrastructure, including help in making correct decisions, so that developcommunications, as people were locked in at home ment works for all and not just for a select few. and working remotely became the norm. It is no wonder then that the geospatial industry is The year 2021 has not brought relief in full very positive about the future. It saw major investments measure but the world is better prepared to handle during the pandemic, which will begin to bear fruit in the situation now. Vaccines have been developed the coming years. These investments in new satellites and are being administered worldwide with the help and sensors are designed to provide relevant data, of location information. Governments, businesses, which, in combination with other data from different academic institutions and people have begun to sources, can be analyzed on the Cloud using the latest adjust to the new normal. The world is experiencing advances in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning a massive move towards digitalization and geospatial and Deep Learning to yield valuable insights for further is playing a major role in the process, with location action by governments, industry and the public. continuing to be in the forefront, followed by infrastructure development, agriculture, environment These are the green shoots of recovery that will management and habitat planning. provide information to help the world adjust to the new normal in a post-Covid world. Meanwhile, Climate Change continues to play havoc by subjecting us to unusual weather events. Covid restrictions showed that energy profligacy can 6 | | Jan-Feb 2021

Editor's Note

Sustainability of Everything


n common parlance, the term In the recent past, leaders from politics, ‘sustainability’ refers to the ability economy, society, and environment have and capacity of human civilization come together to work with technology to co-exist with the Earth’s enviand business leadership. Several comparonment. This definition of sustainanies, across segments, have voluntarily bility from McGill University makes committed to becoming carbon neutral. it crystal clear why we need to pay An exemplary showcase of public-private attention to this word: “Sustainability collaboration towards sustainability is the Sanjay Kumar means meeting our own needs without ambitious ‘Artificial Island’ power plant Editor-in-Chief compromising the ability of future that will power three million European generations to meet their own needs. In households with clean energy by 2031. addition to natural resources, we also need social and economic resources. Sustainability is not just But the term sustainability doesn’t limit itself environmentalism.” to clean energy and environment; it has a wider connotation, as highlighted in the SustainSociety, economy and environment are the able Development Goals of the United Nations. fundamental determinants of sustainability, COVID-19 added a new dimension to sustainability although their collective stakeholding is often through the process of digitalization of economy misunderstood as being ‘contradictory’. In reality, and society. Undoubtedly, digital infrastructure, these three are highly interdependent. While the augmented by AI, IoT, Big Data and locational call for sustainability was first made by environservices made it possible for governments and mentalists, soon, societal champions, the progresbusinesses to function and save millions of sive intelligentsia, and economists joined in. These lives during these difficult times. However, the stakeholders collectively redefined sustainability. pandemic also showed up the disparities challenging sustainability in a global context. Nations Sustainability is still an evolving concept and businesses with advanced digital infrastrucalthough it has gained momentum in recent ture and workflows continued to grow exponenyears. Yes, the concept took some time to tially, while countries with inadequate digital inframature, as the world took time to understand structure, especially developing countries, took the the complexities of interdependence and the overall heat and lost means of livelihood, revealing mutually rewarding value chain. Sustainability is the impact of the deepening digital divide. an ecosystem of ecosystems — a connected and interdependent nervous system at the planetary An inclusive approach towards sustainability will level. Having survived different perceptions begin with the acknowledgement of “sustainability of and beliefs based on scientific, social, cultural, everything”— with the global leadership recognizing environmental, historical, and economic the need for conservation and sharing of resources grounds, sustainability has the same meaning for and setting common minimum standards of living everyone today. based on principles of environmental security. Achieving sustainability requires an ecosystem approach, guided by common goals and driven by practical feasibilities at the global, regional, national, local, and individual levels. It has to be on the agenda of every organization — be it a public, private, or non-profit entity. A collaborative and coordinated approach will only add efficiency and effectiveness to sustainable programs, leading to incremental benefits at a quick pace.

It is exciting to see a growing sense of awareness and understanding about sustainability among the young population too; they know that sustainability lies at the “core of everything” and it’s everyone’s responsibility to bring it to the “core of everyone”.

Jan-Feb 2021 | | 7

Expert Outlook



President & CEO, Trimble

OVID-19 dealt a massive shock to the global economy. A year later, governments are still learning how best to manage public health and safety concerns, while keeping their economies running. To help offset economic losses, leaders across the world have been implementing various stimulus packages, while companies are simultaneously devising new and innovative ways to maintain their businesses and keep their employees safe.

While we look optimistically at 2021 and beyond, the recovery will likely be uneven, as governments invest differently, depending on their abilities to spend and how they choose to invest back into their economies. Infrastructure spending is typically viewed as a tried-and-true stimulus tool as construction is a major contributor to the global GDP — here in the United States alone, it amounts to 13% of the country’s GDP. With construction comes technological innovation, which can be a major driving factor in economic recovery, as it enables countries to build back better, faster, safer, cheaper and greener. Construction can help build and maintain sustainable growth While construction is generally seen as an economic driver, not all construction is equal and not all construction will recover equally. The gaps in how it’s used will skew each country’s individual recovery, as leaders determine if (and how) to implement infrastructure investment within their respective countries. 8 | | Jan-Feb 2021

For example, Japan has already invested heavily in the widespread promotion of digital construction technology. They have long understood its benefits and have been using it to build back more efficiently and sustainably than before. This will go a long way towards not just improving their infrastructure, but also toward employing workers with

valuable technology-focused job skills. Strong infrastructure and solid employment create meaningful, long-term economic growth. We are also seeing shifts in what’s being constructed, with a move away from traditional commercial development to more residential building, as well as a new emphasis on data centers and warehouses due to the boom in e-commerce. The retail and supply chain it supports will likely continue to become a hybrid of both storefront and digital, which mirrors the reality of many other industries today. Those who can adapt to the changing market dynamics and seamlessly deploy technology will be the clear winners, as the world continues to shift both due to the pandemic and to pre-existing market forces that were merely accelerated by COVID-19. Geospatial uniquely poised to aid economic recovery Trimble’s unique value proposition is that we connect the physical and the digital worlds, transforming the way the world works by connecting our stakeholders and their data across industry lifecycles. We are seeing the benefits of this interconnection across a wide variety of industries, which will continue to accelerate as investments are made in technology. In fact, this year has underscored the new ways we can leverage technology to increase productivity and quality, even in environments restricted by the global pandemic. In construction, for example, our Cloud-based technology is moving companies from manual, paper-based workflows

to integrated, digital processes. The trend towards digitization was already underway before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has accelerated the speed of adoption, as companies have had to adapt their work practices to facilitate remote working, while still maintaining the same level of communication and productivity. Cloud-based solutions, such as Trimble Connect and Trimble Clarity, are also enabling easier sharing of data and models across project lifecycles. We expect the development of 5G networks, combined with cloud computing, to continue to help drive the processing of data for these models.

can create a digital model of the physical Earth, which provides enhanced spatial intelligence and awareness whether you are working in utilities, mapping, cadastral survey, or infrastructure development. This is also happening on construction sites, where machine control and automation are making new operators good and experienced operators great by improving accuracy, speed and efficiency right from the start. In addition, Robotics, Mixed and Virtual Reality, and software solutions that enable the seamless transfer of data between the field and the office, are all further improving workflows and moving the industry forward.

We are also seeing shifts in what’s being constructed, with a move away from traditional commercial development to more residential building, as well as a new emphasis on data centers and warehouses due to the boom in e-commerce.

In the geospatial industry, we are seeing a similar transition, where the adoption of BIM methodologies is enabling real-world environments to be built digitally, helping to create greater accuracy through precision modeling. Geospatial survey and mapping are also adding greater intelligence to spatial awareness, providing the user with more context, while also improving workflows. For example, geospatial surveying

These technologies are changing the game for the survey and construction industries, enabling infrastructure projects to be completed more efficiently and effectively — and to last longer than ever before. As more countries are able to invest in this type of technology and deploy it within their economies, it will help them rebound economically and bring the long-term economic benefits that will help sustain their countries now and well into the future.

Jan-Feb 2021 | | 9

Expert Outlook



n 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused massive disruption to economies around the globe. Governments and businesses were forced to take radical measures to reduce and localize the outbreak’s impacts while maintaining economic balance and ensuring sustainability.

Globally, economic activity is bouncing back. However, it won't be a green shoots recovery, but a short one. The surging optimism is built on the foundations of the ongoing mass vaccination drives taking place across the world and the strategic stimulus programs from the European Central Bank

and America’s Federal Bank. There is also a lot of hope that Joe Biden’s administration will build the good world order, which is much required at the moment. But while the stimulus packages will help economies to recover considerably, the not-so-silver lining, in this case, is that the global economy was not in great shape when the pandemic hit. As governments continue to extend funding to restore their economies, the world will see its impact only in the next few years. No matter how much stimulus is allocated, countries are going to be in debt. Eventually, governments worldwide will have to do a considerable balancing act because the debt will have to be paid back.

10 | | Jan-Feb 2021

Infrastructure, renewable energy and autonomous technology — the new macroeconomic drivers The construction and infrastructure segments are going to play a defining role in the global economic recovery. Traditional infrastructures, such as roads and utilities, and renewable energy sources will drive considerable investment in economies. There will also be a substantial shift away from the sunset industries, that is, fossil, oil and gas. The investments in these industries are not going to disappear but will eventually reduce. Notably, as the demand for autonomous and electric vehicles rises, governments

need to invest in electricity and grids to sustain the market demand. Electric renewables, energy storage, and hydrogen are going to be the priority industries of the future. The pandemic has made people far more conscious about the environment than they were in 2019. Travel and tourism and aerospace will be of least priority for individuals and businesses but essential for governments, who will need to keep the tourist industry alive because the service sector is two-thirds of the global economy. This sector will require huge investments to sustain itself in the future. Lastly, the economic recovery will be driven by autonomy and integration, wherein a low-interest rate economy, productivity, cost reduction, and quality will always be king. Autonomous technology

an event. The value of geospatial technology does not lie in how data is collected but how it is deployed, thus creating an increasing need for actionable information, that is, geospatial applications cutting across all sectors.

In the next few years, our goal will be to be more domestic in the large economies, understand their market needs, and tap into the right opportunities. We will localize our innovations and R&D much more than before.

In today’s day and age, the ‘new’ geospatial is an enabler for autonomy and real-time analytical information that humans and computers can use. It is above and beyond situational awareness, navigation and positional technologies, especially with emerging technologies like robots and autonomous vehicles.

Most importantly, our core focus does not change. We will continue to provide strategic solutions, which will help our customers to achieve productivity, cost reduction and quality across all applications. That sort of focus never goes out of fashion. Even if we see a slump in demand now or in the next few years when the stimulus is gone, companies like ours can deliver a real productivity improvement to the customers; I believe we can grow sales and stay profitable.

Localizing research, development and innovation Geopolitics is a significant challenge that we foresee. At Hexagon, our focus is on strategic research and development, and facilitating innovation across all our business areas. We are

Today, we have realized that we have exhausted all available resources. Rethinking technology and innovation for sustainability, thus, has to be the way forward.

will enable fantastic cost reductions in all areas and lower entry barriers to create a level playing field for large and small enterprises. Traditional versus new geospatial Traditionally, geospatial has been about vision or visualization, which scientists used to describe

committed to further innovation in autonomy, situational awareness and geospatial applications, which will help our customers perform better, while simultaneously minimizing the environmental impact. In view of the pandemic, at Hexagon, we will continue to invest heavily in R&D as we have for decades.

‘Recycling economy’ for the future It is undoubtedly essential that we all participate in the ‘recycling economy’, where we focus on repeatedly recycling resources. Today, technologies are evolving in such a manner that they can harness electricity and fuel from the ocean’s plastics. A little step forward can be as simple as grabbing the plastic bottles and having dispensing stations for people to recycle and reuse them. In this context, there is a need to rethink technology. The technology we have developed over the past 150 years is mostly a waste today. The vision in the past was that the globe could take anything; we can’t exhaust resources. Today, we have realized that we have exhausted all available resources. Rethinking technology and innovation for sustainability, thus, has to be the way forward.

Jan-Feb 2021 | | 11

Expert Outlook



here are two big thoughts I would like to share — how COVID-19 is accelerating change and impacting our cities and environment, and how geospatial technology can help overcome the great challenges our planet and societies face today. Technology acceleration during crises It’s been suggested that in times of a great social crisis, the adoption of emerging technologies is accelerated. For example, some urbanists think that the pandemic of 1918 accelerated the adoption of automobiles. People first started envisioning using cars to live in suburbs to avoid dense urban housing and public transit, changing the fabric of our cities forever. Today, emerging digital technologies are changing our cities and our ways of living. The digital infrastructure is transforming how we work and live. Consider the acceleration of e-commerce, home delivery, autonomous vehicles and the new forms of collaboration with tools like Zoom.

Jack Dangermond Founder & President, Esri

Digital and geospatial infrastructures Digital infrastructure and geospatial infrastructure are rapidly becoming a fundamental part of our cities and lives. This will ultimately change the way cities are organized and managed. Further, GIS is transforming the geospatial infrastructure, acting as an interconnected network of distributed systems supporting a multitude of apps and enabling the dissemination of geographic knowledge everywhere. This infrastructure pattern is already in use within emergency response organizations, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and in states and localities. Maps and content are dynamically being served and brought together on demand from many sources, with various kinds of apps. This geospatial infrastructure is leveraging the vast network of organizations that are already creating geographic knowledge. This distributed knowledge is increasingly becoming available, and eventually will become pervasive. The Johns Hopkins map is a good example. Its services have been embedded in thousands of other systems and apps that have helped in educating our society. Creating common understanding Geospatial infrastructure is enabling a whole new era of maps and language of understanding. While GIS started with specialists, today, maps are dynamically served to millions of users through browsers and mobile devices. Almost everyone can easily access stories and republish knowledge about everything. With the spread of online maps, often published as story maps, real-time information about everything is being made available through the medium of digital maps. I like to think of it as ‘geo journalism.’ Richard Saul Wurman, the founder of TED, suggests that one of the big failures of modern society is that individuals and institutions don’t effectively explain things. He believes that using maps is an effective way to communicate and understand, and

so, geospatial infrastructure can help make the world more understandable. As we think about our future, we need to leverage geospatial infrastructure and geodesign to transform our institutions and society with better understanding of the consequences of our actions. Pressing challenges Today, we are facing many challenges concerning climate, racial and gender equality, biodiversity, and education, among others. The United Nations has created the global indicator framework for the SDGs to address these issues. They are using mapping and GIS to communicate these indicators through a geospatial lens. This will elevate geographic and holistic thinking. At Esri, we continue to focus on advancing geospatial technology and aspire to build tools that help people do their work better. Vision of Digital Twin The term Digital Twin came out of the manufacturing industry and is now used to describe geospatial technology. While its origin is the engineering discipline, it is also useful in describing GIS information models and their applications. For me, the vision of Digital Twin is exciting, especially with

reference to a living data model that is dynamic and is transactionally updated. In that sense, an urban GIS is a Digital Twin that integrates content and workflows from across the enterprise. At a different level of scale, GIS users around the world are rapidly digitizing and creating a Digital Twin involving hundreds of millions of datasets. Over time, the geospatial infrastructure will integrate all of them.

and very powerful location capabilities, including high quality basemaps, imagery, geocoding/ search, routing and many more, all ready to be used by developers. The ArcGIS Platform also includes over 7,000 demographic and physical geographic layers as part of the Living Atlas. The platform is designed to support the millions of developers who wish to produce maps or do more sophisticated geographic analytics easily.

Innovation for AEC We have worked closely with Autodesk, our strategic partner. They see our technology and GIS in general as highly complementary. This has been a very fruitful relationship for us, with multiple interconnected technologies. This year, we are integrating our respective Cloud platforms and more dynamically and seamlessly integrating their BIM- related workflows with our GIS data, supporting advanced visualization and workflows.

Partnering with large and small enterprises Esri’s strategy for success involves its partners. They focus on workflows and applications that support specialized efforts around our system. Some do simple mapping and integrate our base maps and imagery, or do simple geocoding. At the other end of the scale are large enterprise platform partnerships with IBM, Microsoft, Salesforce, SAP, Amazon, and others. Some of these companies consume our services as commodities, while others go beyond the basics and leverage our more advanced capabilities. Our experience of working with the tech giants has been good. It has been gratifying to see them coming to the realization that location matters and embracing the geospatial framework.

Opening up the power of ArcGIS This year, Esri released ArcGIS as a platform service. The new offering, called ArcGIS Platform, is a complete and rich geospatial platform-as-a-service (PaaS), and represents comprehensive content

Geospatial infrastructure is enabling a whole new era of maps and language of understanding. While GIS started with specialists, today, maps are dynamically served to millions of users through browsers and mobile devices.

COVID-19 is accelerating digital and geospatial transformation. For Esri, our users and partners have been significant players in this transformation. Our ongoing vision is to build geospatial technology that helps the world understand, communicate and provide innovative solutions that both help not only with the recovery, but also make the world a better place.

Jan-Feb 2021 | | 13

Expert Outlook




CEO, Topcon Positioning Systems

he green shoots of economic recovery are already visible in some sectors of the industry, but the overall revival may take time. There is an opportunity for straight-line growth, but how steep that line will be is to be seen. There is more focus on digitalization and its increased need in the aftermarket business for the infrastructure sector, which needs to adopt technologies and software that enhance productivity, efficiency and profitability. At the same time, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are reporting that the industry is delaying the purchase of new heavy equipment in exchange for investing in technology. In the US construction industry, there is an increase in equipment rentals, instead of long-term and more expensive commitments. This shift was evident in the first year of the pandemic and could continue through 2021. The immediate need for increased productivity can be achieved through investments in technology, hardware and software, which can be quickly integrated into existing equipment and workflows, and can lead to quick benefits. Another advantage of these investments is that companies can operate more successfully amid the COVID-19 restrictions. Typically, we watch what changes are occurring in the OEM market, in aftermarket sales, in hardware and software offerings, and in workflows. Looking at what customers need in order to get their work done tells us that their ability to successfully complete projects under restrictions is critical to their success. Fortunately, the construction and agriculture industries are somewhat protected as essential services, and our position and vast portfolio means that we are also included in it. This has given us the opportunity 14 | | Jan-Feb 2021

to continue our operations through this whole period. The digital shift In terms of digitalization, what was generally achieved in one year is now being accomplished in one month. We are seeing a dramatic increase in the understanding within the AECO (Architecture, Engineering, Construction and Operations) industry about the value of technology and the need to adopt it to successfully navigate through these challenging times. There is a growing belief that even after the pandemic is contained, technology will continue to be critical to the success of customers who will need to be well-positioned to take on new projects and opportunities. In the economic downturn of 2008/2009, many companies cut costs but didn’t try to re-engineer themselves to be successful. Now, we see behaviors and hear futurists predict that the companies that will survive this and move on to be successful are those that not only manage expenses but reorganize, restructure and reassess their businesses. Takeaways from the pandemic In the last year, we have enhanced our focus on digitalization and technology adoption based on our ability to provide efficiency, increased productivity, accuracy, safety and profitability. This requires us to work faster and more seamlessly than ever before, and in some cases with either fewer people or fewer qualified professionals who can perform at a higher level because of the availability of the technology and new tools.

Therefore, machine control, the automation of various equipment and the creation of software that provides communication from the job site to the office and back will continue to be important. Also important to us is the ability to bring more automation and technology to the industry more quickly and at price points where more customers can benefit by integrating these new products into their workflow. We work closely with many partners. With our years of experience we have knowledge of the entire workflow within a job site. We not only understand the value

Over the course of the next few years we are looking at expanding our reach in Africa. It’s certainly a growth area with the world’s youngest and fastest growing population. We see many opportunities for the development of infrastructure-related solutions here, specifically in construction, mining and agriculture. One of the challenges contractors face in Africa with the size of earthmoving, road construction and mining projects is the ability to measure such vast projects. Digitalization can help in overcoming that challenge. Through our partnership with Sixense Mapping, we offer a complete solution to the end-customer.

In terms of digitalization in various industries, what was generally achieved in one year is now being accomplished in one month. We are seeing a dramatic increase in the understanding within the AECO industry about the value of technology.

of providing hardware and software for the whole workflow, but also realize that there are companies we can successfully partner with to leverage their offerings and solutions. We have found that focusing our experience in the areas of the workflow where our strengths lie and working with partners to successfully include their offerings where needed, supports our overall strategy of being an excellent resource to our clients by providing them customized solutions.

Throughout our history, we have been able to innovate through our own R&D efforts, as well as partnerships and acquisitions. For example, the acquisition of a paving software company related to logistics management has helped us further expand upon our established paving technology. We have focused equally on both strategic acquisitions and organic growth for a balanced approach to what makes sense for expanding our portfolio.

Jan-Feb 2021 | | 15

Expert Outlook

Accelerated digitalization There is little doubt that the pandemic accelerated the need for more digital solutions across construction and manufacturing. This unanticipated health crisis, which essentially halted travel worldwide, has clearly hastened the need for remote collaboration. As projects and production move forward, and decisions and routine inspections are made, the need to share accurate real-time 3D data that can be accessed remotely has never been greater.

NEED TO ACCESS 3D DATA HAS NEVER BEEN GREATER Michael Burger President & CEO FARO Technologies, Inc


ike most industries, Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) and manufacturing have struggled during the pandemic, as the prolonged shutdown continues to hamper construction and production. Given the limited ability to be on site or operate at full capacity, the Aerospace and Automotive sectors in particular have been adversely impacted. The ongoing challenges related to supply chains have only exacerbated the situation. The encouraging news, however, is that with vaccines now in distribution, there is guarded optimism

that a global recovery is on the horizon. In fact, Morgan Stanley forecasts a 6% growth in the global GDP this year, and the US stock market, a leading indicator of future economic growth, recently hit a record high. As the global economy begins to roar back, there are indications that construction and manufacturing activity may approach pre-pandemic levels by the year end. As these industries effectively navigate the new normal, leveraging the advantages brought to light through 3D reality data and emerging technologies like Digital Twin is enabling them to adapt even more quickly.

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As it is the digital transformation to Industry 4.0 was under way prior to the Covid outbreak, with many efficient solutions for designing, building and managing projects coming to the market. A few years ago, the design stage was a much more complex process, with little ability to understand the entire project lifecycle from afar. That’s not the case today. Smart technology now allows the use of 3D point Cloud data to provide a highly accurate as-built picture of all operations, which means that projects and production can be managed from anywhere. Gathering real-time data using advanced hardware and software workflows, combined with remote sharing of the final output with project owners, is fast becoming the expectation. Prefab modular construction in a controlled factory environment is another example of the digital transformation that continues to yield economies of scale. Information powering decisions Digitalizing facilities for remote management provides total

visibility to anything being built in the field and leads to great efficiencies, apart from ensuring quality control across all operations and avoiding costly rework. Moreover, autonomous routines are increasingly possible by way of mobile and robotic platforms that utilize the latest reality capture solutions to monitor daily progress. For AEC professionals, the latest virtual capabilities have allowed managers and engineers to remotely share data over the Cloud to make fast, informed decisions. With the development and implementation of quality assurance and control software, project owners can continuously monitor the building lifecycle progression in real-time. This process, in conjunction with 3D reality data capture, provides the ability to verify that the BIM workflow aligns with actual proposed build in the field. Standards can be executed throughout every step of the project and managers can determine what is within tolerance at any given stage. Up-to-date information means decisions can be made before any hidden errors compound change orders in the field, providing significant yields in time, resources and performance. In manufacturing, new model introductions that once took years are being accelerated. Most production tasks can now be done with little physical contact with the actual facility. Large capital cost industries like Automotive and Aerospace with large physical footprints can literally manage their entire workflows — from offices to operations and production — by accessing a high-accuracy 3D Digital Twin tool that

allows them to selectively use and share this information with internal stakeholders as well as critical suppliers, and ultimately reduce time to market and cost. Innovation shaping nextgeneration workflows The new FARO Focus Swift is the first fully integrated indoor mobile mapping solution. Designed to accomplish largearea as-built capturing tasks with minimal time and effort, this lightweight and highly portable extension of our Focus laser scanner delivers better data faster, enabling AEC industry professionals to balance between accuracy and efficiency. Depending on

The WebShare Enterprise feature allows data to be stored on a company’s private server or Cloud infrastructure, ensuring full control over the security of its 3D reality data and a fast and easy way to provide access and share project management workflows. The Enterprise feature also offers single sign-on (SSO) support to simplify the log-on process and avoid managing multiple passwords. A key component of a smart factory is its Digital Twin — a comprehensive 3D digital copy of the facility. Our recent acquisition of Advanced Technical Solutions (ATS) — a Sweden-based leader in 3D Digital Twin solution technology with a proprietary

Smart technology allows the use of 3D point cloud data to provide a highly accurate as-built picture of all operations, and hence projects and production can be managed from anywhere.

accuracy requirements, Swift is capable of taking mobile scans of large complex areas up to 10 times faster than traditional static scans. Users can directly import these datasets into any CAD system to simplify their modeling plan with automated processes and optimize their scan-to-BIM workflow. The latest release of FARO WebShare Software supports large manufacturing enterprises by giving them the ability to view, manage and migrate their facilities more rapidly as a result of being able to broadly share the right data with the right stakeholders.

traceable 3D system that enables highly accurate and repeatable 3D scans within our WebShare platform — bolsters our ability to improve customers’ decision time, with 10x faster 3D imaging at up to 1mm accuracy. Our vision is to help accelerate the adoption of this technology, particularly in the construction and manufacturing space, through the ability to operate and maintain buildings and facilities with 3D reality data as part of a Digital Twin. This capability will also enhance safety and provide an early line of sight when repairs and updates need to be made.

Jan-Feb 2021 | | 17

Expert Outlook



e are all going through interesting times, with COVID-19 having an enormous impact on the world. If you look at the pandemic’s consequence, it has affected the economic markets significantly. Looking at the future, there are some megatrends in the world. Over

the last year, what has happened to us, and is still happening, has not necessarily changed those megatrends. We will continue to see general population grow, urbanization and digitalization of the world. On the geospatial side, we acquire the data, analyze it and advise based on the data’s insights. So, digitalization is helping us to have various layers

Mark Heine CEO, Fugro

of data linked to each other. Thus, if you operate the lifecycle of an asset, be it for marine or land, you need to understand the subsurface and above the surface, which is a service of geospatial information. The other important element of the megatrend is Climate Change, which has a direct consequence on the industries. Also, when we say infrastructure is growing, it has to do with sustainable infrastructure. There are many ageing assets in the world, and that is very demanding of geospatial technology. Also, as all geospatial specialists know, the spatial base layer is essential to build the Digital Twin. Therefore, I see that this is a market that will probably move forward. The future is infrastructure, in which the geospatial base layer will be important. Also, specifically related to the crisis, we expect governments to have packages to stimulate the industry to get some large projects going. Concerns around ageing assets, utility networks Ageing assets are a big concern. For instance, in the Netherlands, Germany and the United States, many bridges are unsafe, and they need maintenance. There are thousands of such assets, and the only other thing that one can do is to postpone the maintenance. But at some point, it is the duty of the governments to step in to take care. Thus, I think there is going to be stimulus packages in some countries that will relate to the maintenance of existing assets. Then there are large infrastructure projects which need to be taken care of. For instance, in the UK, they have the high-speed rail line which is essential, and Boris

Johnson kicked that off shortly after the pandemic. He knew that they needed to get going with the project to have the industry working on something. So, there are those kinds of programs where large infrastructure development is already planned for quite some time, and governments may give these projects an additional push to boost the economy. Alternatively, in the past, we have seen some of the utility network owners not wanting to know how their networks are; but obviously, of late we got bushfires and all sorts of accidents happening, and these CEOs were attacked and held liable. Now, there is a whole flurry of activity starting because these companies have an obligation to actually know the quality of their utility network, and therefore, they need to survey and get the accurate data of the network. All of this is very much aligned with the ultimate purpose and ambition of Fugro, which is to create a safe and livable world. We want to help the world to get to a level where we can say that our planet is safe. Digitalization — the great enabler A lot is happening in the industry. We probably may see many hardware companies trying to move into the services business in the future. However, being a hardware company, getting into services also creates several challenges. For a service and a solutions company like Fugro, in the past, we were doing one phase of the lifecycle of an asset. However, what we realized was that with digitalization, you can link data layers, build 3D data cubes of subsurface and above the subsurface for digital

twins of assets and then actually start linking the behavior of the environment with the asset itself to the data you have around the surroundings and the asset. So, it becomes possible to build a service that is applicable for the whole lifetime of the asset. You can then look at building partnerships with these asset owners where you take the decision to design and build something for a sustainable future — for 25-30 years. Thus, we understand the client’s problem from A to Z. In that sense, we are more than an extension of the ultimate clients, assisting them to be most efficient in designing, managing and building the asset

into, work together and form partnerships. It is important that we join forces because you can achieve much more if you work together than trying to work alone. In the past, Fugro wanted to buy everything and develop its software platform, but that’s outdated now. Today, you need to have clever partnerships and get unified solutions to serve value to end customers. Undoubtedly, these mainstream or large software enterprises will play a large role in defining some of the geospatial world’s direction. We should see that as a positive, because they will enlarge the market and there will be high demand for specialized, high accuracy solutions. Technology/

If you operate the lifecycle of an asset, be it for marine or land, you need to understand the subsurface and above the surface, which is a service of geospatial information.

for the long term. I think this is where it will end up. There will be more specific questions from asset owners who will ask for niche solutions that demand high-quality data and require services and solutions of companies like Fugro to get involved and acquire the data at a certain accuracy level. Joining forces for mutual benefits Large software companies like Google and Intel will play a critical role in further enlarging the geospatial market. They will open up all sorts of possibilities to tap

IT companies often don’t have the expertise to deliver these high-end solutions, so a partnership with them will help both sectors. Eyeing integrated solutions We are working on integrated solutions. It is very clear that we need to launch these capabilities, especially on elements, such as Artificial Intelligence and Cloud. Fugro has always had these elements in their research and development group, and today, we have 350-400 full-time dedicated people for the development of solutions in AI and data analytics.

Jan-Feb 2021 | | 19

Expert Outlook



his is a very exciting time for the industry. I believe the future of Space is data driven, one where Cloud technology will be an indispensable element for operating in Space. In fact, that is exactly why Amazon Web Services (AWS) established its new Aerospace and Satellite business. We are excited to help companies reimagine how to build, access and operate Space systems on the Cloud. We have built a team that has expertise in every facet of the industry, from spacecraft design and launch to on-orbit operations and Space exploration. Collectively, our team has more than 400 years of hands-on experience in the Space industry. In order to be successful in the future, satellite operators will need to be able to increase the rates at which they deliver high-precision data, reduce latency between the time data is collected and the time it is delivered, and reduce costs. For example, we see our AWS satellite operators growing the sizes of their constellations, which will help to improve revisit rates and deliver more data much more quickly. As customers build constellations with satellites in non-polar orbits, they can use AWS to efficiently process, store and analyze their data. AWS Ground Station enables customers

to rapidly transform raw data and deliver it to end-users when and where they need it. Technology innovation and commercialization of Space infrastructure Last year, AWS started a brand new business segment committed to meeting the needs of our aerospace and satellite customers. The Space industry’s current growth is creating enormous opportunities and our AWS Aerospace and Satellite team is dedicated to supporting our customers and their long-term goals. AWS Cloud technology can help the customers address the following challenges: •  Reducing the cost of innovation: Space exploration requires extensive up-front capital expenditures, including on physical ground station environments and operations centers, as well as intricate control and guidance systems on spacecraft. We provide customers on-demand Cloud infrastructure and help them perform digital design, digital engineering and digital modeling and simulation. •  Securely managing and transforming data: AWS provides geospatial customers access to Cloud infrastructure, so that they can rapidly

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Clinton Crosier Director of Aerospace and Satellite Solutions, Amazon Web Services

and reliably downlink, store and manage their satellite data collections. We also provide solutions to help customers apply Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to automate the enrichment and analysis of vast amounts of data quickly. •  Protecting valuable Space assets: Space assets provide vital information and services that positively contribute to our environment, economy and safety. As the number of satellites on orbit continues to grow, we know that Space

traffic management and collision avoidance will become challenging for customers. Whether deconflicting thousands of satellite orbits or the thousands of pieces of debris tracked in orbit every day, the time-sensitive nature of this workload — coupled with the enormous complexity of orbital computations — is something that is perfectly suited for the advanced computational and analytical capabilities of the Cloud. Geospatial platform: Near real-time location services The Amazon Location Service makes it easier and more cost-effective for customers to add maps, tracking and other location-based features to Web, mobile and back-end applications. It provides access to high-quality data from trusted providers, including Esri and HERE Technologies, allowing customers to bring location-enabled applications to production quickly, securely and without the high cost of custom development. We are seeing just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to extracting actionable insights from geospatial data. The more we make Cloud-based solutions available in near real-time, the more we will see companies develop new and exciting ways to use that data — from city planning and environmental monitoring to economic forecasting and fish and wildlife management and everything in between. Empowering customers’ capabilities and workflows At AWS, 90% of what we build is driven by what customers tell us matters. The other 10% is things

we hear from customers; they may not articulate exactly what they want, but we try to read between the lines and invent on their behalf. We put our team to work in solving our customers’ most difficult challenges. We are constantly collaborating with our geospatial customers and partners to understand their challenges and create new solutions. We developed AWS Snowmobile because it helped to solve a satellite customer’s pressing need for data transfer and storage. DigitalGlobe — now known as Maxar Technologies — became an early user of AWS Snowmobile, an Exabytescale data transfer service

the Open Geospatial Consortium as a principal member. The membership will allow us to work with our customers and partners in a consensus-driven process to solve geospatial interoperability challenges. Collaborative partnership with public sector Building upon our strong relationships with our public sector customers, AWS sees tremendous opportunities to collaborate. We believe that the advances in Space will continue to be driven largely by innovation and best practices from the commercial Space industry, which will largely be driven by Cloud technologies.

Space assets provide vital information and services that positively contribute to our environment, economy and safety.

that customers use to move extremely large amounts of geospatial data to AWS. It’s a similar story with AWS Ground Station, where customers told us they didn’t want to have to expend large amounts of fixed capital to generate satellite data. So, now they can focus solely on their mission — generating satellite data — and do so with greater flexibility and agility, at lower cost. We also understand that our customers need systems that are interoperable, and that they are interested in sharing data securely and seamlessly in support of complex missions. This is one reason why Amazon joined

We see NASA continuing to encourage collaboration opportunities for a variety of applications, including exploration to the Moon and Mars. Other parts of the US Government, such as the US Space Force, are also looking to transition satellite control networks to commercial providers. Around the globe, we see governments continuing to increase the amount of commercial Earth resources data they purchase. We expect these sorts of collaborations to continue. AWS can help enable our government customers to rapidly develop effective solutions by connecting them through our vast AWS Partner Network.

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Expert Outlook

REIMAGINATION OF AEC SECTOR substantial improvements in the second half of next year.

Andrew Anagnost President and CEO Autodesk


OVID-19 has had a significant impact on the global economy — not just on large MNCs like Autodesk, but also on small shops on ‘main streets’ worldwide. America was late to respond to the pandemic, but the leaders in many European and APAC countries were prompt in imposing lockdowns; this enabled the countries to resume work more quickly later. Further, the outbreak forced a shift in how people purchase and receive goods and services, and this unexpected experience has resulted in both new and lost opportunities. While it is difficult to exactly predict how things will play out, we see the first half of FY 2021 looking a lot like the end of FY 2020. But as countries and communities work out the kinks in vaccine distribution, we are pretty optimistic about seeing

The turning point To understand the pandemic’s effect on the construction industry, it is essential to look back at the economic downturn from 2008 through to 2012. The industry saw approximately two million people lose their jobs, and only about half of them returned to work. Some found work in other industries, while others reached their retirement age. The shortage is felt even today. This was, I believe, a turning point for the construction industry, specifically with regard to digitization, automation, Cloud collaboration and other approaches to help fill the gap. The after-effects of the pandemic are going to be similar, and will prove to be a boon for the industry — it will be permanently digitized. Also, the supply chains will be shorter and more resilient, and physical and virtual production environments will be reimagined. Digital twins — a natural extension of BIM Digital twins are a natural

The pandemic will prove to be a boon for the industry — it will be permanently digitized.

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extension of a BIM-based process. In fact, at Autodesk, we are pretty clear that without BIM it is very difficult to get all the benefits from a Digital Twin. The ability to connect the physical and digital worlds with real-time operational awareness of structures, machines, or products is the future of most industries. Diversifying AEC portfolios with partnerships At Autodesk, we are constantly motivated by our tradition of openness and our willingness to work with other companies across industries to do what is best for our customers. One such example is our partnership with Esri. Cloud-enabled workflows are here to stay and are good for efficiency. Connecting Autodesk Construction Cloud to Esri’s Cloud platform is a big step forward in helping our customers manage and plan for sustainable and smart cities and infrastructure. The concept of a single Cloud-to-Cloud solution that lets teams integrate and visualize project data will become extremely important over the next decade. Industrialized construction Industrialized construction, also known as manufacturing of construction activities, is associated with repeatable and efficient workflows. Industrial facilities require connected data and teams to operate efficiently. In this situation, Autodesk Construction Cloud helps keep the data current and actionable throughout a project, which, in turn, helps teams to complete projects faster.

BIM is the backbone of digital transformation Built on a powerful connected data platform, Autodesk solutions enable seamless collaboration, decision-making and better outcomes for all stakeholders across the project lifecycle.

Autodesk and the Autodesk logo are registered trademarks or trademarks of Autodesk, Inc., and/or its subsidiaries and/or affiliates in the USA and/or other countries. All other brand names, product names, or trademarks belong to their respective holders. Autodesk reserves the right to alter product and services offerings, and specifications and pricing at any time without notice, and is not responsible for typographical or graphical errors that may appear in this document. © 2019 Autodesk, Inc. All rights reserved.

Expert Outlook



Deputy CEO ESVP Observation Exploration Navigation, Thales Alenia Space

pace infrastructure enables the delivery of new applications and services. Originally, we viewed Space to look outside the Earth — to explore the solar system. But today, we have plenty of examples across telecommunications, observation and navigation sectors that highlight how Space infrastructure delivers integrated services and Big Data is essential for our daily lives, while serving the larger objective of a sustainable Earth.

Innovation through partnership Innovation acts as the engine of the Space industry. In order to deliver services, one must study in advance what and how enabling technologies are developing for the sector — nano electronics, advanced materials and propulsion technologies. With the lifecycle of Space projects getting shorter, it’s very important

for large groups, medium and small enterprises, and innovative startups to collaborate, as it is improbable for a single entity to cover the entire spectrum of Space technology through its own R&D. It’s equally important for upstream and downstream industries to have close interactions. Of late, large Space groups have been forging alliances, leading to more interaction between upstream and downstream industries. This is a move in the right direction, since services and solutions influence the kind of infrastructure that is required. There is also a role for other industries like Cloud, Artificial Intelligence, Digital Twin, which enable new applications. Satellites for digital infrastructure Satellite-based connectivity will be part of the global digital infrastructure to transfer and share huge amount of data. The satellite connectivity cost is going to be comparable to fiber optics, with new mega constellations in place. Further, Very High Throughput GEO Satellites will ensure that the cost per megabyte is reduced significantly. We will have more hybrid infrastructure, and satellite connectivity would be just a node of this next-generation infrastructure.

Large Space groups have been forging alliances, leading to more interaction between upstream and downstream industries.

Boosting Space economy In Europe, in addition to the individual Space agencies, we have two big players — the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Commission (EC). While ESA takes care of the technical part, EC leads and manages the political front to boost Europe’s Space strategy. These two are advancing Space applications through flagship programs like Galileo and Copernicus. Sustaining investments We are in the process of democratization of Space, which is a domain that needs high-intensity investment and R&D. We must have critical means to sustain these investment capabilities. As the Space economy aims to be worth a trillion dollars, there is enough room for everyone across the supply chain. A number of countries have enhanced their Space capabilities in the last two decades. We have been witnessing a changing paradigm wherein there is large scope for public-private partnerships. For example, the first-ever commercial Space station, funded not by government agencies but driven by the business model of delivering services to other sectors, is gaining momentum.

Remote Sensing Instruments (RSI) is the first Indian Geomatics Company setup in the year 1985, as an optomechanical manufacturing company. RSI SOFTECH India Pvt Ltd started as an offshoot of RSI in the year 2000 to promote Digital GIS Technology, Data Services, Geo Cloud Deployment, Web Apps, Enterprise Portals Development and related services.

➝ ➝ ➝ ➝ ➝ ➝

Total Solution Provider

System Integration

Geospatial Portals

Defense and Security

Remote Sensing & GIS Photogrammetry Drone Mapping LIDAR & GPR Surveys Drone Mapping Software 3D GIS Software

RSI SOFTECH with its years of experience in the field has developed System Integration capabilities to Design, Develop, Deploy large systems in the field of Geomatics.

RSI SOFTECH designs, develops OGC compliant and interoperable GIS solutions, and GIS web portals with serviceoriented architecture.

RSI SOFTECH provides custom designed GIS hardware and software systems for Indian Defense and Paramilitary Forces.

Recent Deployments RSI SOFTECH Deployed India’s National Data Registry

RSI SOFTECH Deployed First Geospatial Cloud for NSDI

RSI SOFTECH is the First Company to Fly and process the Drone Data over a Metro City

RSI SOFTECH is First in India to map and host a State’s Industrial Infrastructure using the Drone Technology


Expert Outlook

TAKING 3D LOCATION FROM CONCEPT TO REALITY Ganesh Pattabiraman CEO & Co-founder, NextNav


e are living in the golden age of location. Never before has a society been so conscious of place — where we are, where other people are, how close or far away we happen to be. The flick of a finger, a typed or spoken question, and a few nanoseconds — that’s all it takes to discover the location of anyone or anything on the planet. Yet, this golden age of location has a significant blind spot. For all the location infrastructure we have deployed and the mobile technology that awaits our commands, we still experience location in much the same way that we always have — in two dimensions. The earth isn’t flat, but our location data is.

Vertical location market prospects Our modern sense of location is dulled. Most of us have lived so long in a 2D world that we can’t imagine how 3D location would look and feel. In the absence of a technology to deliver the vertical dimension, the whole question was hardly worth thinking about. All of this is about to change. After years of hard work with engineers, regulators and infrastructure providers, NextNav has deployed the first highly accurate nationwide service for vertical location at scale in the US. Technology is finally starting to catch up with the location industry’s dreams and ambitions. The market for vertical location is ripe. First responders will use it to improve situational awareness and save lives. Location app providers will use it to deliver amazing new user experiences, particularly in built-up urban areas. Gamers will use it to find that elusive Pikachu in new places. Businesses will use it to gain new insights into customer behavior. The list goes on. NextNav created this initial breakthrough by producing an accurate, reliable, scalable data source for vertical location. But the data itself is only the beginning. To realize the full power of 3D geolocation, the current location ecosystem will have to undergo a massive change. New infrastructure, new perception A part of the change is technical — the world of 2D mapping,

visualizations and UI (user interface) design will need to be retrofitted to incorporate a third dimension. All of this will mean a lot of hard work in the technological trenches. Developers need to build the back-end systems to support the coming revolution in user experience. New infrastructure will be deployed around the world to expand access to 3D location. Telecom providers, infrastructure companies and mobile handset makers will play a key role in bringing these new capabilities to market.

Soon, new infrastructure will be deployed around the world to expand access to 3D location.

Beyond the technical changes required to deliver 3D location, the world will also require a change in perception. As a society, our dulled sense of location must be revived. Our expectation of a flat, 2D map must be replaced with an expectation that the display on our phones should look more like the world we live in. The golden age of location is about to shine a little bit brighter. We are looking forward to the journey ahead.

Expert Outlook

Frank Pauli CEO, Cyclomedia



n the last year, we have been pleasantly surprised by the way technology has supported us in working from home and performing a number of other tasks amid restrictions. But work from home has its challenges, and we need to have a fine balance between remote working and operating from office. I feel that the majority would prefer working from office, not because it is necessary, but because people like it. Supporting economy In Europe, despite challenges posed by the pandemic, the number of company failures and unemployed people has been relatively low. That’s because governments came up with all kinds of support programs. The European Union announced a huge stimulus package, largely for small businesses. We are now at a point where the authorities are aiding specific sectors, such as food and beverages, and events. Things appear stable but at some point there will be a shake-up, and all the money governments have pumped into the economy will have to be repaid. So, there will be some economic headwind for a number of years. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, geospatial technology has been helping

governments manage public space and private industry manage public infrastructure. The pandemic has taught us how important it is to have a working infrastructure. As investments in infrastructure increase, the geospatial industry will assume an even more important role. Focus on cities Today, cities around the world are looking to change their mobility infrastructure. In order to discourage the use of public transport, there is a thrust on building biking lanes and pedestrian tracks. This is an area of focus for us. Another focus area is the telecommunications sector. We all know how crucial telecommunications can be in the time of a crisis, such as a pandemic. Surprisingly, the industry was a bit slow to react,

As investments in infrastructure increase, the geospatial industry will assume an even more important role in the future.

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but is now looking to increase bandwidth and expand through fiber and 5G. All of this has an important geospatial component. Cities will be our major focus area for the next two years, as mobility, telecommunications and several other things come under the larger city infrastructure. For instance, in New York City, the Department of Finance used our data for tax assessment of buildings. As many as 31 other departments in the city are connected to our service. We have a program under which we have identified the top 100 cities in the US and Europe to focus on. Preparing for the future To prepare for the future, you need to analyze all possibilities. There is a lot of buzz around the concept of Digital Twin. We need to have the right tools to manage, operate and manipulate a Digital Twin to prepare for future scenarios — be it a pandemic or a hurricane. It’s a complex process but it is essential for making our cities resilient. A Digital Twin is of great use if it is updated in real time. This is an area that requires collective focus. So, there has to be collaboration between the government and industry to update a Digital Twin.

Cyclomedia captures data from the real world and transforms it into valuable insights, enabling you to understand the complexities of the environment around you. With the world’s most accurate 360°street-level visualizations, enhanced by innovative, AI-powered analytics, Cyclomedia delivers actionable insights that you can use today in order to build a better tomorrow. Using smart algorithms we can quickly and cost-effectively collect a large inventory of your city street furniture, such as lamp posts, traffic lights, (traffic) signs, road markings, trees and billboards.

Real data. True understanding. Big impact.

With area Mapping (inventory of surface types) you have the basis for the development of your city into a city of the future. Only with a reliable, precise and complete survey of the status quo a new and improved urban planning with a citizen-centered approach can be realized.

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Expert Outlook



Founder & CEO, Magnasoft

he world is recovering from the Covid-induced crisis. Every industry is innovating to embrace the new normal. Location technology has played a phenomenal role in combating the risks of the pandemic. The innovations that have been ushered in during these times have opened many new opportunities for the industry. Mapping has gained paramount importance and 3D mapping, especially in the realm of indoor spaces, is an opportunity that will help experts in the industry to reach new heights as the world reopens. New business opportunities in the arenas of electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, utilities, urban development, indoor navigation, etc., are coming up. We need to evolve rapidly, equip ourselves with the latest technological know-how, and grab these opportunities. Sectors driving economic recovery The pandemic has changed the economic, social and governance fabric of cities, and accordingly, geospatial opportunities are emerging in re-urbanization, private transportation and mobility, which are likely to drive growth. A lot of scope exists in land use planning, remote asset management and the use of immersive technologies such as AR/VR (Augmented

Reality/Virtual Reality). At a wider level, online retail and health are definitely going to play important roles in boosting the economy. Data for different needs Location Intelligence (LI) has the power to transform business decisions in almost every industry segment, and the pandemic has re-established this fact. Right spatial data and information are key to the success of the utility industry. This role will strengthen as developments like smart grids for renewable energy, electric vehicles and consumer-initiated energy saving efforts become mainstream. Spatial data and information services for oil and gas address the unique business needs of the industry. These include capturing, processing, analysis and visualization of critical information required by the industry for decision-making. In the post pandemic world, as remote monitoring of assets becomes more relevant, LI will become more critical. Geospatial data is vital for digital construction. It enables ‘smart growth’. Currently, the urban fabric is witnessing a lot of change. As the concept of remote working gains momentum, the places of work will undergo a lot of change, and

The pandemic has accentuated the need for high accuracy maps. LI has become more critical.

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accordingly, land planning and construction will also evolve. Importance of precision-mapping With infrastructure getting repurposed largely, precision-mapping of indoor spaces will become all the more important. Indoor mapping is an integral part of industrial plant maintenance and monitoring, AEC facilities planning and indoor navigation. The pandemic has accentuated the need for such high accuracy maps, which can enable users to stay safe in closed environments by avoiding overcrowded places. Large spaces like airports and malls are collecting a lot of data, which can be repurposed for solving problems related to last mile navigation. Location-based AR is another technology that is rapidly developing, promising to transform indoor environments into immersive AR experiences. Digital Twin for digital transformation Digital twins form the basis for any digital transformation, from individual assets to entire cities. This technology enables the construction industry to achieve excellence during the entire lifecycle of an asset. Eventually, digital twins will become enablers for many new applications and technologies. However, for the cost of the technology to come down, the adoption needs to happen at a larger scale.

Expert Outlook



CEO & Co-founder, Unacast

reviously, up until last year, only a handful of countries were using location data. But a lot has changed since the beginning of the pandemic. Today, a large number of sectors, such as retail, insurance and pharmaceutical, are using this data for better outcomes. We had anticipated that insurance firms would take three to five years to pick up in terms of adopting this technology, but we already have clients from the sector. As far as real estate is concerned, all segments ranging from office spaces to multifamily properties have been affected at some level. The biggest question in front of developers today is where to invest. The last one year has seen a lot of movement in the big cities. In the US, for example, there was an exodus from New York. And in other cities, like Houston, we saw people moving from cities to suburban areas. These are the signs that real estate developers can pick up using location data, to figure out the areas that are growing and the ones that are on the decline. In the big cities, not more than 20% of the workforce has returned to offices, and going forward, the remote working trend will

stay, as people have picked it up and it’s working for them. With the help of location data, investors can look at building office spaces in suburbs, closer to where people now live. Catering to different needs In the big cities, while a lot of people have moved out, there are those who have come in — primarily enticed by the drop in real estate prices. For instance, in the Tribeca neighborThe innovation hood in New York, the population that exited has to be around had high income, and the datasets we the one that has come create, so that they in has relatively lower income. So, based are more specific on location data to industries. analysis, developers can determine what to build (2 BHK or 3 BHK apartments) and also repurpose the apartment buildings in alignment with what customers need. This year, we will see different kinds of stores and restaurants come up in the vicinity to attract local clientele. Making datasets efficient In the context of location data, I think more than innovation, it will be the application that will make a difference. The innovation has to be around the datasets we create, so that they are more specific to industries like healthcare, insurance, retail and real estate. Lately, telecommunications companies have realized that they have been sitting on a gold mine of data. However, they don't know how to turn that data into insights and create datasets that can be used or sold. These companies have been using location data for building internal infrastructure, but are still to figure out how to turn location data signals into revenue streams, by selling datasets to governments, municipalities and transport companies for better infrastructure and mobility. Picking up the leading indicator Location data is going to be of immense value in the near future. It acts as a leading indicator and can tell you what’s likely to happen in the next few months. So, it is important to have these datasets at your fingertips. Several sectors can use this data for better outcomes.

Expert Outlook



Board Member, TomTom

ue to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a societal change. This change has significantly influenced the way people work and move. Most of us have been forced to work from home, leading to a change in traffic patterns. We are not going back to pre-Covid times; flexible working will become a part of the 'new normal.' With the help of geospatial technologies, we are able to analyze how populations have reacted to lockdowns, and this is how we can help governments and cities plan for the long-term effects on mobility.

The learnings of the past year have provided us with a unique opportunity. We can create a safer world that is free of congestions and emissions with the

help of geospatial technologies. For example, for congestion-free roads to become a reality, we will have to look at options like car-sharing, ride-hailing and multimodal transport. This is only possible if investments are made in building robust geospatial capabilities. The shift from personal car ownership to shared mobility will further increase the need for a much more integrated platform — the map of infrastructure. Widening geospatial capabilities In the case of electric vehicles (EVs), the challenge is limited driving range. Many EV owners experience range anxiety, where they fear that they will not be able to reach their destination before a charge is needed. It’s important to know where the next charging station is, and that’s only possible if we have geospatial information. Going forward, geospatial capabilities will have to be widened, particularly in the mobility sector, to make sure that we can deliver all the information that is needed to optimize those multimodal mobility concepts. Also, as remote working picks up, it will have an enormous impact on how cities are organized and urban planning will have to be reconsidered in the framework of the changed mobility patterns. All of this will have a strong geospatial component.

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With the learnings of the past year, we have a unique opportunity to meet our objective of a safer world, free of congestion and emissions.

Mobility also affects logistics services. Today, e-commerce companies have set an expectation that delivery of their packages must happen in a day, and that creates incredible logistical challenges. Geospatial information will play a foundational role in addressing these challenges. Evolving significance of mobility Due to developments in the past year, mobility is on the brink of a fundamental change. Perhaps this is the reason we are seeing countries investing in this sector. However, we should also keep in mind that this sector is one of the largest contributors to Climate Change. We need to look at clean investments that are in line with improving the climate and solving climate problems. In times to come, this sector will shape up in a way that allows us to meet our ultimate goals of no congestion, no emissions and no traffic collisions. This will become reality through innovations, such as advanced driver assistance systems, autonomous cars, and so on.

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Expert Outlook



Group CEO, Ahlers

ocation Intelligence plays an integral role in supply chain and logistics, which became suddenly visible for many end users during the pandemic. Goods are not always in the warehouse, the shop, or the factory; they are somewhere in between. We call that rolling inventory. So, a combination of internal data on logistics and public data, such as border waiting times and traffic congestion, can help in tracking the rolling inventory and making important decisions. A Digital Twin is a great solution in this regard, as it can help make the combined data visible, so that one can see the impact, know whether further contingency measures are necessary, or whether the process needs to be expedited. In the future, digital twins will become the standard for a lot of companies. Automation in data processing One of the biggest challenges associated with data is its cleaning. Captured data usually has many errors or is inconsistent and needs to be meticulously cleaned before it is used, and the process can take months. Automated ‘cleaning’ in data processing can help in making sure that the data is corrected, formatted and gaps are filled in real time using Artificial Intelligence, so that the output is immediately ready to be analyzed. One of our customers had a recurring space constraint. So, we linked the logistics data to their planning software to feed directly into their

process. The add-on tool made it possible to detect spikes in customer lead times and re-allocate loading slots in advance. The system was able to use the data to optimize planning and minimize delays in delivery. Adding efficiency to logistics We also engineered a mobile anti-theft device, including geo-referencing, to digitalize logistics security and tracking. We used to have armed guards with Kalashnikovs in the truck to protect the goods. With the pandemic and border restrictions, everyone traveling in the vehicle needed to be We must combine routinely tested, and location data that process added with realistic another element of delay in the logistics. insights to present So, we replaced the streamlined people by a mobile solutions. anti-theft device that can be installed in the truck when it is being loaded. Now, we are able to see in real time the location of the truck, the speed at which it is going, whether there is a traffic jam on the route and a lot more. There is also a camera that tells us whether the goods are alright, or whether any doors are loose or open. In essence, it is a mobile security system that can be taken away and placed in a new truck as soon as the delivery is complete. It is real time, more secure, and also costs much less than employing people, while generating a lot of data that can be used to improve efficiency. Furthermore, it also helps in visualization of the available data that helps in winning the confidence of existing clients and attracting new customers. Location data is at the core of supply chains, but we must be able to combine it with realistic insights, in order to present a streamlined solution that drives the business forward.

Expert Outlook

DATA QUALITY WILL BE THE DIFFERENTIATOR Srikanth Ramachandran Founder & CEO, Moving Walls


istorically, the metrics of measurement in Out-of-Home (OOH) and Digital Out-ofHome (DOOH) advertising have always focused more on quantity than quality. But today, this has changed; there is much greater focus on quality. Data Science and Location Intelligence (LI) are playing an important role in quality. In retail, while brands may not know how many people are coming into a store every hour, they need to know the profile of the visitors to understand the conversion rate. Similarly, it’s no longer about how many people could see a billboard ad. Rather, we focus on which customer segments saw the ad and what are the outcomes of those segments’ engagement with the ad. The approach to datasets also changes with different brands. A mass-market brand could be looking at one set of audiences, while a brand like Tesla could have its focus on a completely different audience.

Segmented datasets We segment data in three ways — planning dataset, real-time programmatic dataset and result dataset. First, we look at past data to plan for the future, considering variable factors like seasonal changes, changing trends, and more. Real-time programmatic datasets, on the other hand, are about the present — actionable data that can help drive decisions. The results dataset tracks the effectiveness of a campaign. To evaluate that effectiveness, it compares the result with the first two sets. This is how they are interconnected. When it comes to location data, it’s never about just one location. We look at 20-40 locations, frequency and deeper aspects of the data to design our campaigns. Location data also helps us amplify data processing. For instance, a person who watches a

Data Science and Location Intelligence are playing an important role in data quality.

lot of cricket or football is not necessarily a target for a sporting gear brand. By analyzing the person’s location behavior, we can determine whether he plays those sports in real life or is just a spectator. Hence, location data can exponentially increase the insights that we can obtain from a dataset. Today, most brands are building their own LI stacks. Companies that operate using a locational aspect, such as Zomato and FoodPanda, aggregate a lot of location data. They are also obtaining additional end-user data based on the usage — eating habits, personal preferences, budgets, and more. In combination with the LI stack, this data helps them drive marketing and business decisions in a much more informed manner. Evolving data trends During the pandemic, we saw individual data being collected through the track-and-trace apps. On top of this, mobile Bluetooth data was collected to determine the proximity of people for safe distancing measures in small environments. All of this is first-party data, which is what brands seek today. We are in a flux where more first-party data streams are coming in but, at the same time, more privacy norms and regulations are also coming in. Eventually, anonymous data usage, not at an individual level but at a cluster level, will be the way forward.

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Expert Outlook

were born, and after a string of economic crises in the 70s and 80s, retail and shopping centers came up.

Blair Freebairn CEO, Geolytix



he COVID-19 lockdown has put a lot of strain on different aspects of the retail business, especially supply chain, logistics, online commerce, click and collect, etc. During this time, many Location Intelligence analysts got diverted from their usual jobs of addressing big strategic questions to supporting Covid response efforts such as routing and forecasting of Web delivery and other operational challenges. Now, as retailers settle down, the question staring them in the face is: what happens next in retail? The pandemic has brought a lot of change to the market, particularly in Europe and North America, but there has also been a lot of innovation. Using location for best results Retail is one of the major property use classes in the world. This includes shops, restaurants, banks, etc. However, in today’s circumstances, a lot of them are not required for traditional uses anymore. I think this will lead to a wave of a new type of use classes that we haven’t even thought of. After every crisis there is a burst of innovation. After the Great Depression of the 1930s, supermarkets

During the pandemic, retailers started to experience an upsurge in online shopping. This led to the opening of fulfilment centers, dark kitchens, and small distribution hubs specifically focused on deliveries. Moving forward, location companies can help in choosing the best locations for these new use classes, which require a large pool of labor and good connectivity to motorways and railway networks. Maturing datasets The datasets that are coming out now are more mature. The reason for this maturity is the development and evolution in the last one year. We have done a lot of work on alternative mobile datasets around the world. Retailers are now looking for predictive data concerning people’s shopping behavior, obtained through financial and traditional data sources. Geolytix is interested in genuine innovations with traditional approaches. The company has spent a lot of time on mobility data from a variety of sources and combined it with other datasets to gain intelligence. Many of our customers are big global retail companies. Mobility data from different cities in the world helps them gain insights into market conditions globally, which can lead to further innovation.

Impending boom We also do traditional retail modeling, including spatial interaction models or geographic regression. We are particularly interested in the next census. The UN has mandated that all countries in the world conduct their census between 2020 and 2022. Census data is significant, as it familiarizes Mobility data from every business with the definite different cities in reality of the total population size and the geographies of this the world helps in population. All other data, such gaining insights as electoral registers, mobile into market phone data, banking data, utility data, smart city data, or sensor conditions, which data do not present the definite can lead to further truths of people’s location. So, innovation. when the census data comes out in every decade, there is another burst of application.

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Expert Outlook


Radeberger Beer Group (Germany’s largest brewer), another big client of ours, the equation changes. For these brands, their primary revenue comes from B2B sales. With bars and restaurants closed, and big events and public gatherings suspended, their businesses are suffering. For them, our campaigns are focused on the idea of people going out again once the summer arrives. We use location data from social media to identify the areas where people are likely to hang out in the summer and feature them in our campaigns. We also have a vegan food client who prepares readymade meals for lunch. Location data helps us learn when people are in the office or at home, and where they spend most of their time. Based on the time of the day we play ads for them, especially on social media, about half an hour before they go to the supermarket.


ocation data has played a key role in enabling many of our campaigns. Understanding people’s mobility behavior helps us develop better insights, especially for targeting purposes.

Obtaining actionable insights Location data helps us drive business through a mix of insights. For instance, if people go to a special event like the European Cup, we immediately know they are interested in football. So, we use geo-referencing to Georeferencing send targeted push notifications, or location data a particular offer that we know will helps us know capture their attention.

the hotspots to be avoided and the areas where people are likely to hang out.

Due to the pandemic, the travel industry has come to a standstill. This is the challenge faced by one of our biggest clients, German Rail. Being a stateowned company, German Rail has been told to keep all trains running, but with most people working from home, it’s making huge losses every month. Their focus now will be on rebuilding trust and making people feel safe to travel again. For such campaigns we use location data, in combination with other data, to gain insights into passengers’ travel behavior — how do they travel, whether they travel long distances, are they business travelers, and so on. Designing impactful campaigns When it comes to brands like Coca-Cola and

Another example of using location insights for ad targeting is a campaign for electric cars. In the beginning, all the car brands focused on selling electric cars in the big cities because they were the early adopters. However, now they have found out that people in the city are no longer interested in electric cars because there are not enough charging stations. Their ad campaigns now target people in the suburbs instead. Growing influence We usually obtain data from third parties because location data is very sensitive, and in Europe, there are very specific data protection laws. For us, it’s more about analyzing data and less about collecting. This is what our in-house data analysts, along with our strategic department and consultants, are doing to come up with new ideas and approaches. I believe, in combination with other data, location data will have a greater influence in the coming years. Jan-Feb 2021 | | 39

Expert Outlook

VISUALIZATION IS THE KEY TO UNLOCKING VALUE OF LOCATION DATA INSIGHTS wasn’t new but the approach was — breaking those data silos that we have seen for years. Knowing which areas were more affected, what services were available and which businesses were closed requires a great deal of data integration and multiple platforms worked together to accomplish that.

Gladys Kong CEO, UberMedia


t the risk of overusing the term we have all come to associate with 2020, it was an ‘unprecedented year’ in the field of geospatial technology, particularly for mobile data — not in terms of technology innovation but in the adjustments and adaptations that had to be made due to significant changes in people’s behavioral patterns. The focus was not so much on platform functionality but on how best to react to a situation and quickly address these monumental shifts for customers in the retail, grocery and quick service restaurant verticals. Even though focusing on these different problems meant that there weren’t any groundbreaking changes in platforms, there was still significant progress. For instance, Johns Hopkins released data on COVID-19 that was incorporated with traffic data by several geospatial platforms to highlight the worst-hit areas. The technology

Strengthening data infrastructure As data providers, one of the ways for us to make data more powerful is integrating multiple sources of data. For instance, for the travel and tourism industries, hotel data or rental information can be combined, so that a decision-maker can look at travel patterns and other related spends. There may be challenges, such as most brands not wanting to share first-party information, but safely integrating data in a privacy-forward manner is an important part of the infrastructure.

While all verticals will have their concerns and look at recovery differently, the common denominator across all will be helping consumers feel safe again.

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The next part is making data easily understandable. Once people can visualize something, it helps them understand it better. That visual component is especially useful in Big Data, where the data is either too large to grasp or it’s not clear how the data is being manipulated. Visualization is the key to mainstream understanding and acceptance of data. Not only does it broaden the horizons for organizations as they come to understand the power of such data, but it also opens up possibilities for data providers to come up with new use cases. Making consumers feel safe While each vertical will have its particular concerns and look at recovery differently, the common denominator across all will be helping consumers feel safe again. There is such pent-up demand in these areas that once that safety barrier is overcome, there will be surges. So, there is a great opportunity in helping clients understand foot traffic and pattern differences moving forward, because our new normal will be different from both 2019 and 2020. Another area of opportunity is looking at what different jurisdictions are doing to see what’s most effective. Are there particular cities, states, or counties where people seem to feel safer because there is a higher volume of people eating out or traveling? We can then correlate the data with what those areas have done to aid their recovery.

Expert Outlook

operations. For example, in the insurance industry, geospatial data is critical for determining if a certain property falls under a flood zone before drafting the insurance policy pertaining to it.

Briana Brown

Ross Epstein

Content Manager, SafeGraph

Vice-President, New Projects SafeGraph



OVID-19 has really accelerated the adoption of alternative data (third party data), particularly with a geospatial component, in various industries. We have seen a lot of interest from financial services firms in acquiring such data — be it by economists looking at the big picture of economic activities across industries or private equity companies trying to analyze specific investments.

Similarly, a lot has been happening in the e-commerce space. As more people are ordering things online, we have seen an increase in the need for industrial points of interest (POIs), like shipping warehouses or fulfilment centers. Delivery companies and even the brick and mortar stores are now looking for alternative data to meet their digital requirements and expectations. Alternative datasets are also helping us understand the

larger economic impacts of the pandemic. Some of them, such as data on average spend, foot-traffic, and hours worked, are helping retailers redefine and optimize operations, or financial services firms manage their portfolios. Insights for enrichment There are two different ways in which companies across industries use geospatial data. On the one hand, there are companies that need geospatial data in day-to-day

The relevance of location data is only going to increase, especially in marketing and logistics, to re-adjust business operations.

On the other hand, there are companies that can operate without geospatial data but need geospatial insights to stay competitive. What the pandemic has brought to light is the increased need for data enrichment, or adding supplemental information to first party data. For example, now more than ever before, the retail industry is enriching its existing data with alternative data, such as location information for a number of applications, including de-selection of non-performing sites and re-categorization of stores into fulfilment centers, etc. Post-Covid, the relevance of location data is only going to increase, especially in marketing, logistics, and operations, to re-adjust business operations and cater to society and economy at large. Today, companies understand the need to bring alternative datasets together for gaining actionable insights. Surge in anonymized mobile location data Much of today’s location data is collected via mobile device activity. During the pandemic, governments collected mobile location data to track the spread of the virus and to monitor social distancing compliance. Retailers, on the other hand, used mobile location data to look at the sheer volumes and trends in buying behavior. The use of anonymized mobile location data increased manifold and this trend will continue.

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Expert Outlook

happens when there is no physical store for customers to go to? A Web storefront is an immediate solution, but then other questions arise. How do customers find the app? How can we ensure that they can seamlessly navigate and pay online? How does a business now gather data to personalize the experience? And most importantly, how does a business go about building all of this?

LOCATION DATA IS A VITAL PART OF THE CLOUD ECONOMY Shobhit Shukla Co-founder & Chief Revenue Officer Near


OVID-19 managed to do what nothing else could — bring the world economy to a sudden standstill. While many industries were affected by the lockdown and the subsequent restrictions that have become essential for safety, the digital infrastructure and Cloud economy have done exceptionally well.

Reduced physical movement of the masses has forced many businesses to re-evaluate and relook at how they engage with their customers. For example, what

Questions like these have led to digital acceleration and adoption of Cloud infrastructure. This is one industry that’s going to surge ahead and contribute significantly to the economy as well as to job creation. Focus on data intelligence Data needs infrastructure to be leveraged well. Different industries are leveraging data in different ways but one prospective customer category in the data intelligence space that we didn’t foresee was the government. Covid has forced governments to look for avenues that could help them understand, predict and manage the pandemic. For example, location data could help the government track where people were congregating, which could help prevent hotspots. This data can also help in checking if people follow quarantine regulations in containment zones, social distancing rules, and more. In the fight against Covid, location data has played a significant role and this is why we have seen a massive focus from the government sector.

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Going forward, location data is going to play an even bigger role in vaccine distribution. In large countries like the USA and India, where you have tier-one, tier-two and tier-three cities, coordinating the vaccination drive involves not only taking into account the massive population, but also cold storage facilities, transportation and logistics. In this case, the location data comes in three different forms — the census data, data available with the government, and real-time data based on the movement of people. We can get optimal results only when these three are evaluated together. Driving economic growth Covid has changed the way we live and work. The role that Cloud

Reduced physical movement of people has forced businesses to reevaluate and relook at how they engage with their customers.

infrastructure companies have played in getting businesses to go digital has been phenomenal. The retail, healthcare and automation industries will hopefully be the driving force to get the economy back on its feet, considering the leaps and bounds it has taken to go digital. And location data is a vital part of that digital and economic growth story.

Expert Outlook



CEO & Co-founder, REOMNIFY

he pandemic has had a significant impact on the real estate industry. But the silver lining is that it has accelerated certain trends, and therefore, the future is going to be quite exciting. For example, the demand for real-time geospatial data has increased. Understanding what’s changing around us and then using data to make better decisions has become more important than ever. I think that the change is about looking forward, not backward. Similar solutions for different needs On the commercial side of real estate, adding footfall data to Points of Interest (PoI) database can provide insights into the changing patterns of human activity in certain areas. This helps people who are looking to invest in commercial properties and their tenants in retail brands to get ahead of the curve.

Today, big players are looking for more granular, up-to-date and forward looking datasets, and almost all of these are location-based.

Today, big commercial players are looking for more granular, up-to-date and forward looking datasets, and almost all of these are location-based. On the residential side, one of the big changes that has taken place in the last one year is that people have started to rethink about how and where they should live — the impact of an area on their health or the sustainability of their building. Datasets based on such information are becoming increasingly important. From a planning perspective, the opportunity to do things better locally is very significant. In countries like Australia, local governments are looking to implement ideas like that of a '20-minute city' — a setup in which one has all essentials within one’s vicinity. Technology as a differentiator Technology is reshaping the real estate industry. For instance, the much talked about Internet of Things (IoT) is providing good traction to companies; it’s adding measurable value to how buildings are designed and operated. Further, micro-sensors are being deployed to save energy and measure its utilization. Going forward, technology infrastructure and digital connectivity will become a key differentiator for cities, if not countries. This has been the case for markets in Australia, Singapore and the UK, where we operate. It is interesting to see how markets in India and Indonesia will behave. These markets

have huge growth potential, especially once connectivity becomes ubiquitous. Soon, connectivity will become a criteria for certification. Already there are companies that certify buildings based on the quality of connectivity. In a world where children are getting education online at home, the need for strong Internet connection is being viewed as a basic human right. I think this is something to watch very closely, and efforts and investments by governments will be a critical factor.

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Space Outlook

SPACE STORY BEYOND COVID-19 The future of Space is beyond an exclusive focus on technology and science, and the sector will play in important role in boosting economic growth and accelerating sustainable development. By Arup Dasgupta and Anusuya Datta


espite the global slowdown, investments in the Space industry set a new record in 2020. The Space infrastructure segment garnered $8.9 billion, according to a new report by Space Capital. The total investment in 2020 of $25.6 billion in the Space sector was the third highest in this decade, after 2018 and 2016.

This underlines the value of Space data in an expanding set of applications. Space, today, encompasses Satellites; Earth Observation (EO); Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT); and Communications, including the Internet, integrated into the digital revolution that the world is witnessing.

The Space industry, NewSpace companies in particular, are bullish about their prospects as the world prepares for economic recovery. Most industry experts and commentators feel that with new services introduced by satellites and innovative applications, a huge market will open up in both the government and business sectors. Academia too is realigning its courses to absorb these new ideas and innovations. Integrated Space services The future belongs to integrated Space services, exemplified by the entrance of two big players, Amazon and Microsoft, in the arena of geospatial systems, services and applications. Both players are well known for their Cloud offerings: Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. Both provide services to the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry, including geospatial operators. In June 2020, AWS introduced a new business segment for

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accelerating innovation in the global aerospace and satellite industry. “Low-latency Internet, high-resolution Earth Observation and ubiquitous Internet of Things communications companies will launch thousands of new satellites over the next five years to provide sensing capabilities to customers around the world. AWS’s reliable global infrastructure and unmatched portfolio of Cloud services help organizations process and transform massive collections of data from Space, and then quickly analyze the data to make it actionable, redefining how we research, make decisions and see our world,” says Teresa Carson, Vice President of Worldwide Public Sector at Amazon Web Services. Last September, Microsoft launched Azure Orbital, which enables satellite operators to schedule spacecraft tasking and directly downlinking into their virtual network in Azure Cloud. The data can get processed immediately with geospatial and other

analytical tools, Machine Learning and Azure Artificial Intelligence services. Users can also schedule tasks on Microsoft owned and operated ground stations in X, S and UHF band frequencies via shared high gain antennas. Further, Microsoft also directly interconnects its own global network with its partners’ ground station networks for easy scheduling. According to Yves Pitsch, Principal Program Manager, Azure Networking, “Microsoft is well-positioned to support customer needs in gathering, transporting and processing of geospatial data, with our intelligent Cloud and edge strategy currently extending over 60 announced Cloud regions, advanced analytics and AI capabilities coupled with one of the fastest and most resilient networks in the world.” SpaceX’s Rideshare program, which enables the launch of satellite constellations at a very low price of around $1 million for 200kg, came in the beginning of 2021, and will significantly change the face of the Space industry. “We were honored to be a part of history last month when SpaceX launched a record 143 small satellites into orbit, including two of ours, Capella-3 and Capella-4. More smaller players in the industry are getting their shot at Space with more frequent and affordable opportunities to launch satellites,” says Payam Banazadeh, CEO & Founder, Capella Space. Considering the stress on geospatial operations in the Cloud, the move by three companies to launch Low Earth Orbiting satellite constellations to reduce latency and provide connectivity to all

subscribers, particularly those in remote areas, is significant. SpaceX was the first one to do so with its Starlink constellation. OneWeb, a British effort, hit a rough patch but recovered, and is on the way to implementing its constellation. The latest is Amazon with Project Kuiper, which has been approved by the US authorities. Space services during the pandemic The most important geospatial services in use during the COVID-19 pandemic have been location-based; they depend on Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) satellites and augmentation services like Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS). With lockdowns and restrictions on movement, location has become an essential service for home delivery of goods and services. Personal Covid-tracing services depend heavily on location information, even at the cost of invasion of privacy. Last year, PNT services accounted for 87% of $15.9 million garnered by applications. “The fusion of multiple geospatial data sources from SAR, EO and RF, along with mobility data, have provided unique insights into macro factors, such as pattern of life, economic mobility and dislocation, and country level output. COVID-19 has taught governments and companies alike that geospatial data can provide unique insights

into pre and post-pandemic trends and has the potential to prove invaluable in curbing the spread of future outbreaks, while mitigating economic and societal hardships associated with a global pandemic,” says Matt Tirman, Head of Satellogic, North America. Underlining the value of Earth Observation, Brian O’Toole, CEO, BlackSky, says, “One of the most significant impacts in our industry that has come from the pandemic is the need for increased Earth Observation, especially for our defense and intelligence customers. To help our customers gain COVID-19-related insights, we created a coronavirus dashboard that uses AI to analyze the news and other sources to task satellites to take images of points of interest.” As an example, consider the experience of Devleena Bhattacharji, CEO of Numer8, an Indian startup specializing in satellite-based maritime services: “Covid has provided us a great opportunity to join the missing dots on the business plan we had on paper. Before the pandemic, our work was mostly on using satellite data to address climate resilience for the fishing community. Providing market linkages and financial support was a plan on paper. However, come Covid and we were suddenly recieveing demands of the real world of missing linkages and we

Most industry experts and commentators feel that with new services introduced by satellites and innovative applications, a huge market will open up in both the government and business sectors Jan-Feb 2021 | | 45

Space Outlook

The geospatial industry is steadily transforming from a data-based paradigm to a solutions-based paradigm. Users do not have time to wait for data and then analyze it to extract the information needed. The pandemic has actually accelerated this process found ourselves as enablers of everyday livelihood for the fishing community.” Numer8 was able to reach out to its fisherfolk users in a time of extreme distress and help them. “There were no shortcuts we could take since what we were delivering was being instantly tested against ground realities. User testing could not get any better,” explains Bhattacharji, adding that the world has also suddenly opened up to online synergies which were facing resistance earlier. Analytics, the new oil The geospatial industry is steadily transforming from a data-based paradigm to a solutions-based paradigm. Users do not have time to wait for data and then analyze it to extract the information needed. The pandemic has actually accelerated this process. It is not just EO or PNT data, but a whole plethora of data sources ranging from financial, social media to crowdsourced data obtained very quickly and analyzed almost in real time. The name of the game is analytics, supported by new technologies for Earth Observations. “We are seeing just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to being able to make actionable insights from geospatial data,”

says Clint Crosier, Director, AWS Aerospace & Satellites. The more Cloud-based solutions are made available in near real-time, the more we will see enterprising companies develop new and exciting ways to use that data — from city planning and environmental monitoring to economic forecasting and fish and wildlife management, and everything in between. “When we can make large volumes of Space data available to customers and provide innovative, Cloud-based tools to help them make sense of that data, the result is innovative — new applications that can literally change the world,” Crosier adds. “There will be a much bigger focus on the end-user experience and streamlined integration of data services into the workflows of the customer. This will ultimately create more demand and drive innovation through an array of new applications,” feels O’Toole. NewSpace companies are well suited to address this paradigm shift as small satellite constellations provide more sensors. Improved global monitoring that provides insights or analytics as a service drives more demand for commercial data and monitoring services and provides improved situational awareness.

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Banazadeh aims “to focus on the end-user experience”. Capella offers the industry’s first SaaSbased self-service tasking console for satellite image collection, enabling customers to task and collect images directly from the Capella constellation without delay or third-party interactions. This offering, combined with the company’s network of ground stations and technology partners, cuts the image delivery time from days to hours, or even minutes. Observing that SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) has also been historically difficult to purchase as an enterprise organization, and much more so as an independent academic or researcher, Capella’s community is designed to put SAR data in the hands of those who are paving the way for exciting new use cases by developing AI/ ML applications. Indeed, the demand for analytics is growing so fast that the industry is often not able to meet it. According to Tom VanMatre, Satellogic’s Vice President of Global Business Development, “IoT, LBS, FinTech, Retail, Real Estate, Automotive, and many more industries are beginning to scale the adoption of imagery and geospatial derived analytics. With imagery as a foundation, companies are combining consumer mobility and data analytics through geospatial applications and innovative partnership models to deliver valueadded B2B and B2C solutions.” Of course, with an industry growing so fast, and the demand for its services soaring multifold, some of the issues of the past are still left unattended. As Prateep

Basu, CEO of SatSure, points out, “While there is definitely a lot of supply of high-resolution imagery in the market today, the interoperability among them, the pricing models and their availability are still issues that the industry is not willing to address beyond the government and defense market verticals.” In general, startups and small companies need to be agile and creative, and look for new markets and different business models. Use of advanced analytics will help make information more relevant to customers. The drawback is that EO data is difficult to share due to regulations and licensing terms. New technologies The future is SAR sensing but with a caveat. Radar Remote Sensing is expensive. Though it is very useful for energy, agriculture, finance and defense, it requires government funding and applications. The challenges facing the world today, such as the pandemic and Climate Change, have pushed governments across the globe to expand and grow the SAR market much faster than before, but the commercial market is not ready as yet to invest in this technology. While a few years ago one could almost count the number of commercial SAR satellites on one’s fingertips, the most recent SpaceX launch alone has seen that number increase significantly. “We are seeing a golden age for SAR, and I expect it to keep growing — particularly for commercial use cases as the technology becomes more readily available. More satellites


mean higher revisits and a higher frequency of information, resulting in better decision-making,” says Banazadeh. Capella has tough competition from its Finnish counterpart ICEYE, a pioneer in the smallsat SAR space. ICEYE was the first company in the world to successfully build a SAR satellite with a launch mass under 100kg in 2018. Since then, SAR startups have raised hundreds of millions of dollars for constellations. Other than Capella and ICEYE, Japan’s Synspective and iQPS, and US’ PredaSAR and Umbra Lab are all anticipating more demand for SAR data. However, the key will be in multi-sensor fusion for Remote Sensing applications, which will be enhanced by higher accessibility and increased spatial and temporal resolution. One specific example, which ICEYE has demonstrated, is using SAR to visualize ships that have illegally deactivated their Automatic Identification System (AIS) beacons for illegal fishing or oil transportation. SAR’s all-weather 24/7 monitoring makes it an incredibly powerful imaging tool for analysts and covers the disadvantages of many geospatial data sources. SAR can also play a greater role in specific use cases, such as humanitarian assistance and disaster response where cloud coverage delays reliable optical imagery. While SAR data sources are on the rise and have overcome the cost barrier, it does not sound a requiem for optical sensing. “A holistic solution to Earth Observation would include

The big satellite systems' owners are also active. New planned Sentinel satellites include CHIME (Copernicus Hyperspectral Imaging Mission for the Environment): a hyperspectral imager to return detailed information on the health of crops and other plants; LSTM (Land Surface Temperature Monitoring): a thermal infrared sensor to measure land-surface temperature, useful in agriculture and drought prediction; and CIMR (Copernicus Imaging Microwave Radiometer): a microwave radiometer to measure sea-surface temperature and salinity and sea-ice concentration. Meanwhile, the old warhorse that started it all, Landsat, is coming up with Landsat 9 to keep the NASA flag of Earth Observation flying. Maxar is going to launch two of its six Worldview Legion satellites in September 2021 on SpaceX Falcon. Providing 29 cm resolution with up to 15 revisits in a day with a positional accuracy of 5 meters, the constellation will image 5 million square km or one-third of the world every day. With this huge amount of data and suitable AI/ ML tools, clients will be able to do very intensive analytics.

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Space Outlook

both optical and SAR sensors — they complement each other well. In the not-so-distant future, SAR and optical constellations will be able to communicate with one another to provide customers with intraday tipping and cueing capabilities,” says VanMatre. The demand for optical and SAR imagery has also grown within academia, as it relates to humanitarian endeavors. Several Ivy League universities are analyzing imagery of regions where allegations of genocide have been made and where illegal mining operations have been

monitoring, besides Geospatial Intelligence applications. Imaging spectrometers, which were in the research domain, are now entering the operational arena with GHGSat-C2 satellite launched in June 2016, which is capable of measuring greenhouse gas (CO2 & CH4) emissions from any industrial facility in the world and “Iris” (GHGSat-C1), launched in September 2020. The company plans to have a fleet of ten commercial, high-resolution satellites in orbit by the end of 2022, as part of its mission is to

The demand for optical and SAR imagery has also grown within academia, as it relates to humanitarian endeavors reported. Universities throughout Africa are utilizing satellite imagery to analyze food security and monitor capacity development projects. There is growing demand from universities in Europe and Latin America for hyperspectral imagery to understand and identify new and novel applications for this emerging Space-based capability. Another new technology is HawkEye 360’s Space-based Radio Frequency (RF) tracking. With a first-of-its-kind commercial satellite constellation to identify, process and geolocate a broad set of RF signals, the company extracts value from this unique data and fuses it with other sources to create powerful analytical products that can solve global challenges. The technology has been gaining traction in maritime domain awareness and spectrum mapping and

become the global reference for remote sensing of greenhouse gas and other trace gas emissions from any source in the world. Passive microwave sensing is another range of sensors, which have been used in meteorological observations since long but are now coming in for wider use. Funding and go-to market A report from Northern Sky Research had earlier found that the market for EO data and analysis is predicted to reach $8.1 billion by 2029, a significant gain from its $3 billion value in 2019. “The speed, agility and rapid innovation cycles are proving to be a viable and long-term model for the industry that will attract capital from larger growth-oriented investors,” feels O’Toole. BlackSky just announced that it has entered into a business combination agreement with

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Osprey Technology Acquisition Corp, and the newly combined company is expected to be listed on the NYSE. The business combination agreement is expected to provide approximately $450 million of net proceeds to the combined company. There are a number of NewSpace companies that closed significant funding rounds in the past six months and are executing their next phase of growth. The industry is poised for an exciting future as customers adopt the new services offered by NewSpace companies and investors look to capitalize on the opportunities of a high growth industry. Mark Boggett, CEO, Seraphim Space Fund, points out that $7.7 billion invested in 2020 indicated a 70% growth in investment despite Covid. The number of deals closed in 2020 was 221, as compared to 219 in 2019. The average deal size was $45 million in 2020, compared to $27 million in 2019. Policy environment There are significant policy changes that make it easier to deliver insights that customers find valuable, and it will pave the way for future innovation. The United States came out with seven Space-related policy documents, including a new Space policy in December 2020. In February 2020, The Executive Order on Strengthening National Resilience through Responsible Use of Positioning, Navigation and Timing Services called for ensuring that disruption or manipulation of PNT services did not undermine the reliable and efficient functioning of its critical infrastructure, while simultaneously increasing

awareness of the extent to which critical infrastructure depends on them. The Memorandum on Space Policy Directive 7 (SPD-7) of January 2021 established the implementation actions and guidance for United States’ Spacebased PNT programs and activities for both national and homeland security, civil, commercial, as well as scientific purposes. In May 2020, the Department of Commerce released a new set of regulations to support US leadership in commercial satellite Remote Sensing industry, which was supported by the industry. The National Space Policy in December 2020 recognized the significance of the rapidly growing commercial Space industry and called for enhancing America’s leadership in Space commerce without compromising on security. In the UK, a new National Space Council, to be established later this year, will provide strategic leadership on Space across government, coordinating all aspects of the UK’s Space strategy, investment and use of Space through a new National Space Framework. As a part of this effort, up to £20 million ($27.84 million) could be made available from national and local governments, subject to business case, for Spaceport Cornwall and Virgin Orbit as part of the Industrial Strategy spaceflight program — LaunchUK. The UK Space Agency will work with the United States to enhance Space weather forecasting, with £7 million ($9.74 million) for UCL scientists to build key instruments. In addition, after Brexit and the consequent loss of its membership in Galileo, the UK is also making serious moves on the PNT front.

India has completely revamped its Space policy and has opened the sector to private participation. With the creation of a public sector entity IN-SPACe, it seeks to commercialize Space activities of both ISRO and private players. As of now, many green shoots are visible. China aims to become the foremost Space power by 2045, and lead the Space domain by 2049, coinciding with the 100th anniversary celebrations of the People’s Republic. Chinese Space scientists, engineers and strategic thinkers call for and support international Space cooperation and collaboration, with China as the lead power. This includes signing Memorandums of Understandings (MoUs) with several global institutions and countries, especially those included in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Space will form a critical component of China’s future budget allocation and spending, given its growing importance in overall Chinese civilian and military infrastructure. The foundation for Space development and utilization has been laid by designating Space and interconnected systems like 5G, AI, satellite-based Internet as “critical infrastructure” by the powerful National Development and Reform Commission in April 2020. The future The future of Space is beyond an exclusive focus on technology and science, and the sector will play in important role in boosting economic growth and accelerating sustainable development. New sensors, satellites and applications are moving from academic research to creating

opportunities for new markets. A study by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) found that “public outreach, access to finance, Space sustainability, partnerships and socioeconomic development emerged as some of the most fundamental ingredients for a thriving space economy.” The public needs to know the importance of Space in their lives, where their government is spending their tax money, and investment opportunities in Space-based companies. Space entrepreneurs need to prepare proper business plans to apply for funding and government support. The industry is moving towards consortiums, partnerships between companies and between companies and governments. Eventually, Space-based intelligence will become a common business tool to better understand commercial markets. “Already we are seeing universities looking to incorporate more information about satellites and applications for Space insights into their curriculum — another signifier that this will become more deeply embedded in our world in the future,” says O’Toole. In the final analysis, it is the well-being of the human race and the environment it lives in that underlies all these efforts. Prof. Arup Dasgupta Managing Editor

Anusuya Datta Editor-At-Large, Technology & Innovation

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Expert Outlook

cities, and agriculture will drive global economic growth. These sectors will need a lot of information concerning the on-ground situation, along with in-depth analyses of the existing infrastructure. To meet these needs, we provide commercial access to COSMO-SkyMed, a unique constellation of radar satellites for Earth Observation (EO). We will also see new trends in agriculture. There will be extensive use of satellite-based EO to enhance food production for the rapidly increasing global population.




he COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the world into an unprecedented crisis. However, every cloud has a silver lining, and in this case, we have seen the emergence of new applications, which have further led to new trends in the geo-information domain. Globally, governments are infusing financial stimuli to restart their economies. These financial contributions will undoubtedly lead to sustainability, green deals, and new economic trends. Emerging trends and economic recovery I am optimistic about 2021 and 2022. Investments in building new infrastructure, rebuilding existing infrastructure, smart and green

Communication and connectivity Going forward, communication networks have to be expanded and made stronger, so that everyone can be linked and have access to latest technologies. This will help in bridging the digital divide. We may see big operators linked to governments enjoying a stronger position in the near future. We will also see more and more companies applying and using geo-information, which, coupled with a strong push in high-powered computing, Cloud and new Artificial Intelligence

Investments in building new infrastructure, smart and green cities, and agriculture will drive global economic growth.

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(AI) algorithms, will ultimately lead to covering the last mile — the end-user. Collective adoption We require a change in the mindsets of institutions so that they adopt geospatial technology, which can integrate all other technologies and provide information that is fundamental for economic and societal growth. I expect the global community, especially the United Nations, to push for geospatial technology adoption. Geospatial information is extremely important for several industries, such as defense and intelligence and maritime security. This information is critical in times of crisis, as it can provide real-time updates on significant developments around us. NewSpace potential We are quite sure that the NewSpace economy can make an important contribution in the revival of the global economy. The players in this space have offerings that can be quite valuable. For instance, CLEOS, our smart, responsive and integrated platform, fills the gap between the geo-information field and non-Space business, offering a customized all-in-one solution for companies, associations and institutions. It guarantees immediate access to geo-information and services, with the support of pioneering technologies, such as cloud computing and AI. I think all these efforts and trends will lead to a more robust economic revival in the coming years. Our ultimate goal is to decrease the digital divide, cover the last mile, and build a sustainable and greener world for everyone.

Expert Outlook



Founder & CEO, Synspective Inc.

OVID-19 has adversely impacted the economy and recovery may take some time. However, the pandemic has also created new opportunities through increased digitalization, which is today supporting almost all industries and enabling people to perform varied tasks while working remotely. This will transform economies in the future — with more digital and less physical interaction.

Technology adoption for solutions Due to restrictions on movement worldwide, human resources cannot get to their worksites. For instance, in the case of infrastructure-related projects, while the local civil engineering companies and other players can physically join the projects, the overseas investors and their teams cannot. In such cases, technology adoption and digitalization can provide the solution. The investors can use Earth Observation (EO) to understand the site, the ground terrain, shape of structures, and population dynamics, and can then use simulation to plan the project. They can also use EO data to monitor the construction and operations and maintenance, which cover the entire lifecycle of a project. Understanding data Today, many of individual industries are not interested in handling SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) or other EO technologies, but are keen on getting the information and insights obtained from them. It’s the analyzed data that matters to them. So, the

user friendly UI/UX is the key to success and market expansion for a company. Providing the right data is not enough, the data has to be easily understandable. Of course, as a sector we need to educate the other industries and our potential customers, but that will happen gradually. EO for decision-making Most people understand the gravity of global challenges, such as Climate Change, economic growth, sustainable development, among others. Even though the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) The pandemic have been there for has created a a while and things have been moving on sense of urgency the smart cities and to achieve SDGs. smart communities front, the pandemic has created a sense of urgency to achieve these goals. In a way, the crisis has acted as a trigger for a lot of good things, including the adoption of EO, which can help us decide what we should do in the next one year, what we should develop for the community, and so on. Going forward, infrastructure development cannot happen without considering disaster mitigation. Even today, financial and insurance players rely on EO data and solutions to make decisions. Based on the broader data, they can understand the financial damaged inflicted by a disaster in a certain area. In this context, SAR data can come in quite handy. SAR satellites can monitor the earth even at night and in bad weather conditions. Further, SAR data can be extremely valuable for data scientists, as it also helps in understanding changes in the environment and in the economy. In the coming few years, I see a number of use cases emerging that will help people realize the importance of SAR. We are actually heading towards a SAR renaissance.



Synspective provides one-stop solutions, using geospatial data from its own SAR satellites in line with its mission to create a progressive world based on real data. We are building a constellation of our own small SAR satellites to provide data and analytic information to governments and commercial entities. We are the only company in the world with the capabilities to both develop and operate its own satellites and provide analytics solutions. We offer subscription-based solutions and new solution development with collaborative prototyping. • Infrastructure development • Energy and natural resources development • Disaster risk management

Expert Outlook



Managing Director, Spatial Vision

iven the dynamic nature of COVID-19 and limited experience with the new vaccines, it is difficult to predict how the global economy will evolve. However, companies operating in the geospatial sector are unlikely to be adversely impacted. Spatial Vision, for example, adapted quickly during early 2020, and we have needed to continue to change even today. Our clients have also adjusted to the new normal, and we are seeing increased demand from many areas of the market. Geospatial solutions are being utilized to address not only the direct challenges arising from the pandemic but also the many other issues facing society, such as Climate Change and the rapid transformation of the energy sector, among others.

Focus areas Digital transformation continues apace across many sectors of the economy, and remains one of the key points of focus for our clients. Geospatial technology and solutions have a significant role to play in meeting these needs. Smart Cities and digital twins are

other key areas of market demand. Our services are tailored to meet market needs for data management, governance and policy in these segments. Smart City and Digital Twin projects often deal with disparate data, with heterogeneous formats and varying quality. A significant effort needs to be expended to ensure that these Big Data resources serve the needs of these projects now and into the future. Analyzing and reporting on the impacts of Climate Change and the ability of urban and rural regions to adapt and mitigate these impacts is an area that has generated demand from our clients. This work is highly dependent upon sophisticated geospatial data and analysis. The overlap and interdependencies between the Space and Geospatial sectors (Space + Spatial) are increasingly significant. Research has shown that every dollar invested in Earth Space technology delivers multiple returns for the

Governments can be expected to increasingly leverage the crosscollaboration opportunities offered by Space + Spatial industries.

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downstream users of such technology. Space + Spatial provides tremendous opportunities to grow our industry with new job prospects and skill development. Viewing Space + Spatial together is growing. Governments can be expected to increasingly leverage the cross-collaboration opportunities offered by Space + Spatial industries. NMAs transformation The National Mapping Agencies (NMAs) are rapidly transforming to meet the changing needs for tomorrow’s geospatial data products and services. However, some countries are lagging. Geospatial Master Plans for such national agencies are often required. We deem it a great privilege and often a unique opportunity to assist with these projects. In this area, we actively support the United Nations Integrated Geospatial Information Framework (IGIF). The IGIF is a strong enabler that both facilitates the necessary change for these organizations and also addresses the UN SDGs. Collaboration is key Public-private partnerships remain an essential element for many areas of government, often providing the only tangible way key projects can be effectively delivered. With the onset of COVID-19, these needs have not lessened, although the logistics of project delivery are now more complex and challenging, with travel and other restrictions. Much is being achieved, now that organizations have adapted to new ways of working and collaborating.

Digital transformation made easy. » Certified professionals in smart cities and geospatial technologies » Experience in developing and delivering countrylevel geospatial master plans » Modern IT solutions designed to integrate seamlessly into your operations » Expert advice and insights to develop effective policy and decisions Actively supporting

Large scale cadastral adjustments bringing property boundaries into the digital age

Quantifying the costs and impacts of climate change to governments and communities

Partnering to leverage new space and spatial capabilities

Expert Outlook



Executive Director, European GNSS Agency

t the European GNSS Agency (GSA), we ensure the delivery of European safe and secure positioning satellite-based services. We are responsible for the state-of-the-art safe and secure provision of navigation and timing services, market development and user uptake, and development of innovative applications for the European Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) — Galileo and EGNOS. The setting up of the European Union Space Programme Agency (EUSPA) under the upcoming new EU Space Regulation, will allow us to broaden our scope and promote the use of Copernicus, the EU’s Earth Observation (EO) program, with business and commercial users and activities related to GOVSATCOM, Europe’s secure satellite communication capability. We foresee great synergies between GNSS and EO, especially in agriculture, maritime, energy, environment management, sustainable mobility and smart cities, among others. Creating integrated applications that combine data from EO and GNSS will lead to democratization of data and generate service access to the wider public. With its new responsibilities, the EUSPA will also provide more opportunities for entrepreneurs to develop their activities based on these synergies. Innovative applications At the GSA, we have been exploring new application ideas for Galileo and EGNOS across numerous market segments. Over the past years, we not only funded more than 70 different projects through Horizon 2020, but also coached them to improve their business model and to bring their products to the market. In the last two years, we also 56 | | Jan-Feb 2021

started specific activities targeting start-ups and SMEs, such as the MyGalileo series competition plus business acceleration. This has led to the creation of an ecosystem of more than 600 startups, all involved in the development of EGNSS-based solutions. In addition, we are also fostering the use of European GNSS in policies, by developing targeted applications. For example, in March last year, we supported the development of Galileo Green Lane, a map-based application to monitor border traffic. The tool helped national authorities and truck drivers to mitigate the effect of border restrictions across the EU and to ensure the smooth distribution of freight, including critical goods. To ease the integration of GNSS connectivity from outdoor to indoor environments, we recently conducted a pilot project in Prague to install Galileo’s GNSS repeaters in a complex tunnel system in the city. The repeaters ensure drivers continue receiving signals when they are driving through the tunnel. Also linked to transport, we are running another project to develop a precise positioning system for autonomous vehicles; in this project signals from Galileo are combined with other positioning and sensor technologies in a sensor fusion approach, to ensure the enhanced accuracy and reliability required by the highest levels of automation. Search and rescue have always been a focus for Galileo. Galileo´s Search and Rescue service is operational since 2016 and has a unique capability worldwide —

the Galileo Return Link Service that started in January 2020. It allows people in distress to receive an acknowledgement that their signal has been received and their location is known. We are also active in shaping a special authentication feature on Galileo that can help the users understand if the signal is really coming from the satellites and is not manipulated. This is in addition to a new Galileo High Accuracy service which will benefit users

tion of European GNSS. Our staff has concrete knowledge of security engineering and expertise in security accreditation. EUSPA will only capitalize on GSA’s legacy. The future of EU Space is bright and holds many opportunities. On November 18, 2020, Galileo started testing Open Service Navigation Message Authentication (OSNMA) The Galileo OSNMA is an authentication mechanism that allows GNSS receivers to verify the authenticity

Creating integrated applications that combine data from EO and GNSS will lead to democratization of data and generate service access to the wider public.

across the world with an improved accuracy at decimeter level. These are just a few examples of our projects portfolio. Overall, it is great that private enterprises have picked up all the innovative features of EGNOS and Galileo and combined them with additional technological solutions to create value-adding services. This is making the GNSS market much more dynamic. Security of Space infrastructure Security is an essential element of Galileo. The GSA is in-charge of the security of Galileo and EGNOS, the operations of the Galileo Security Monitoring Centre operating 24/7, and through the Security Accreditation Board, of the security accredita-

of GNSS information, making sure that the data they receive are indeed from Galileo and have not been modified in any way. Growing Space ambition The EU investment in Space is growing, and I believe this reflects the European Union’s ambition. More than two billion devices are already using Galileo. EGNOS is used in most of the new tractors in Europe using GNSS. Around 80% of mapping and Geomatics receivers are EGNOS compatible. And our goal with EUSPA will be to create the user-oriented operational agency of the EU Space program, contributing to sustainable growth, security and safety of the European Union. So, we are looking forward to taking on the new responsibilities and challenges on board.

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Expert Outlook



NOAA GEO Program Manager

he Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and the global sustainability agendas are two powerful movements that are shaping our future concurrently. 4IR is characterized by the digitalization of our world, predicated on the exponential growth in the use of digital technologies, such as AI, cloud computing, and IoT. Alongside, the global sustainability agendas are raising awareness about the widespread collapse of the systems in our physical world and calling for radically different approaches to economic development that would take us off the course of collision with nature. Tech, data access for sustainable development For humanity to succeed in achieving sustainability, 4IR and sustainable development must unfold on the path of convergence. Divergence of these movements will deepen the existing digital divide, exacerbating socioeconomic inequalities. This is particularly critical for the least developed countries, which stand most vulnerable in the face of environmental change. Data-driven solutions and

smart technologies are essential for their sustainable development. Access to technologies in the least developed countries is hampered by the existing limitations in the physical infrastructure, including lack of electricity, highspeed Internet and mobile broadband. To avail opportunities offered by 4IR, leaders from the government, industry and civil society must act consciously to advance access to technologies and skills. Multisectoral communication and coordination It is equally important that we openly share the knowledge gained through the application of the latest innovations and information in decision-making. At the core of this lies collaboration through communication that builds trust and equity. Even more crucial are transdisciplinary and multisectoral communication and coordination — bringing together communities that do not often appear in the same room around the same table. Partners from across the information value chain need a safe and open space to mobilize action that will deliver value and advance solutions. The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) serves as such a space. We convene and facilitate strategic partnerships and promote communication among innovators, developers, scientists, practitioners and policymakers to put Earth Observation data into action. Over 60 multilateral projects leverage billions of dollars of investments in latest technologies and the best

of international Earth Science. Under these projects, products and services are developed for application in areas like disaster risk management, Climate Change adaptation and mitigation, land use and water resource management, protection of biodiversity, among others.

It is important that we openly share the knowledge gained through the application of the latest innovations in decision-making. Targeted engagements with right stakeholders Setting a global agenda based on globally accepted principles must be accompanied by more targeted engagements with the right stakeholders on regional and national scales. This is particularly essential for advancing utilization in the least developed countries. Communication must be inclusive and involve national government agencies, technology firms, regional networks, development banks, policy forums, philanthropists, non-governmental and civil society organizations, and UN agencies. Trust will build. Action will follow. Partnerships will endure. And “the Fourth” will be with us. Gevorgyan will take charge as the Director of GEO Secretariat from July 1, 2021.

Expert Outlook



he Space economy continues to soar. 2020 was another year of new landmarks. The COVID-19 pandemic inflicted terrible suffering on people and economies around the world but we, in the Space and geospatial communities, were fortunate that our industry was virtually ‘Covid-proof’. In fact, the coronavirus cloud had a silver lining for some companies. Central banks around the world wisely pumped capital into their respective markets to protect the economies from the shock of businesses suspended (and in some cases ended) by the pandemic. The capital infusions further reduced the already low cost of borrowing, and lower interest rates facilitated access to capital. A 360-degree view In recent years, big deals have dominated the Space investment

There has been a surge in non-US Space startups obtaining financing.

Operating Partner, Data Collective Venture Capital

landscape. In 2019, 70% of the total investment went to four companies: SpaceX, Blue Origin, OneWeb and Virgin Galactic. Investors were happy as SpaceX achieved milestones in the Starlink and Starship segments, and musketeers were glad to see Tesla report a profit for 2020 — the first year in which either Tesla or SpaceX have reported a profit. Another source of excitement in the Space investment world is Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs). A SPAC is a company that raises capital through an IPO to acquire another company. In the current financial markets, the rates are so low that fixed income investments rarely offer attractive returns to investors. As a result, SPACs are hot right now. Virgin Galactic was the first Space company to use a SPAC; since then, Momentus, AST, Astra and others have followed that course. Further, the launch segment continues to attract the most private equity and venture capital. A number of small companies have reached new milestones in this segment. For instance, Rocket Labs has achieved several successes, and Astra and Relativity had solid financing. Expanding China; consolidating industry There has been a surge in non-US Space startups obtaining financing. China’s Space industry

is particularly worth noting. China launched more rockets (39) than SpaceX (25) last year. That’s an unfair comparison — SpaceX is a company not a country — but it should give people some perspective on how fast China is growing. France and India have been in the launch industry longer, but China has invested billions in Space, and is making a lot of progress. On the other hand, the low cost of capital, particularly debt, will lead to more consolidation, as industry leaders seek new capabilities and weaker companies struggle to find their footing. The incumbent telecommunications sector is ripe for consolidation. Companies will make acquisitions to add to capabilities and reach new markets. Space to check Climate Change The Space industry been helping monitor and manage the risk of Climate Change for years. Although America has lagged in that effort in recent years, two factors will help the US become active in that respect again: •  The election of President Joe Biden; and •  The announcement by financial leaders like BlackRock ($3T AUM) that they would include ESG standards as they evaluate the companies in which they invest.

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Expert Outlook



s we enter 2021, Space investment has never been hotter. Be it private companies raising capital, or public companies newly minted via the SPAC (special purpose acquisition companies) machine, the sector continues to grow both its investor base, as well as the wallet share of those investors. All segments of the industry, be it launch or satellite hardware, remain healthy, though there are shifts in which segments are perceived to be where the lion’s share of future growth will be. Further, advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), edge computing and miniaturization allows for

Dylan Taylor Chairman & CEO Voyager Space Holdings

more sophisticated hardware to be put in orbit, yielding more insightful products and services. New decade, newer capabilities If the past ten years were about getting matter to orbit by building access to Space via low cost, reliable and reusable launch vehicles, the next ten years should be defined by manipulating mass in orbit. This will take the form of applications as wide ranging as on-orbit servicing of satellites for the purpose of upgrading, refueling, maneuvering or de-orbiting, to applications like Space debris clean-up and Space-based tugs. With the capability that on-orbit servicing drives, specifically, identification, rendezvous, capture and manipulation of matter in orbit, other even more sophisticated applications are enabled. These include building private Space station outposts and so called “free flyers” in Space that can be special purpose Space destinations for tourism, manufacturing or scientific experimentation. But is also enables more sophisticated satellite hardware that is more capable. Be it leveraging edge computing in Space, or more sophisticated data techniques applied to Spacebased data, the upside potential of geospatial data remains a huge driving force for hardware demand and investor interest. I expect this trend will continue in 2021 and beyond.

Ecosystem ready to go parabolic As the demand for, and the supply of, hyperspectral data continues far into the future, the “megaset” of data the industry has generated will continue to grow exponentially. Furthermore, given the continued evolution of AI, ML and predictive analytics, we will continue to generate emergent, example, predicative information that will certainly generate substantial amounts of value for investors. As this value is captured,

As the capabilities of the industry continue to evolve, investors are likely to see very lucrative returns.

via public company exits, via traditional IPOs or SPACs, that capital can return to the ecosystem to fund additional early stage ventures, or supply the much-needed growth capital for the industry. This would complete the natural lifecycle of capital and signal an ecosystem ready to go parabolic in terms of its growth. I believe we are on the cusp of this future for the industry. The landscape for Space and geospatial asset investment remains incredibly strong, and the outlook for the industry remains extremely promising. As the capabilities of the industry continue to evolve, investors are likely to see very lucrative returns, and the unlocking of additional value.

Expert Outlook

2021 COULD BE YEAR OF SPACE INDUSTRY Mark Boggett CEO, Seraphim Capital


he Space industry has been resilient despite disruptions and economic headwinds from COVID-19. Rather than retrenching, the industry made tremendous progress in 2020, successfully completing historic missions to Mars and the first commercial human spaceflight. As for investments in Space, 2020 set a record at $7.7 billion, up 70% from 2019, according to the Seraphim Space Index. After a brief dip in Q2, investments bounced back to a record $5.5 billion in the second half, driven by strong government support and investor interest. Increase in ‘mega’ rounds of more than $50 million, primarily in launch and constellations, contributed to the strength in that period. Larger and later stage (Series C and D) financing rounds accounted for more than 75% of all investments in 2020, demonstrating the maturing of the ecosystem as investors

made bigger commitments to emerging category leaders. Increasing awareness The pandemic has increased awareness about Space technologies as critical enablers to our everyday activities, and solutions to urgent problems like Climate Change. Over the last year, governments and businesses embraced satellite data to track the spread of COVID-19 and support public safety/first responders. Satellite IoT and Earth Observation made remote asset inspection, tracking and monitoring possible, delivering essential services with limited workers on site. Autonomous drones enabled ‘contactless’ delivery of much-needed medical supplies around the world. These trends will likely accelerate in 2021, as the use cases become more integrated into regular workflow. Bright prospects The year 2021 could be even better for three reasons. First, we expect to see further validation of the commercialization of Low-Earth Orbit, with SpaceX leading the pack of mega-broadband constellations. Moreover, companies like SpaceX and Rocket Labs have made launches more affordable and available. As more smallsat constellations become operational, they will deliver more frequent and diverse datasets from Space to support higher value analytics/insights. Secondly, government support for Space is likely to remain

Covid has increased awareness about Space technologies as critical enablers to our everyday activities.

strong, with more national Space programs. The US government’s spending will continue to lead, driven by national security priority and economic interests. The new Biden administration will likely accelerate use of Space to combat Climate Change. The trend of using satellite data and analytics to independently monitor and manage the risk of Climate Change will accelerate in the coming year, with strong public and private sector interest and more frequent and intense natural disasters. Lastly, we are likely to see several Space companies going public through Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs) in the coming year. A SPAC is a company that raises capital through an IPO to acquire another company. Going public via a SPAC merger allows the company to fast-track access to equity funding. Two Space startups — Momentus and Seraphim portfolio company AST & Science — have announced their merger with SPACs, each valued at over USD 1 billion. We expect to see more SPAC activities in 2021, with low interest rate and high investor interest.

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Expert Outlook



CEO, Pix4D

ast year was indeed quite a surprise. Overall, the pandemic accelerated the digital transformation that was going on already. Today, many business models are being rethought, some of them with high potential. We do not expect an extended recession, but a steady recovery, which will bring in new styles of working and living. Stress on sustainability Going forward, governments will have to invest heavily in certain sectors, which will otherwise not be able to get back on their feet. The focus could be, and should be, on the development of sustainable, climate-friendly technologies, as well as on reducing the risks associated with supply chains to ensure availability of critical goods at all times. I expect construction and (green) energy to drive us forward, and a general trend

towards a healthier relationship with our planet. Digital transformation yielding benefits Digital transformation has become more important than ever. This is what we saw during the lockdowns, which made people, businesses and society as a whole realize that fewer physical interactions and travels, and more remote collaboration, were not so difficult. For many industries, this opened up the opportunity to utilize advanced tools to collect, share, collaborate on, and manage geospatial data. A continuous 3D scan or multispectral data of a construction site, valuable assets like bridges or telecom towers, or agricultural fields provides an up-to-date status report that can be shared worldwide. This allows for optimized operational processes with much less physical interaction. Working with geospatial solutions effectively plays an important role in all of these examples, and I believe it is a role that will continue to grow in the future. Machines with human brains Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are important tools to carry cameras and sensors. Their connectivity is making them flexible IoT devices that provide valuable data for various applications. The technology is relatively well-developed and understood. A disruption that I can see is one that will come from widespread use with dedicated end-user applications. Regulations are being put in place to remove human operators and allow

Even with limited sensor data, humans can make better decisions and analyze situations that machines can’t.

fully autonomous missions from hangar stations. This will require an adaptation from drone flying companies and may also have an impact on software. Many more industries will adopt this technology if the existing data from imaging or other sensors can be turned automatically into valuable information and analytics. Even with limited sensor data, humans can make better decisions and analyze situations that machines can’t. It’s the power of the human brain that is missing in machines today. Developing this will solve the needs of more industries. Drones boost for agriculture Agriculture has many challenges. One is food security, but there are several other concerns around sustainability. Both drones and drone applications are one of the toolsets available to address these challenges. Variable fertilizer rate applications, where multispectral data from drones are used to increase yield while saving fertilizers is one example of how drones can help. Drones can also assist in planning and carrying out targeted treatments, which increases the yields whilst saving resources and having less of an environmental impact.

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Expert Outlook


and media consumption patterns. But regardless of sector, we have seen that the companies that innovate and create solutions focused around customer needs are the ones that continue to thrive. For example, in the construction sector, several companies are using drones to speed up site inspection and land surveying to make up for delayed projects and ensure a contactless work environment.

Christina Zhang

Understanding real-world scenarios A number of companies are looking to digitize the real world in the post-Covid era to futureproof he Covid vaccine rollout will boost their operations. Surveying and mapping drone people’s confidence, and work and life solutions with hardware like the Phantom 4 RTK will start getting back to normal. This will and software like DJI Terra have greatly improved lead to economic recovery and growth in and expedited workflows across industries, as well 2021. That said, the recovery will as provided digital copies of not be the same for all countries real-world assets and scenarios. and industries. We will most Public safety departments use likely see e-commerce and online this hardware and software to services drive growth, as the map post-disaster sites and for Going forward, pandemic looks to have permaaccident reconstruction. Utility we will see rapid nently changed people’s buying companies use them to generate digital twins of infrastructure drone adoption in for repeated inspections and commercial and construction professionals use civil segments. them to get access to faster and more regular site scans, potentially avoiding costly delays.


Senior Director, Corporate Strategy & Communication, DJI

Rapid drone adoption Going forward, we will see rapid drone adoption in commercial and civil segments. People have begun realizing the value of drones and are quickly building or scaling their drone programs. Recently, we unveiled the Zenmuse L1, our first LiDAR drone solution. While LiDAR technology isn’t new, we have wanted to make it more accessible to everyone without compromising on quality and accuracy. This should be a game changer for any industry that depends on geospatial information. Future of unmanned systems Automation, fleet management, BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) operations and U-Space will be important parts of the next chapter of drone operations. We have already seen several companies using our drones for automated inspections and BVLOS operations. And new regulations in air space management will further help with adoption and implementation.


Expert Outlook

GEOSPATIAL INFORMATION ENABLING DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION Dr. Bandar Saleh Almuslmani Acting President, General Authority for Survey and Geospatial Information, Saudi Arabia; and Chair, UN-GGIM Arab States


igital transformation is an important part of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, which is a collection of strategies and programs to promote sustainable national development guided by the three pillars of a vibrant society, a thriving economy, and an ambitious nation. Since “everything happens somewhere,” geospatial is a critical enabler of the digital transformation. We are reforming our approach to geospatial. The General Authority for Survey and Geospatial Information (GASGI) has been granted the mandate to organize, supervise, regulate and monitor the sector, by working with relevant stakeholders to ensure improved availability of standards-based geospatial data and services. Ensuring data availability Geospatial technology provides a key input to support the pervasion

We are reforming our approach to geospatial in Saudi Arabia.

of advanced digital technology, manifested in the form of increasingly critical apps that are already affecting how people, businesses, and governments communicate to provide services. An example is the kind of apps that are being used extensively to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. The Kingdom acknowledges the importance of authoritative and accurate information as a critical enabler for sustainable national development in today’s age. We have implemented the national geospatial platform to ensure that the existing geospatial data in the Kingdom is easily available and shared across the user community. Building geospatial information framework for reference At the regional level, in February 2020, UN-GGIM Arab States agreed in their seventh plenary meeting that the Integrated Geospatial Information Framework (IGIF) is an excellent reference framework and that the member states could adopt it for drawing their respective national geospatial strategies. In order to promote wider and better understanding across the Arab States, we have translated IGIF into Arabic. I can tell you that for Saudi Arabia, IGIF will be an important reference for our national geospatial strategy.

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Encouraging private participation A 2018 study for the development of a competitive environment for the provision of survey and geospatial data, products, and services for KSA found that the role of the private sector in the field of fulfilling the demand for geospatial information is limited. However, it is generally known that the private sector brings in efficiency of execution. Hence, the Kingdom is looking at leveraging more of the private sector. The suitability of a private sector-based national geospatial operator, who is responsible for delivering the foundation geospatial data themes for the country, is being evaluated. The majority of the Kingdom’s population is young and techsavvy and has been using geospatial information widely. For the private sector, this presents strong investment opportunities. We are working with academic education and technical training partners within and outside the Kingdom to promote capacity development in the geospatial sector. As we build better governance, and promote effective communication in the geospatial sector, we aspire to contribute to our national development in a sustainable manner.

Expert Outlook

DATA INTEGRATION AND SDGS that integrating data can yield handsome returns. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an integrated framework, they require integration of data from different areas, such as economy, society and environment, and geospatial can help in managing the entire data spectrum.

Stefan Schweinfest Director, United Nations Statistics Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Greg Scott Inter-regional Advisor UN-GGIM


he COVID-19 pandemic has made us realize that “location is everywhere.” We are witnessing a “data movement” — involving both statistical and geospatial information — as everyone is looking at maps and numbers. The geospatial dimension of “development data” is gaining momentum. The “data ecosystem” approach has become a reality, and people are collaborating to share and exchange information. From the data integration standpoint, it is clear

A holistic approach to development The virtualization triggered by the pandemic has uncovered an all-new dimension of the digital economy. With more and more sectors going virtual in some way or the other, the entire concept of digitalization has changed because of virtualization. This development has also highlighted the existing digital divide. However, the baseline has been pushed forward, with people in the developing parts of the world increasing their literacy and capability to use technology and Internet for remote education and working. Over the years, the development paradigm has shifted quite clearly. In the 1950s and 1960s the focus was around economic statistics. A decade later, it shifted to social statistics. In the 1990s, the

Since SDGs are an integrated framework, they require integration of data from different areas.

discussions moved to environmental statistics. To start with, development was all about growth, but then came the human and natural dimensions. SDGs take into account these three dimensions. In terms of measurement, we still don’t have all the desired parameters in place, as something like GDP is only an indicator of economic performance and does not measure people’s happiness or the state of the environment. But talks are on to have a more holistic mechanism in place. A collective effort to achieve goals The concept of an Integrated Geospatial Information Framework (IGIF) is gaining traction. It is heartening to see that the right approach, communication and methodology exhibited by the geospatial community have worked. Countries like The Netherlands and Sweden are now incorporating IGIF in their larger strategies. The fact that geospatial is not only about maps, and is an inclusive, embracive and cost-efficient tool, is being realized all over the world. It is important to bring together all the knowledge, expertise and resources to develop a vision for the future — where we want to go and how do we get there. The private sector has an important role to play in this process. If we want to achieve SDGs, it can’t happen with government policies alone; the people need to have a conviction about pursuing those goals. Once that happens, the private sector will automatically come into the picture. In the last two decades, the United Nations has invited several non-governmental stakeholders to the table for discussions, but then, it’s an ongoing process.

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Expert Outlook



Chief of Place, Space and Communities Division, Geoscience Australia

eospatial data and technologies are a critical enabler in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). They provide a basis for transformative change. The fusion of physical, digital and biological paradigms is occurring at a time of significant global challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and Climate Change. The shift from physical to digital provides the government and industry opportunities to leverage authoritative, accurate and reliable geospatial information to bring benefits to the economy, environment and society.

As geospatial knowledge relies on rapidly evolving ecosystems of data that combine different sources, the ability to coordinate and evolve standards in a dynamic manner is important in a global context. Reliance on embedded technologies, such as positioning, requires continued attention to reliability around both the quality of data and its availability. Global efforts to combat the pandemic have brought about a shared sense of urgency, purpose and collaboration. In the geospatial sector, data is being shared between governments, industries, academia, and the public for better decision-making.

This collaborative, open data approach should become more commonplace but with a focus on data security and privacy. Significance of positioning Precise positioning is the fundamental enabler of geospatial data and technologies. Geoscience Australia’s Positioning Australia program is building the country’s national infrastructure; it enables new technologies to leverage improvements in precise, reliable, real-time positioning information. Many technologies driving that change in 4IR will rely on understanding and tracking a position in Space and time. The current leap, bringing Australian positioning information down to 10 cm accuracy nationally and 3-5 cm within mobile telephone

Many technologies driving change in 4IR will rely on understanding and tracking a position in Space and time.

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reach, is a critical capability enhancement to a broad range of sectors of the economy. Power of partnership Collaborations with agencies like the United States Geological Survey are vital. We work closely with other Australian Government agencies like CSIRO, ASA and the Bureau of Meteorology, and engage with the international satellite EO community to promote access to analysis-ready collections of data in the Cloud. This allows us to focus on the next steps — extracting knowledge to support application and providing a data platform. Our engagement with the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) is also critical as it gives us access to a global community facing the same opportunities and challenges as Australia. Focus on Earth Observation Implementing the Australian government’s Digital Earth Australia (DEA) program is a priority. DEA provides Australian businesses with access to free and open satellite imagery, creating opportunities for the development of applications that can improve productivity and sustainability. We want to ensure Australian users have access to a reliable stream of satellite Earth Observation data.

Expert Outlook


digital economy. It is an evolution in building new functionality, moving the infrastructure layer, semantic layer, financial models and connecting it to the private sector.

Collaboration to provide knowledge services Our primary objective is to provide the foundational data, which is key to make and use other geodata and ensures that the data coming from geospatial Johnny Welle ecosystem is interoperable with data from other Director-General, Norwegian Mapping Authority ecosystems. This kind of knowledge infrastructure is only going to be realized through close collaboration between the National Mapping Authority and other organizations in the value chain. We have collaboration at different levels of administration in Norway, but the private sector has been missing when it comes to sharing infrastructure. It is important to establish a common business model across public and private sectors. Building a digital platform and providing Cloudbased services are quite expenOur vision is to work with different sive, so it is important to find a financial model that is sustainstakeholders and able. This is by far the most chalthe geospatial lenging aspect.


industry to develop twins.

t is a continuous evolution. digital Digital data has increasingly become the basis on which governments, organizations and businesses base their decisions. With this, the role of the mapping agency is transforming — from producer to provider of digital platform. Technology advancements have the greatest disruptive impact over the short to medium-term. Norway has a good environment for sharing geodata. For last 30 years, we have been working with municipalities and national agencies across the government to build a National Spatial Data Infrastructure — a platform for data sharing based on a collaboration called 'Norway Digital'. The structure of this platform is spatial in its setting, containing geodetic reference frame, hydrographic data, land mapping and cadaster in a common infrastructure. We are trying to work out how to secure access to authoritative data in this platform, which is changing quite dramatically. We are plugging into the stream of data that is surrounded by dynamic data derived from the

Developing and sharing Digital Twin Our vision is to work with different stakeholders and the geospatial industry to develop the Digital Twin and share it with the entire ecosystem for providing solutions and services. There are new areas of datasets that are expected when it comes to digital twins, with key objects and datasets attached to it. It will require much richer data content. Understanding the value of geographic information We are in the process of aligning our strategies at the national level. It’s about converging the semantics. The process has started and we hope to be able to start lighthouse projects. We have experienced that the wider understanding of the value of geographic information is increasing in other sectors. To get the development going, there is need is to take initiatives like lighthouse projects and get them into a national program that could support wider digital transformation and establish common rooms for further development. Jan-Feb 2021 | | 69

Expert Outlook


Founder and Chairman Open Data Institute


few years ago when we were advising the government on opening up data, we knew that we wanted an organization not of the government but one that could inform the government. An organization that could promote the creation of a trusted data ecosystem for everyone, while acting independently and highlighting the societal and economic value from open data. This led to the creation of the Open Data Institute. Government-private initiative COVID-19 has clearly demonstrated that in the absence of a healthy and mobile population, the economy starts to fall apart. Ensuring that public and private interests are mutually supportive has become paramount today. If we look at the UK’s Office of National Statistics (ONS), the data they

collect and publish has become essential to our efforts to cope with the pandemic. It includes data on the number of deaths, where people live, their economic circumstances, where they travel, etc. All of this holds immense potential for understanding the pandemic and developing responses to it. So, it is extremely important to democratize data and make it available in the way that organizations like ONS do. Governments have a fundamental role in setting up institutions where information is made available as a public good. Meanwhile, the private sector also has a responsibility. It’s a public-private relationship at the end of the day. Thus, the private sector needs to be advocating for and promoting some of the standards that will help bring about interoperability. It must be involved in the processes to ensure that the public infrastructure works, and can then connect that with its own infrastructure. We already see this kind of symbiotic relationship in areas like healthcare and logistics. Making data open and treating open data as infrastructure is a great way to try and tackle a wide range of concerns form the digital divide to promoting innovation. Building sustainable data infrastructure Committing to open data infrastructures also prevents the formation of any kind of a monopoly that ties people into proprietary formats or a particular kind of standard. It’s especially beneficial for developing countries, as often they aren’t hindered by legacy proprietary systems and can therefore move quickly. The cost of maintaining accurate

geospatial data has also gone down significantly. This presents an excellent opportunity for developing countries to bring in new and disruptive ways of collecting data, while assessing how it is applied across the range of challenges they face. This will also allow them to be more innovative. An open data manifesto is a great way to ensure that developing countries can construct a more cost-effective and sustainable data infrastructure in the future. Trusting AI With the evolution of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and advanced computing, algorithms are becoming more and more complex, and understanding the underlined principles at work that give rise to the outputs is

Governments have a fundamental role in setting up institutions where information is made available as a public good.

much more difficult. Earlier, decision support systems were programmed in a rule-based way, and the rules that were applied would together offer an accessible form of explanation. But for modern large-scale neural networks, explanatory adequacy is a challenge. Trust is a key factor for the effective deployment of AI — today developing explainable AI is a key area of research.

Expert Outlook



n the anticipation of the world getting back to normal this year, governments are thinking of ways to stimulate their economies through investments in sectors like infrastructure and real estate. The signs are positive but going forward, environment-related issues, such as low carbon footprint, will have to be factored into development plans. The UK government’s catchphrase is “Building Back Better”, and it plans to invest over £600 billion ($839 billion) in infrastructure in the next four to five years.

Boosting digital infrastructure Today, the boundaries between physical and digital infrastructure are increasingly blurred and porous. The UK Geospatial

The UK Geospatial Commission has been working on ways to encourage the use of fit-for-purpose, high quality geospatial data.

Deputy Chair, UK Geospatial Commission

Commission has been working on ways to encourage the use of fit-for-purpose, high quality geospatial data that is FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable). We have prioritized areas that are relatively less digitalized but where geospatial can have a rapid impact, such as housing. In this use case, we have created an index of 350 different datasets that are relevant to the house purchasing process. Investing in infrastructure is likely to form a cornerstone of recovery in many nations, but doing it without retaining the digital DNA of the schemes would be to miss a massive opportunity. In fact, one of our signature programs (the piloting of a National Underground Asset Register) will not only establish the availability of digital footprints of utility assets underground but permit their discovery, so we can reduce some of the estimated £1.2 billion ($1.67 billion) cost to the UK economy of asset strikes to underground pipes and cables. The pilot schemes in the north of England and London have been successful and we are planning to roll the register out nationally. Exciting opportunities One role of the Geospatial Commission is to ensure that policymakers and innovators take full

advantage of location-based insights. The pandemic has highlighted the significance of geography in terms of population, diffusion patterns, resource locations and vaccination progress, and we hope this will not be forgotten in the post-Covid world. In this world, we see huge opportunities and challenges — for example, becoming carbon neutral by 2050 and encouraging innovators to drive both ‘blue’ and ‘green’ economies. We see a major opportunity in offshore energy generation and the UK Hydrographic Office and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science have launched a competition to innovate in sourcing renewable offshore energy. Onshore, the British Geological Survey and Coal Authority are exposing data about the geothermal energy contained in our abandoned coal mines — a whole new spin on the idea of a 'heat map'. The geospatial community is very open hearted when it comes to sharing ideas and best practices. We have, like magpies, taken learnings from across the world in building up our thinking and action plans. We would like to continue this approach and encourage any and all geospatial players to get in touch with us, especially on environmental matters, as the UK prepares to host COP26 in Scotland later this year.

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Expert Outlook

A WOKE WORLD and processes will need to mature. We need to fully appreciate the realities of social forces and planetary dynamics and use data to better inform policy and citizens. This real-time ecosystem demands a sense-making collaboration among academics, scientists, thought leaders, policymakers, and the public. This will increase understanding and trust — driving out narrow community elitism. Jeffrey K. Harris Chairman, Open Geospatial Consortium


n the 21st century, business, social and scientific models are converging to create both opportunities and challenges. While we can be more self-aware and have an increasing ability to be globally aware and share ideas with diverse persons, we must refine our critical thinking and differentiate the strengths of arguments that are based on data and critical thinking. Addressing the importance of climate security requires data, science and innovation. As we all share planet Earth, ‘woke’ is an appropriate term that reflects our awareness of issues concerning social justice. We need to debate issues in an increasingly complex world, where information and disinformation zoom at the speed of light, and diverse sources of news add both context and confusion. Leadership is critical — political, scientific and social.

In the US, the Biden administration has to reconceptualize the way the government, public and information interact. Relationships

Data to drive action In 1990, Al Gore, a senator from Tennessee, wrote a letter asking the intelligence community to use the reconnaissance satellite data to inform environmental studies. His goal was to leverage decades of data to strengthen scientific assessments of the Earth’s changing environment. As a result, the MEDEA program established global fiduciary sites, organized the data and engaged with 70 scientists. I had the opportunity to collaborate with the Russians to add Russian secret data from satellites and polar ice thickness data from the Cold War to the cause. This work was revolutionary in its ability to engage diverse expertise, data and

Addressing the importance of climate security requires data, science and innovation.

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problem-solving methodologies. MEDEA efforts led to hundreds of papers, studies and reports. The six decades of data on planetary shifts in desertification, snowfall and sea ice changed our understanding of our changing climate. Today, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg has a program named “Luxembourg in Transition” to bring together multidisciplinary teams with broad citizen consensus to deliver ecological transition scenarios and flagship projects to advance and address the understanding of the global environmental emergency. The effort will yield decisions and specific actions aiming to reverse processes that contribute to Climate Change, while minimizing the impact on citizens’ quality of life and improving biodiversity. Interoperability through open standards On December 31, 2019, a doctor posted a warning on Taiwan’s social media that a nasty disease was exploding in China. Taiwan’s health officials immediately reacted. On New Year’s Day, Taiwan began inspecting flights coming from Wuhan and a year into the pandemic, it leads the world in controlling the virus. The geospatial community understands data, location and time. We have been innovating, discovering and collaborating to fuel the current ecosystem of data creation and discovery. Interoperability through open standards, web services and informed data licensing can further our understanding of the planet.

Expert Outlook

Noud Hooyman

Rob van de Velde

Head, Policy Geo-information, Ministry of the Interior, The Netherlands

Director, Geonovum The Netherlands

several private companies, many cities are already exploring digital twins for urban problem-solving. Road, airport, port and rail authorities, such as Rijkswaterstaat, Schiphol and the Port of Rotterdam have developed 3D digital models for infrastructure (predictive) maintenance. The National Digital Twin will have data from both public agencies and the private sector.



he national geospatial policy over the past 15 years has focused on three pillars. The first pillar consists of a system of key registries, which are anchored in law and form the information backbone for government tasks in the spatial domain. The geospatial key registers include cadastral information, topographic information at multiple scales, addresses and buildings, and tax properties. The development and adoption of semantic standards is an important part of the strategy to realize these key registers. The second pillar consists of the open data policy and the active promotion of the use of these government data by citizens and the corporate sector. For this, a national geoportal has been developed, in which virtually all Dutch government data with open standards interfaces can be used. The third pillar consists of the demand-oriented further development of this national infrastruc-

ture. This is currently being done for the subsurface which has led to the subsurface key register. This is currently under development with more than 25 different data types. Building on this, the contours of the next plateau of the national and vital data infrastructure are currently being determined. This will be guided by the national spatial challenges: construction of 1 million new homes, replacement investments in the national road, rail and water infrastructure, adaptation to Climate Change, among others. Digital Twin has been chosen as the guiding concept, in which data, mathematical models and visualization techniques are integrated. Digital Twin infrastructure With the National Digital Twin as an ecosystem of many Dutch digital twins, it advances the value of the national spatial data infrastructure. With the real-world modelling capabilities based on our key registries and offered by

Relevant policies, standards and regulations are important to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Digital Twin. Public-Private Partnership Data infrastructure is at the core of the Digital Twin. While the government will be primarily responsible for the fundamental data, it will require cooperation and collaboration from the private sector, which owns a huge amount of rich data. And this won’t be limited to data providers; technology providers and academia will also be involved. Ecosystem of standards Relevant policies, standards and regulations are important to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Digital Twin. But as with most ground-breaking technologies, pairing physical artefacts with digital models for the Digital Twin will have ethical implications.

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Expert Outlook



Chairman & Managing Director, IIC Technologies Ltd.

he availability of marine open data infrastructure has significant economic and societal potential for coastal nations to facilitate marine domain interoperability and the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) best practices for marine spatial data publishing on the Web. With the recent Indian directive on open data and the reuse of public sector information, IIC Technologies is ideally positioned to serve the Indian coastal and inland waterway segments in facilitating a continuous data capturing of spatial-temporal physical phenomena and human activities in coastal areas and riverbanks, doing the corresponding data analysis, and the decision-making for achieving continual improvement in the marine planning and management processes.

IIC’s global expertise can play a substantial role in digital government transformation (Digital India) for effective data sharing and offering marine services across various stakeholders. Such information can be utilized for the safe and efficient operation of maritime traffic, exploration and exploitation of resources, marine spatial planning (MSP), integrated coastal zone Blue economy management (ICZM), inland transportation, is the next environmental protecsunrise issue for tion, and naval and development maritime security.


Supporting blue economy Blue economy is the next sunrise issue for development experts. IIC has invested in building Nautilus CloudTM, a Cloud-based 74 | | Jan-Feb 2021

infrastructure for marine data, solutions, and services, ideally suited for government organizations, commercial industry, and consumers. It uses open standards to build an agile system that is flexible and has a much greater degree of interoperability with pre-existing components. It is an enterprise-grade and fully scalable, native Cloud solution, which is platform independent, Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) compliant, and allows building end-user apps in a rapid mode. Exploring new opportunities In pursuance of the Indian map deregulation policy, we are fully geared to acquire very high-resolution terrestrial and aviation data worth several hundred crores to serve varied positive sectors, such as farming, mining, urban construction, smart cities, land records, infrastructure, aviation, services for e-commerce and communication like 5G, etc. IIC’s aircraft and sensors are already in deployment over the last decade serving these requirements, albeit with map policy limitations to date. The new guidelines usher in a greater demand for data, and markets will need to respond with solutions that have a direct bearing on the national economy. We are drawing plans to augment our capacities and position to meet these increasing needs and contribute to India’s vision of self-reliance. We have been engaged by several nations like the UK, USA, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, and Norway in building and continuously updating their national marine and terrestrial geospatial databases. This expertise, combined with the use of modern technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, will introduce a range of smart solutions to cater to all consumers’ diverse needs.

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Expert Outlook



Former General Manager of Bing Maps, Geospatial, and Local Search

nce upon a time, map-making lay in the purview of professional cartographers. Geospatial data analysis was only available to trained analysts using specialized tools. Over the past 25 years, we have seen a dramatic transformation in the geospatial industry, as geospatial data has become democratized and widely available. The first democratization shift marked the move towards digital maps. Maps became instantly available, personalized, broadly accessible — and free. This phase reached its culmination with the advent of street-level imagery and 3D photographic imagery, giving people the ability to truly visualize a location. In the second democratization shift, maps and mapping data became the ingredients for

customized applications. Anyone could access map imagery or data using Azure Geospatial APIs or Google Maps APIs. Businesses used this data to model their customer behavior and understand mining and drilling opportunities. The users were no longer geospatial analysts; instead, they were business analysts who relied on geospatial data to do their jobs. Expanding knowledge base Today, we are witnessing the emergence of a new wave of democratization, as governments realize the value of delivering geospatial data directly to consumers. For example, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, health departments around the world are releasing daily data about virus testing rates and vaccination rates directly to consumers. This raw data, in turn, is enabling broad analyses of disadvantaged populations, transportation needs and disparities, digital access needs, and health equity. This geospatial data can be imported into a variety of tools to analyze and contextualize the information, further broadening the knowledge base available to consumers, planners, aid agencies, and legislators. Geospatial data is now accessible to everyone, regardless of the extent of their geospatial knowledge. Standard data formats, such as those developed

Data accessibility fuels transparency, builds trust and supports faster decision-making. by the Open Source Geospatial Foundation, open source tools and APIs (Application Programming Interface), and open markup languages, have made data import, export and exchange easy. Open Web tools support the rendering of map data and live query of rich datasets. Finally, Cloudbased computation and storage, and analytics tools, make largescale geospatial data processing possible for all developers. Enabling innovation We have seen that the democratization of geospatial data enables and sparks innovation. Consider how many transformative companies were enabled by affordable maps in the first wave of geospatial democratization. Consider how much business innovation was enabled by utilizing large datasets supported in the second wave. Now, as raw geospatial data is released and is accessible through open source tools, startups can move nimbly to build solutions, experiment and create value. Democratization of geospatial data is good for consumers, businesses, and society. Time and again we have seen that data accessibility fuels transparency, builds trust, supports faster and better decision-making, and fosters innovation.

Expert Outlook



President, The Cardillo Group

e are fast approaching a time in which technology will enable a continual sensing of all of the world’s activity. Such holistic collection of data will enable a detailed model of the planet and all that is happening on it. Some of the benefits of a model such as this could be: •  Precision agriculture resulting in increased yields; •  Real-time detection of nefarious activities like poaching and illegal fishing; •  Natural disaster preparedness; and •  Enhanced measurements of the planet’s environment. At the same time, one can imagine the downsides of the model: •  State intrusion into citizens’ private lives; •  Refugee interdiction; and •  Abuse of state power employed against minorities and/or dissidents. So, the key questions arising from this model include: •  How does one balance the advantage of shared awareness with the potential for misuse? •  How might our society adapt, innovate and evolve to harness the power of geospatial data and technology while mitigating the ethical challenges? Being open to modification As we seek to address these questions, we must do so with a heavy dose of humility. These

are unchartered waters, and precipitous actions could have deleterious effects. This does not mean we should “go slow”, rather, it means “be deliberate, be connected, be thoughtful and be ready to modify as we understand the impact of our initial decisions.” Nearly anything that can be measured about life on Earth will be sensed and delivered. From there, it can be processed into analytics. Because it is in real time, it will be able to become intimately “in-the-loop” with measure-analyze-adjust feedback loops to optimize many physical industries and activities on earth. Some argue that protecting ourselves will mean rethinking privacy itself. Current privacy laws focus on threats to the rights of individuals. But those protections are anachronistic in the face of Artificial Intelligence (AI), geospatial and mobile Properly thought technologies, which not only use group data but through, an era of run on group data as gas radical transparency in the tank. Regulating can lead to a these technologies will mean conceiving of better planet. privacy as applying not just to individuals, but to groups as well. Living in a world with radical transparency I have used the analogy of the rising tide of data that has the potential to overwhelm us and bring us more data but less shared awareness. That tide is cresting in a way that puts us now on the curling edge of the wave. computer vision, Machine Learning and AI offer the chance to live in a world of radical transparency. Such a world will answer not only questions like “where are the people?” but also “why are they there?” The answer to the latter can help anticipate where they will be tomorrow. So, much as search engines like Google lead the way in indexing and categorizing knowledge deposited by humans into the online world, a globally persistent sensing architecture could lead the way to being able to find information, intelligence and understanding of the physical world in real time to benefit the physical aspects of all life on earth. I propose that such transparency favors justice. Properly thought through, an era of radical transparency can lead to a better planet. Jan-Feb 2021 | | 77

AEC Outlook



Infrastructure investment, digitalization, automation and autonomy for green shoots of economic recovery. By Gavin Schrock

ithin the national and global conversations and actions about stimulus spending, in response to the pandemic, we hear much talk about infrastructure-investments-as-stimulus. In the rush to inject the much-needed funding into economies, to relieve distressed citizens, businesses, and systems, there may be a tendency to simply “throw money at the problem.” Fortunately, cool heads often prevail, and funds are thoughtfully and

strategically allocated. There is a general recognition that it is not wise to spend monies on inefficient legacy mechanisms, systems, and approaches. Innovation is an imperative, both in bringing maximum benefit from the funding and also in growing capacity for continually increasing efficiency in the long term. Some developed and developing countries have massive infrastructure investment programs well under way. Prior

78 | | Jan-Feb 2021

to the pandemic, there was in fact, a near unprecedented boom in infrastructure development — particularly in Asia over the past decade, though not so much in other regions. For instance, in some countries like the US, there has been decades of talk about big infrastructure packages but little focused action. But the pandemic, and stimulus initiatives, have sparked renewed interest. The need for infrastructure investment and innovation goes far beyond the pandemic. It is

estimated that to meet global demands by mid-century, a dramatic increase in infrastructure (new and updated) must be developed — at a scale, such as would be needed to serve the equivalent of six times the population of Europe. Such increased demand is not just from population growth but also from the additional three billion who are expected to move into the middle class. And this is not just what we have traditionally envisioned infrastructure to be; new generations are demanding infrastructure be smarter, cleaner, and greener. But familiar maladies continue to ail infrastructure development that can render such investments pyrrhic victories. Among these are rework, soft/hard cost disparities, and waste, resulting in delays and cost overruns. Can the rising demand, exacerbated by latent demand from the pause of the current global crisis, be met with legacy methods and technologies? Short answer: No! Innovation is a vital complement to stimulus.

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AEC Outlook

Figure 1: Infrastructure Spending Examples



2020-21 2019-20 2018-19

Sources (in Excel) at:

Infrastructure Spending (2020-21) ($ billion)

Total Infrastructure Spending ($ billion)


North America


North America





67.42 96.0 62.56


Transport Roads

Ports/Waterways Railway 0.31
































New Zealand




































A wise investment On a purely fiscal level, borrowing for stimulus is a delicate balancing act between acute needs and priorities and considering longterm efficacy. How effective is infrastructure investment in addressing short-term needs and in providing long-term benefits?

279.68 0.31


The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) of the US issued a report in September of 2020 on the combined effects of pandemic related policy. This includes not only the projected growth in national debt, but also that the short-term effects would increase the level of real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) by 4.7% in 2020 and 3.1% in 2021. From fiscal year 2020 through 2023, for every $1.00 that it adds to the

Courtesy: Golder Associates

First, we should look at the projected fiscal impacts of the pandemic, and related spending.

According to the World Economic Forum, it is estimated that the world will be facing a $15 trillion infrastructure gap by 2040.

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30.09 1.54




6.05 7.25

deficit, the legislation is projected to increase GDP by about $0.58. The report also cautions that the long-term effects of increasing debt as a percentage of GDP could raise borrowing costs, lower economic output, and reduce national income in the longer term. If a substantial portion of stimulus spending were invested in infrastructure, would the long-term outlook be much more favorable? A report from the US Congressional Research Service, citing analyses from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and others, notes that investment during a recession or expansion can have significantly more impact than during normal periods. It says: “an increase in investment spending of 1 percentage point of GDP would potentially increase economic output by 1.5% in the first year and by 3% after four years.” The “infrastructure multiplier effect” is widely accepted as being one of the most effective actions as a fiscal stabilizer and in return on investment (ROI). In terms of

“bang for the buck”, a report from the Fiscal Policy Institute shows that infrastructure investment has a 1.57 multiplier — one of the largest multipliers. Contrast that with 1.03 for an across the board tax cut. Such figures for this fiscal multiplier are quite consistent across the sources we examined, like the multiple resources on the Global Infrastructure Hub. How can such investments help us to build better? They can do so if instead of simply injecting monies into legacy capital improvement programming environments — ‘just building more stuff’— there could be targeted requirements to meet demonstrable efficiency increases. This has been examined by several general policy research firms, and prominent global AEC firms. For instance, McKinsey advises that we need to be more strategic about state-of-good-repair investments, prioritize investments that reduce the cost of existing operations, and accelerate transformational investments. Could innovation in AEC help accelerate the recovery, and help close the global infrastructure gap? The infrastructure gap Globally, there is a significant gap between projected infrastructure needs and spending. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), it is estimated that the world will be facing a $15 trillion infrastructure gap by 2040. It varies by country and region across the globe; most economies fall behind, some are on par with projections, and some are ahead of the curve — a few, substantially. For example, as a percentage of GDP, the US, UK and Germany are at -0.5% each;

Indonesia, Brazil and Mexico at about -1.2%; and India and South Africa at about -0.6%. France and Canada appear to be on track to be on par. But then we see Australia and Japan at +1.0%, and China at +2.5%. The latter three share something in common about their specific types of infrastructure investment that explains some of those figures, but we’ll examine that further below. Converting each percentage point of GDP globally, based on figures from 48 countries, the data aggregated by McKinsey reaches the $15 trillion figure. What kind of trajectory was infrastructure investment on pre-pandemic? And was there progress in erasing that projected gap? From looking at figures for different regions and countries, we see that there had been a general upward trend globally, with some regions, especially Asia, making tremendous investments. And even though countries like the US, which has not delivered a major infrastructure package in several decades (despite the continuous discussions), an 11% increase was projected from 2019 to 2022. This according to annual construction industry outlook reports from the investment and consulting firm FMI. The pandemic though, caused a dip; with sharp slowdowns in some segments, (especially those linked to travel, leisure and hospitality), but less pronounced in others. Overall, FMI’s 2021 overview projects that the pandemic dip has been rapidly followed by a resumption of the previous trajectory, though some segments may take much longer to recover.

Recessions can shock infrastructure demand, but structural factors have a more enduring impact Targeted investments The notion of simply pushing a lot of infrastructure money into an economy at a federal level, as stimulus, might not work the same way in different types of economies. For instance, in the United States, about 75% of public infrastructure spending is at the state and local levels. So, the distribution may be more complex than in smaller countries, like those in Europe, with a more direct federal hand in local infrastructure. In Figure 1, over the four-year arc, we see several examples of dramatic increases during the pandemic period, mostly in concert with stimulus packages. Others may have decreased infrastructure spending slightly to focus on tempering other aspects of the pandemic. The approaches vary, but there are some notable trends. These may or may not have been influenced as much by the pandemic as they may have been implemented to address evolving needs or policy objectives — like for smarter infrastructure, and to also provide capacity for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). We see a pronounced emphasis in some countries, like China and Australia, on investing in digital infrastructure. To a lesser degree, in the infrastructure plans and stimulus plans for all countries that we have reviewed, there is also a recogni-

Jan-Feb 2021 | | 81

AEC Outlook

Figure 2: Infrastructure Investment-as-Stimulus Examples


Stimulus ($ billion)



United Kingdom




Fast-track Projects

Infrastructure Development

Green Homes Grant Program

Energy Efficient Buildings



Fall Economic Statement

Infrastructure Development



Green Retrofits of Buildings

Building Construction



Green Retrofits of Buildings

Building Construction

United Kingdom


Green Retrofits of Buildings

Building Construction



Commercial Rental Support

Commercial Building

Source: McKinsey – Economies with Infrastructure Investment, January 2021

tion of, and investment in, digital infrastructure modernization and expansion. There is already fierce competition in the realm of 4IR. The infrastructure plan for China is in some ways an outlier. It is massive, but it is after all a large and populous country that has been on a pronounced growth trajectory for a decade or more. Their new infrastructure initiative consisting of 22,000+ major projects, totaling over $5.6 trillion, is focused on both ‘brick and mortar’ construction and digital infrastructure, 5G, and smart cities. Such plans were in the works long before the pandemic, but the rollout was likely hastened by the need for stimulus. This plan is very much in the public eye and has been dubbed “The New Infrastructure.” There has already

been a jump in domestic markets for AEC related hardware and software. This has also, despite certain barriers, attracted foreign technology investors. Again, many ambitious infrastructure investment plans extend far beyond the pandemic recovery. Such as one that is under way in India. There may be investments of as much as $500 billion in infrastructure every year until at least 2030 (according to a study by the Mace Group). The stated goals for this push are to accommodate a rapidly expanding population and repair aging and ailing infrastructure. But one key immediate focus is to grow medical infrastructure and capacity to address the pandemic. Emphasis on the greening of infrastructure, and climate

$40,000 $35,000 $30,000 $25,000 $20,000 $15,000 $10,000 $5,000 $-





Investment Current trends



Investment need

Comparison of infrastructure investment forecast by sector 2016-2040

82 | | Jan-Feb 2021


policy, is reflected in many of the stimulus plans: For instance, in Germany and in the UK, there are very direct green initiatives — like in green buildings. The £2 billion ($2.8 billion) Green Homes Grant program in the UK is an example. But also, there are green tilts in energy and transportation allocations. Such infrastructure programs, according to a recent article by the research firm McKinsey and Company, represents some of the best investments for governments to pursue. As Makhtar Diop, World Bank Group Vice President for Infrastructure, writes: “More than ever, now is the time to firm up energy, transport, and digital infrastructure investments, as they will allow us to overcome today’s challenges and prepare for tomorrow.” Considering alternatives The situation in the US is somewhat more complex when it comes to infrastructure-spending-as-stimulus. But this may be more of a symptom of structural and political challenges. The majority of infrastructure is built, owned, and operated at the state and local levels, so federal injections can be complicated. There are periodically, large federal transportation packages, like the one that should be due in the fall of 2021. With stimulus packages in a flux, and not targeting infra-

In several recent pandemic stimulus packages, the portions allocated specifically for infrastructure have been relatively modest. For instance, in a $990 billion US stimulus bill that came in December of 2020, there was only $44 billion directly earmarked for infrastructure. However, there were programs that helped people with everyday expenses, like utility bills, that laterally benefit local infrastructure. That notion, of stimulating infrastructure outside of traditional capital-improvement-project type programming, is a key element of a very interesting proposal by the Brookings Institute (a prominent policy analysis firm).

Courtesy: Shanghai Institute

structure per se, that fall bill may represent the best opportunity (this year) to inject infrastructure dollars into the economy. There has not been a major, broader ranging infrastructure package since 1991 (though it was characterized by some as a stimulus program). But, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was a $990 billion stimulus with a substantial infrastructure focus. Emphasis was placed on ‘shovel ready’ projects that federal, state, and local entities could implement in the short term. If, for instance, a county had a road, public works, or utility project on the books — planned, programmed, designed, or even partially under way — they could apply for ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) grants. But the economic crisis of 2007/2008 that precipitated the ARRA was economic in nature, and the pandemic crisis is different in nature, so repeating the same approach was not broadly considered.

China's new infrastructure initiative is focused on both ‘brick and mortar’ construction and digital infrastructure, 5G, and smart cities

In the Brookings report: An Infrastructure Stimulus Plan for the COVID-19 Recession, the proposal stands in stark contrast to various stimulus approaches that have been tried before, going back to the Great Depression of the early 20th century that seemed to focus only on the idea of “building a lot of stuff”, “build more and growth will happen”. Brookings has taken into consideration that this pandemic is quite different from past economics-triggered crises. The Brookings recommendations seek more people-centric solutions that can also support local infrastructure, and improve efficiency moving forward. While these recommendations were not formally adopted in the stimulus packages to date, or are reflected in the drafts of next proposals, we do see the very same people-centric elements. Innovation In each of the respective stimulus initiatives of the countries we examined, all had at least some elements of funding to promote digital infrastructure and innovation. This is timely, as so many of

the world’s economies seek to be ready for 4IR, and wish to increase infrastructure efficiency in design, construction, and operations. In this issue, our interviews of, and guest columns from, leadership and innovators in AEC, examine the trends and opportunities for accelerating infrastructure development. As each acknowledges, like in the column by Jack Dangermond, that the pandemic has pushed AEC, many other industries, and society in general, to “go digital”. This is out of necessity, and at an accelerated rate. Digitalization, automation, autonomy, robotics, cobotics, IoT, AI… we hear these terms, but they are already here, or closer than we think. To speed the recovery, and meet future needs for infrastructure, will take stimulus, ongoing investment, and a lot of innovation — we appear to be on track for all of the above. Gavin Schrock Consulting Editor, AEC

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Expert Outlook



he Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry has often been considered a laggard when it comes to adopting technology. But COVID-19 significantly accelerated digital transformation in the sector. With the industry forced to shift to remote work suddenly, contractors quickly adopted visualization and automation innovations to improve productivity, quality, and transparency.

The digital transformation that is under way will drive the way infrastructure is built in the future. The ability to immerse ourselves in our project plans and designs in the pre-construction phase will enable us to work far more effectively, safely and efficiently, right from the beginning. At present, the industry is already in phase one of this transformation, with Artificial Intelligence (AI), Mixed Reality (MR) and Automation at work on construc-

Bryn Fosburgh Senior Vice President, Trimble

tion job sites globally. In the next decade, we will further experience construction sites in ways we had only imagined. Advancements in this area will continue to happen as connected job sites become more sophisticated. Collaboration and visualization Without question, rework has a substantial impact on project quality, cost, and scheduling. Rework is often a result of mistakes or poor construction, but it can also be caused by factors entirely out of a contractor’s control, such as clients just changing their mind about what they want. Two vital technological improvements that have shown remarkable results in reducing rework are visualization and collaboration tools. Collaboration and visualization tools also enable the seamless movement of data and information. This is one of the most important aspects of collaboration because the hand-off is a crucial phase of the construction process. Because collaboration and visualization go hand-in-hand, these tools have improved productivity and reduced rework throughout the industry, both vertical and horizontal. The Trimble XR10 for HoloLens 2 and Trimble SiteVision are interesting Augmented and Mixed Reality visualization and collaboration technology applications. Such collaboration tools will help save time, money and resources on future construction projects. Automation and autonomy As in manufacturing, the ability to automate repeatable tasks

is also driving the adoption of technology in construction. In the past, people talked about automation as a lofty, distant goal, but today we see it in action. Automation, remote operation and autonomous technology on construction job sites is something that industry vendors have been touting for years. However, over the past twelve months, we have started to see real market engagement as the need to work remotely has increased. Further, design engineering will be wholly automated for 80% of the construction process in the future. Real-time design and implementation will become the rule rather than the exception. However, there will always be 20% of construction that will require unique designs versus a structural geometry approach. Thus, autonomy in construction is just one element of the broader shift towards automation — applied where it makes sense. However, the real paradigm shift for a construction environment will be automation and autonomy in processes. Today, certain processes are repeatable and are not as easy to automate because of dependencies on other functions. In the future, we will see these dependencies become better understood, and the inter-relationships mapped with decision points that can be plugged into automated workflows. Based on feedback from sensor-rich environments, these decision points can then be evaluated for possible autonomous actions. The best examples of autonomous equipment today are the robots, cobots, and autonomous machine control systems (graders, dozers and earthworks).

Robots, cobots and multipurpose autonomous machines Currently, some profound advancements are happening in autonomous heavy equipment — robots and cobots. At Trimble, we have a portfolio of essential innovations that remind us how quickly this change is happening. For instance, the collaboration between Trimble and Dynapac demonstrates a reliable, fully autonomous roller solution. Another advancement I’m incredibly excited about is Spot, the famous ‘robot dog’ platform. In projects like the Denver International Airport and a solar farm

integrated sensors to better understand and react to the environments in which they operate and conduct their assigned tasks. Thus, using technology that is available today, it’s easy to utilize a set of inputs and software from companies like Trimble to create a project design and send it directly to the machines, where updates can be made and easily shared with all stakeholders — improving efficiency and safety across the construction lifecycle. Surveyors will thrive in an autonomous environment It’s noteworthy that as our industry moves toward more

Real-time design and implementation will become the rule rather than the exception.

in Texas, the Trimble-Boston Dynamics solution is employed for both assisted and remote data collection. The next steps will include vast improvements in workflows to enable autonomous collection and integrated backend automation of modeling, design and field execution. Cobots, referring to collaborative robots, will support the work of human counterparts. Likewise, earthmoving machines will look very different in 20 years. We are going to see machines becoming more versatile through the use of multiple implements. They will be multi-purpose and include a wide variety of

autonomy, that is, automated workflows and tasks, it does not necessarily reduce jobs for people. While the jobs of surveyors are going to change, they will still be there. There will always be a need for surveying skills and knowledge, even if it includes managing the robots. Thus, automation is not going to overtake the surveyors. There will always be a need for surveyors, civil engineers, and construction managers to understand the fundamentals; otherwise, you might automate a process or machine that complicates matters on a job site. And that would not be progress at all.

Jan-Feb 2021 | | 85

Expert Outlook

sensors enable machines to determine automatic actions. The machine in this case is able to move and excavate incrementally based on a terrain model — a cobot.

Burkhard Boeckem CTO, Hexagon AB

Digital Twin systems among other digitalized models also support the development of workflow required for automation of machines. In the future, such developments will enable, for instance, autonomous excavators to become robots. This will lead to a rise in the number of robots for use in a multitude of tasks on



rocess management software and solutions, and on-site collaborative tools support the rise of automation in construction. The advent of automation through machine control, AR/VR simulation and integration of AI has enabled the infrastructure lifecycle to benefit in terms of cost and time savings. Hexagon, a leader in sensor, software and autonomous solutions for the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry, is one step ahead of the technology curve, heading from automation to autonomy. The development of workflow sensors, software platforms and acquisitions by us is directed towards the development of an ecosystem of products attributed to autonomous solutions. Automation and machine control Today, semi-autonomous excavators supported by positioning

construction sites. Such advanced autonomy is on the rise in horizontal construction. Xalt — intelligent technology Systems to systems integration requires kinetic connectivity, digital workflows and the IoT. Xalt utilizes edge computing and provides integration for such systems, which is vital for gluing these advanced technologies together. We are set to develop Xalt as a platform with capabilities like robotics and automation.

There will be a rise in the number of robots for use in a multitude of tasks on construction sites.

86 | | Jan-Feb 2021

Another enabling technology in this regard is HxDR — Hexagon Digital Reality, a smart digital reality platform, Cloud-based with 3D visualization. HxDR takes realworld components and fuses reality capture data with project data. Xalt online and HxDR represent Hexagon’s idea of a smarter reality for infrastructure workflows. Automation autonomy in data acquisition The AEC industry continues to benefit from automated technologies through the application of scanning and imaging sensors in multi-stations, as well as Automatic Target Recognition (ATR) solutions. These feature recognition, vision-based image processing platforms, along with LiDAR technologies, and have progressed the application of automated and autonomous products. On-site intelligent stations are equipped with reality capture technologies. Such integrated technology facilitates real-time pre-registration in the field and helps perform dynamic visual positioning. This makes registration scans off-site redundant, thus saving costs and time. Hexagon’s RTC 360 (laser scanner) and GS18 enable these workflow solutions that utilize geospatial technologies, together with imaging vision, visual slam positioning, etc. Impact of integrated sensors On-site safety and security measures can be strengthened through the replacement of overview cameras with 3D sensor systems, as this alleviates blind spots and offers reliable surveillance. Also, application of 3D sensors enables larger processing power with edge computation as it secures more on-site data.

100 years of innovation This year is the 100th anniversary of WILD Heerbrugg/ Switzerland, our well-known innovation factory. We continue along this journey of innovation with you and celebrate our success together.

Leica Geosystems AG ©2021 Hexagon AB and/or its subsidiaries and affiliates Leica Geosystems is part of Hexagon. All rights reserved.

Expert Outlook



Vice President, CHC Navigation

recent trend we have seen as a geospatial technology provider is contrary to conventional wisdom. There is a shift in technology focus — from work to people. This makes sense, as advances in technology have the potential to improve people’s efficiency. However, the solutions we design should be both purpose-fit and people-fit. For instance, GNSS RTK, which is implemented for many uses in the AEC sector, earlier had manufacturers competing over higher accuracy, more channels, longer radio distance, etc. But now that high precision is ubiquitous, the focus is on user-level innovation for better results — how well the technology interacts with the user and how quickly the user can master the technology. Maturing high-precision tech Devices are becoming smaller, easy to carry, and they operate like our personal gadgets. Work functions are better mapped out and users can follow logical flows of instructions for operations, quality assurance and quality control, and connect data to large project ecosystems. Nearly every field device and construction machine can now interact via Cloud and online collaboration systems. This past year has seen the maturation of high-precision tech that has the potential to integrate into the AEC sector. Further, the software has gotten smarter. It learns from past experiences, and so, the near-future surveyor will just set the objective and the software will work out the optimal process. The technology will get friendlier, and soon, with AI and advanced wireless tech, the surveyor will talk with the device.

Infrastructure investment Urbanization is an ongoing trend globally, and there is still decades of work to do. For instance, here in China, in 2020, the government released the new infrastructure policy, which is the main part of CNY 40 trillion ($5.6 trillion) investment blueprint, the largest-ever in history. The new infrastructure is focused around 5G, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Industrial Internet, which will yield additional benefits for the AEC sector. The GDP is likely to grow at 2-3%, with infrastructure acting as a major contributor. It is encouraging to see similar things happening in other parts of the world. If a government simply prints money, the purchasing may not improve, and so, putting money into assets is a This past year better investment.

has seen the

The new super maturation of cities will be like a high-precision human body, with technology. sensors and feedback systems. So, 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), AI, Autonomy and Robotics will all be standard. Big Data for design and construction will benefit from increasingly richer infrastructure data, and how AI makes sense of it. Even a chess champion cannot beat Google’s AlphaGo, so we might gain more efficiency if we can transcend human-only design, construction and operations. Need-based infrastructure The new infrastructure design will need to consider demographics. There are developed countries with growing segments of older citizens. Infrastructure will have to be more convenient, with better interfaces, visual aids, and faster medical response times. Sharing business environments with integrated infrastructure can bring high efficiency to public infrastructure. Remote collaboration, Augmented Reality and Big Geodata can help in modeling how businesses and residential complexes will use an area, which will help in designing the most efficient infrastructure.

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Expert Outlook

INNOVATION, DIGITAL TWINNING AND 4IR Robert Mankowski Senior Vice President, Digital Cities, Bentley Systems


f we have learned anything over the course of the current pandemic, it is that the future is extremely hard to predict. We could see a straight-line economic recovery depending on the effectiveness and rollout of the vaccines. I see a less curvy and bumpy road ahead if things really do get on a linear path to reopening. This could mean a more linear return to pre-Covid business practices, which, for instance, involve travel. In some parts of the world, conducting business face-to-face is preferred over virtual meetings. As more countries reopen, we will begin to see a push for more physical meetings. I hope we see an inflection point and a more V-shaped kind of recovery, where we just start to trend up as things start to reopen.

work from remote locations. But the lockdown hit some parts of the world harder. I have talked with users who did not have the policies or the infrastructure to enable colleagues to work remotely employees did not have laptops, companies did not have VPN infrastructure, access to servers, etc. These companies had to invest in software that would facilitate a work-from-home environment for their employees.

Remote working and collaboration Bentley Systems’ CEO Greg Bentley has said that with the pandemic causing a large majority of infrastructure professionals to work from home, an environment was created where people are better prepared to collaborate on engineering projects. Some countries and regions already had work-from-home policies so they were better equipped to

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is showing us how construction, utilities and other industries can move toward autonomous operations.

Understanding Digital Twin I recently participated in an Open Geospatial Consortium summit called Urban digital twins and chaired one of the sessions. The discussion turned to the past, present and future of digital twins and digital twinning, which emphasizes that

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it is a continuous action that occurs. You are always in the process of maintaining, leveraging, expanding and refining digital twins; this process can be referred to as digital twinning. We tend to not look at BIM or GIS as digital twins. However, they are extremely important contributors to and sources of data for digital twins. By themselves, BIM models are not digital twins It really takes the combination of engineering data, design data and operational data. At Bentley, we like to include in the definition the ability to apply models. Whether those are Machine Learning models or physics-based models, they are models that simulate and model the behavior of a system. Road to automation Some digital twins may contain approximations of data, which might make full automation difficult. So, much as we want digital twins to be exact replicas, for the foreseeable future they will still mostly be approximations of real-world assets. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is showing us how construction, utilities and other industries can move toward autonomous operations and in the next 10 to 20 years we will see many more autonomous operations in these areas.













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Expert Outlook

DEMOCRATIZING AUTOMATION IN CONSTRUCTION Randy Noland Vice President-Global Sales Hemisphere GNSS


or the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry, 2020 was a year of opportunity where the stakeholders were forced to rethink their technology strategies to automate their workflows and processes. The trajectory of automation in the construction industry is exciting and automation of such construction solutions will help industry stakeholders improve productivity and efficiency across construction operations of all sizes.

Trajectory of automation in construction industry Robots and Cobots appear to be the most promising applications of automation in construction. However, in the case of static sites, such as surface mining and building solar farms, integration of sensors is preferred to robots to increase operations and safety associated with on-site activities. Drones/UAVs are geospatial technologies that lend themselves to autonomy. Drone-based temporal surveillance on top of machines facilitates regular

updates of the site model, which subsequently helps the machines decide the movement of materials in an unmanned manner and autonomous. Technology advancements enabling site automation Integrated sensor systems are at the forefront of site automation solutions in the AEC industry. Sensor integrations, using position and heading with GNSS, and coupled with INS (inertial navigation systems) have matured over the years and have become more affordable and accessible for stakeholders across the value chain. Development of real-time awareness of the site is possible due to the availability of a mix of sensors, including LiDAR, sonic, optical, etc. For instance, live sensors on a compaction unit allow users to sense optimal compaction, while thermal sensors help map freshly set pavement.

Historically, the slow uptake of automated technological solutions was due to high costs.

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Consolidating key system components In the AEC industry, the level of automation depends on the democratization of technologies and understanding of value proposition about different types and sizes of machines on-site. Historically, the slow uptake of automated technological solutions was due to high costs. Due to this machine control systems were mostly reserved for larger projects. Simultaneously, machines like small skid steer small excavators were bound to benefit from technologies like positioning and sensor fusion, which cost nearly as much as the machine. This wasn’t cost-effective, and stakeholders weren’t confident in applying such technologies to automate workflows. Hemisphere’s GradeMetrix solutions provide an opportunity to consolidate several key system components required for positioning, heading, pitch, roll and RTK data link into a single appliance on the machine, which reduces overall system cost without sacrificing performance. Technology democratization with cost-effective solutions impacts overall productivity positively. Accessibility to appropriate technological solutions to entrylevel operators and advanced power users is vital for successful construction operation at all levels of project size.

Expert Outlook

INTERSECTION OF MAPPING SCIENCE AND GEOSPATIAL 2.0 Joseph Seppi Senior Vice President and Geospatial Sector Leader, Woolpert


dvances in geospatial technologies benefit industries and economies around the world. In the United States, local governments were hit hard economically by the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns and business closures reduced tax revenues, while at the same time, local governments increased costs in health and human services. We implemented a Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act website to help local governments access, manage and apply for federal pandemic relief funds. Similarly, we were contracted to develop a pandemic funding map, a live map for the US Pandemic Response Accountability Committee. We also refocused our attention on geospatial services that increase revenues for local governments, such as property assessment tools. The role of 4IR “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” author Klaus Schwab said, “Like the revolutions before it, 4IR has the potential to raise global income levels and

improve quality of life for populations around the world.” Like biological evolution or geomorphology, the velocity of change is not constant but punctuated by brief periods of rapid change brought about by relatively random events. Paleontologists Stephen J. Gould and Niles Eldredge called this “punctuated equilibrium.” In a short period of time, a lot can change on the Earth. Technologies that combine continuous, precise Earth Observation with 4IR advances like Machine Learning create actionable intelligence to get ahead of the negative aspects of change. The events of 2020 accelerated 4IR. Even before the pandemic, we had a saying that “work is a thing, not a place.” We had the enabling technology in place for telework, bring your own device, virtualization, and so on. That opens many economic possibilities. Many of the disruptive technologies arising through 4IR are enabled and supercharged when the quality, consistency and reliability of the inputs are high. Addressing global challenges As was noted by this magazine in a story last year, “Geospatial 2.0 promise is to dramatically improve the decision-making process, leveraging new data and location data.” I am really interested in how new geospatial technologies address the global challenges of Climate Change and sea level rise. We were early to adopt

Technologies that combine continuous, precise Earth Observation with 4IR advances like Machine Learning create actionable intelligence to get ahead of the negative aspects of change.

topographic bathymetric LiDAR for detailed coastal mapping, and have added satellite-derived bathymetry and coastal monitoring to the fold. By complementing these services with hydrographic surveying, watershed modeling and water resources engineering, these tools can address issues that impact everything from inland waterways to coastal environments. Additionally, we are involved in shaping the policy and standards around the Internet of Water, which truly embodies the idea of Geospatial 2.0 and 4IR. Looking ahead I am most looking forward to being part of the evolution of next-generation sensors, such as hybrid topobathy LiDAR systems. We are developing next-generation systems built not only for coastal mapping but also for collecting inland topo-bathy elevations in and around streams, rivers, lakes, and other water bodies. These hybrid, multispectral systems are fantastic because they create new opportunities in both water and land, so we can see and extract more information than ever before.

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Expert Outlook


Simplicity and ease-of-use are very important for adoption of a new technology.

General Manager, Intel Geospatial


ack in 2018, we at Intel saw a unique opportunity in the geospatial market that was driven by three key trends — advances in the richness and frequency of data from Remote Sensing; scalability enabled by cloud computing; and the rapid emergence of Artificial Intelligence-powered analytics. We had expertise in all three areas so we launched Intel Geospatial, not only for its business potential but also because it offered the opportunity to solve key challenges for enterprise and government customers by helping them transform asset management to improve operational and safety performance. Intel Geospatial is a SaaS (software as a service) platform that includes and unifies a broad range of multi-source geospatial data, geospatial data manage-

ment, immersive 3D visualization, analytics applications, and enterprise integration. Our value lies in turning labor-intensive asset management tasks like inspections into a streamlined, datadriven science. By integrating AI into the workflow, we make it easy to extract timely business insights at scale. In terms of how we are unique, it is a combination of the breadth and richness of data offerings, a Cloud native platform that manages geospatial data at scale and the ability to harness best-in-class AI powered analytics from Intel and third parties. Focus on simplicity, ease-of-use At Intel Geospatial, we believe that simplicity and ease-of-use are very important for adoption of a new technology. The platform enables end-users across an organization to take advantage of its features and capabilities — without resident GIS or data science expertise. In addition, we are making it easy for software developers to deploy their AI-powered analytics on our platform. To help ensure interoperability with existing enterprise software, the platform has been built to industry standards from organizations including OGC and ISO. For both end-users and software devel-

opers, we intend to be a catalyst for broad scaling of geospatial AI, thereby driving the democratization of geospatial insights. Intel Geospatial is a truly horizontal platform. That said, we fully realize the divergent and unique needs for each vertical market and use case in terms of geospatial data, analytics recipes and workflows. Our initial focus is to provide the necessary ingredients to utilities, energy, smart cities and insurance — helping our customer manage their assets and environment at scale. Over time, we will continue to evolve to address other industries as well. Partnerships for added value We see companies like Amazon, Esri, Microsoft, Salesforce, SAP, and Google as being complementary to our offering. Our vision is to partner and coexist with these companies, while adding incremental value to end-user organizations through our capabilities in geospatial data management, multi-source geospatial data, and AI-powered analytics. As an example, we are hosted on AWS, we have collaborated with SAP to integrate with their S4/Hana platform, and we can exchange datasets and GIS layers with ArcGIS and other software.

Expert Outlook

of ore available and the direction in which digging had to be done. Now, we can simply fly a drone that collects all the necessary data and transmits it back in real time. Computing has advanced to the extent that the processing goes on simultaneously. This is a perfect example of how digital applications and the physical world complement each other for larger benefits.



Executive Chairman, Cyient

ccelerated digitalization is among the biggest positive impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there are many sectors that have been severely affected, especially the brick and mortar-centric businesses. In our company, the Aerospace vertical has been hit hard, although the other verticals are doing quite well. Integrating physical & digital In today’s times, digital and physical ecosystems are being unified into a ‘phygital’ ecosystem. For instance, earlier, for mining, people would physically go into a mine, take measurements, images and data, which would be analyzed to find out the contours, the kinds

The concept of Digital Twin, in which something that exists physically is also available digitally, is gaining momentum. It is a component of connected workflow and is extremely important. In the high-volume Consumer Product Manufacturing vertical, the product line is managed using conveyor belts and other forms of automation. But there is always the possibility of a breakdown or malfunction. To address these concerns, companies create digital twins of their work environments, and IoT devices use these digital twins to ensure efficient functioning and maintenance of the entire manufacturing unit. Not only does this enhance productivity and efficiency, but it also brings down costs. Added focus on infrastructure Unplanned land management has always hindered India’s economic growth. We regularly see investments worth millions stuck in infrastructure projects because they weren’t planned well. Now, the decision-makers seem to be taking note of this and we see different states coming up with GIS-based land information systems. Whether it is the Bhoomi project in Karnataka, Dharani in Telengana, or the Central Government’s Svamitva project, it’s clear that the administration is learning

In India, we have seen several states coming up with GIS-based land information systems for better land management. about technology advancements and leveraging them for the country’s economic development. In line with this, a robust legal system is also necessary to ensure data security and sovereignty, as the information collected can be highly sensitive. In the past, whenever there has been a crisis of this magnitude, infrastructure is an area that has drawn focus and investments. This is because the infrastructure sector helps create more jobs and lends support to the economy through investments in roads, power, telecom, water, etc. Short & long-term benefits In a pandemic, protecting lives and means of livelihood are equally important. In India, the government had to protect the lives of people first and so it imposed a nationwide lockdown. However, since the means of livelihood had to be protected as well, soon activities were re-started and other essentials re-opened, and announcements were made about huge investments in infrastructure projects. Similarly, the economic stimulus in the future will be targeted at areas that can support livelihoods and earn longterm benefits.

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Expert Outlook



he global economic recovery will start in 2021. The ongoing vaccination drive will bring in the next phase of growth that is unstoppable. We already see companies preparing for the summer to be back in business. Throughout last year, governments continued to make investments in IT and other infrastructure, which is a good sign. For us, governments and utilities, especially telcos and smart grids, are among the key areas of focus. The need for energy will only increase, and there will be heightened demand for high bandwidth IP-connectivity, especially since remote working has become the 'new normal'. There will also be a strong push for Fiber-to-the-Home across Europe. If geospatial data In Belgium, for is provided as open example, the target is to cover 80% of data, it can have the homes well a great impact before the end of and make a lot of this decade. We also have solutions difference. that are important for organizing public events. By the second half of this year, people will want to come out and live the way they did before the pandemic. Growing geospatial awareness Traditionally, geospatial solutions have been reserved for the engineers, and have been seen as the difficult part of IT. But these solutions, and the industry, have been there for several decades — much before they were made popular by big companies like Google, Apple and Amazon. Thanks to these players, geospatial awareness has grown tremendously in the last few years, and people have now started to understand the concept of a map and a location. I will not say that 96 | | Jan-Feb 2021

Geert De Coensel Founder & CEO, Merkator

these solutions have become mainstream, but they surely are being viewed as a convenient way to address complex questions. Geospatial is increasingly coming into the mainstream. Providing data access Going forward, governments will have a very impor­ tant role to play in making data accessible for innovation. The entire concept of 'open data' is often linked to geospatial data, because the former has the ‘where’ element. So, if geospatial data is provided as open data, it can have a great impact and make a lot of difference. As far as the geospatial industry is concerned, both hardware and software segments will do well in the near future. For instance, the latest iPhone 12 Pro offers a LiDAR scanner. Now, a lot of people may not know what a LiDAR is, but since it’s part of a small consumer device, there will be curiosity and the demand for new use cases. So, brands like Trimble and Hexagon can in fact look at partnering with companies like Apple and Google to consumerize their hardware. Ensuring synchronization The Digital Twin market is going to flourish, as it supports all forms of asset mapping. For a Digital Twin to be of significance, there has to be data collection and a seamless and continuous flow of information from the physical to the digital model. There have to be mechanisms to support this synchronization. At Merkator, we have the capabilites to help the smart grid and telco space to fetch all the information from all the devices and push it into a digital model.

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Expert Outlook


Segment Director, Autonomy and Positioning Division, Hexagon AB


ue to COVID-19, a lot of things changed in 2020. But the interest in autonomous mobility continued throughout the year. In the coming years, business in autonomy will continue to rise and meet the

market interest. New business models are likely to come up. For instance, the ride-sharing companies that have already taken a foothold are only the beginning. With the advent of autonomous cars, we will see more people, especially in urban

environments, take advantage of vehicle sharing; individual automobile ownership will decline. This will impact vehicle OEMS (Original Equipment Manufacturers), insurance carriers, car rental companies, and many more. Geospatial data has been key to the growth of society since its early beginnings as cartography and map making. Today, cartography has evolved to use geospatial data in building high-definition 3D maps, which are vital to autonomous applications as they provide another sensor to a system’s robust positioning engine. Ensuring safety To achieve autonomy through ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems), safety must be our priority. We can achieve high degrees of safety through enhanced accuracy in our positioning engines. This process requires ‘sensor fusion’, where GNSS positioning is blended with navigational and positioning measurements from other sensors like inertial units or DMS (Driver Monitoring System). Today, Hexagon|NovAtel provides a whole ecosystem of technology sensors and software to facilitate sensor fusion and the enhanced positioning accuracy required in autonomous applications. We supply more than 500 R&D autonomous vehicle ecosystems with our sensor fusion technologies. Keeping up with tech advances Technology advances faster than governments can provide legal regulations, which is a challenge especially for autonomous applications. The current auto-pilot

solutions can be demonstrably safe yet increase your auto insurance due to lack of governmental regulations. Issues like these can inhibit the adoption and growth of autonomous mobility. Regulations and legal aspects of autonomy must be discussed, reviewed and implemented quickly to keep up with the speed of technological advances. The US Federal Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration is an example of how one-way governmental institutions can support autonomous mobility. Their CARMA program encourages research on cooperative driving automation open source software, which paves the way for innovation in automation and transportation methods.

Off-road autonomous application prospects Off-road autonomous applications will likely see faster adoption due to a more controlled

systems, and wider adoption of autonomy would see these systems extended to agriculture and construction. The addition of collision avoidance systems

Regulations for autonomy must be implemented quickly to keep up with the speed of technological advances.

environment (as opposed to open highways) and specific use cases. For example, in mining operations, there are already fully autonomous haulage

like ADAS only improves safety of operations, making wide adoption in off-road applications already using autonomous technologies much more likely.

Bridging the gap to off-road autonomy Autonomy in the automotive space has stringent expectations and safety standards. When developing solutions for off-road autonomy, past definitions of accuracy need to be adapted to serve industryspecific needs. Manufacturers and OEMs serving their industries understand these needs; NovAtel and AutonomouStuff, both part of Hexagon, have the positioning, sensor fusion knowledge, and drive by-wire engineering expertise to meet these needs and bridge the gap to off-road autonomy. With over 15 years of expertise with proven GNSS technology, precise positioning sensors, integrating drive by-wire systems and sensor fusion algorithms, we are ready to support autonomy in aviation, agriculture, defense, surveying, mining, construction and many others.

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Expert Outlook


few industries like hospitality, tourism and travel. In the last one year, we have seen technology play an important role in the overall economic recovery. The pandemic has led to the acceleration of digital adoption in India, changing the way business is done. Most of the small and medium businesses in the country have adopted digital technologies during this period, which will be beneficial in shaping their future growth.


he global economy is expected to recover in the second half of 2021. At this point, India is better placed than most countries, with the infection and death rates coming down drastically over the last few months. The market sentiments are positive, and the arrival of multiple vaccines has further added to the confidence of the people and businesses. Economic activities have already come back to pre-Covid level in most sectors, with the exception of a

Sectors driving growth Going by the current trends, agriculture, healthcare and infrastructure appear to be the main drivers of the economy. India’s thrust on healthcare and infrastructure development (highways and rural connectivity) will, in addition to attracting investments in agriculture and food processing, push the growth of other manufacturing and service industries.

The use of geospatial technologies in multiple industry segments in India is gaining momentum.

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The use of geospatial technologies in multiple industry segments in India is gaining momentum. There are several companies and startups working in this space, trying to come up with a sustainable business model. With over 60% of the population of the country living in rural areas, there is huge scope for use of geospatial data and technologies in agriculture and healthcare for bettering the income and living standards of the rural population. Accelerated innovation and adoption The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the rate of technology innovation, integration and adoption. Geospatial technology is no more a specialized application. Several aspects of GIS have already become mainstream. The advent of technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Internet of Things in the Geographic Information Systems’ space will give a big impetus to the usage of geospatial technologies in wider applications. A major portion of the GIS services business in the Indian geospatial industry is still coming from overseas clients. The government sector is a big market for GIS business in the country, but with data restriction (concerning satellite image resolution/mapping scale) and the state providing GIS services in operational areas by itself, the growth of the overall industry has not picked up as much as it should have. I believe that there is a need for a proactive policy to encourage and develop private players in the geospatial space.

GIS Consullng & Services Interoperability Soluuons Mobile / Web GIS Applicaaons HFC Network Planning and Design Agri Soluuons: Crop Monitoring &Water Management


Expert Outlook

DEFENSE SPENDING POST-COVID Lt Gen (Dr) AKS Chandele Former Director General, Electronics & Mechanical Engineering, Indian Army


he COVID-19 pandemic has had disastrous effects, with loss of lives and livelihoods worldwide. Lockdowns, ban on domestic and international flights, quarantines and other stringent measures have resulted in widespread recession. The overall loss to the global economy is estimated to exceed $3 trillion. With the gradual reduction in the incidence of fresh cases and the beginning of a massive global vaccination drive, the worst may be over. However, full normalcy is still a far cry. Changed priorities Post pandemic, most nations will need to carry out fresh assessments of their budgets. The sudden onslaught of the virus required immediate increase in spending on health — for medical equipment, medicines and creation of additional hospitalization facilities. One estimate puts the global expenditure on healthcare to battle the pandemic at $11 trillion. Add to that the expenditure on the vaccination drive that is now underway. The sectors that have been more drastically impacted will require increased allocation in the form of revival packages. Increased spending is essential to generate demand and

revive the industry to support jobs and lives. Unchanged budgets In such a scenario, curtailment of defense expenditure in the short and medium terms would appear to be the logical assumption. This, however, doesn’t seem to be the case. The US, China and India are among the countries with largest defense budgets. These countries will not see any reduction in defense spending; rather, we are likely to see a marginal increase in their defense budgets. The US, with its perceived global role and the 4+1 threat (China, Russia, Iran, North Korea + terrorists) is unlikely to reduce its defense budget ($700 billion). The Pentagon may, however, scale down its expenditure on overseas commitments in Asia and the Middle East. China has the second

Post pandemic, most nations will need to carry out fresh assessments of their budgets.

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highest budget, though it is only one-fourth compared to the US. It aims to be the world’s strongest military power by 2050. India, which has the dubious distinction of being the largest arms importer, faces a belligerent China on its northern borders, and so cannot afford to lower its guard. Its defense budget for 2021-22 stands at INR 4.78 lakh crore ($49.6 billion), with an increase in capital allocation of 19%. The UK, post Brexit, has decided on a substantial increase in its defense spending, with a surge of £16.5 billion ($23.3 billion) over the next four years. This is primarily meant for a new Cyber Force and a new Space Command. Australia will also not reduce its defense spend in view of mounting tensions with China. Saudi Arabia too is unlikely to cut its budget. Europe, which has been impacted substantially by the virus, is facing recession. The European members of NATO will look for means to meet their contribution to the NATO defense budget, now pegged at 2% of their GDP. Going forward, military planners will be forced to lay emphasis on self-reliance. However, the overall defense spends globally are likely to remain at pre-Covid levels.



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