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R.N.I No - UPENG/2010/34153; Registration no: UP/GBD-136/2017-19

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MAR-APR 2020 » VOLUME 10 » ISSUE 06 | ISSN 2277–3134

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The single biggest threat to man’s continued dominance on the planet is the virus Dr. Joshua Lederberg

Molecular Biologist and Nobel Laureate

RE D ALE RT The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the entire world to its knees within a few months. Suddenly, there is a realization that despite tremendous advancements in science and technology, our healthcare facilities are inadequate, especially in the face of an unknown enemy. We need a coordinated global approach for developing an early detection and response system for disease prevention. Geospatial data and technologies are integral to that.


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CONTENT

CORNER OFFICE Better Regulations to Benefit Space Industry

Dr. Scott Pace,

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VOLUME: 10 ISSUE: 06

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VID - 19 CATASTROPHE An Emergency Alert

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Good epidemiology science and good geographic information science go hand in hand. But there needs to be more emphasis on geo-based predictive modeling as part of a global response system to epidemics.

Made in China

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How China mustered resources at its disposal and deployed latest technologies to mitigate the COVID-19 threat to a significant extent and profile people at risk.

Prevention, Control, Protection 24 In case of a disease outbreak, efficient use of geospatial data and mapping technologies can help in both containing and responding to crisis, and the past decade stands testimony to that.

REGULAR FEATURES

04 Editorial 05 Out Of Turn

CASE STUDY

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Measuring the Mount Everest

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The Human Effect

GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT AGENDA

38 42

Geo Route to SDGs

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Year of Consolidation

Leaving No One Behind

INDUSTRY TRENDS

INTERVIEW

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Open Data is the Future of Data Sean T. O’Brien, President and CEO, NatureServe

62 Book Review

Reinventing Economics for the Age of Autonomy

Executive Secretary, US National Space Council

Chairman M P Narayanan Editor & Publisher Sanjay Kumar Managing Editor Prof. Arup Dasgupta Editor — Defence & Internal Security Lt Gen (Dr) AKS Chandele (Retd) Executive Editor Anusuya Datta Sr. Associate Editor Remco Takken Associate Editor Avneep Dhingra Assistant Editor Aditya Chaturvedi Correspondent Mahashreveta Choudhary Design Subhash Kumar 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. The Geospatial World magazine’s March-April edition is not being printed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will only be available digitally on www.geospatialworld.net Publication Address A - 92, Sector - 52, Noida - 201 301 India. The edition contains 60 pages including cover. Geospatial World Geospatial Media and Communications Pvt. Ltd. A - 145, Sector - 63, Noida, India Tel + 91-120-4612500, Fax +91-120-4612555/666 Price: INR 150/US$15

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EDITORIAL

Prof. Arup Dasgupta arup@geospatialmedia.net

Geospatial to Protect Our Global Village

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he world is changing before our eyes — and it is not the way we planned. In December 2019, there was a news about a new zoonotic virus that had emerged, possibly from a wet Market in Wuhan, China. It proved to be a new Coronavirus that jumped from the animal world to humans. It has happened before — Bird Flu (2003), Ebola (2004), Swine Flu (2009), MERS (2012) and SARS (2002-2004) — but this was new. Termed the Novel Coronavirus 2019, it demonstrated its virulence in China, before jumping to other countries of the world. With no vaccine in sight and no medicines either, country after country did the only thing possible — shutdown and lockdown. The implications are immense. With the industry grinding to a halt, goods are running out and jobs are being lost. The service industry has collapsed. Transport lockdown means that farm output cannot reach the cities, and this directly affects perishables. Agricultural income is down as a result, raising questions like “how will these people pay for inputs like seeds and fertilizer”, or “how will they afford loan EMI and insurance premium”? We are staring at a slowdown in food production. Recession is just not staring us in the face, it is upon us. In this situation, what can geospatial do? There are reports of the use of location-based services, satellite data and analytics to track the spread of the infection and to track infected individuals more often than not, by throwing privacy to the winds. Unusual times call for unusual 4

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methods. However, these are post facto actions and they will, to some extent, map the damage, and that information may help in the recovery. But recovery is not going to be easy. Given that this is not the last of the pandemics, the bigger issue will be how to better address future infections and nip any pandemic in the bud. It will be a long haul and it will never be business as usual because the usual has ceased to exist. As it can be seen, in the 21st century alone, we have had six pandemics in 20 years. One of the biggest issues is going to be changes in the healthcare models. In an episode of TED Talks just after the Ebola pandemic, Bill Gates had suggested the need for a healthcare system as efficient as the defense system. This was in 2009, and clearly his words have fallen on deaf ears. Geospatial systems need to create a C4ISR model for healthcare. This implies that healthcare cannot be outsourced, or funding cut down to serve “other needs”. In these times, it is only the government that can support this activity as much as it supports defense activities. The second program that will be imperative is the maintenance and strengthening of the food supply chain from farm to table. Governments have to provide the initial support to enable the farm sector to recover. This is another area where geospatial has demonstrated its prowess but remains on the sidelines as an inventory solution. The use of data analytics in conjunction with spatial data will be the need of the hour for planning and monitoring farm activities. Such information can also

be used for financing of loans and determining insurance cover. Better transportation planning and storage is needed to reduce crop losses and achieve better distribution through efficient use of population data. In this context, the efforts towards population grid needs to be strengthened. Climate Change has been a bone of contention between scientists and administrators. The satellite imagery evidence showing lowering of pollution over countries in lockdown and anecdotes with images of wildlife reclaiming their habitat needs to be studied in greater detail as they offer a unique opportunity. There is a need to apply analytics to study these phenomena to establish the effect of anthropogenic activity and to look at how these can be regulated in the future. The world has been talking of sustainable development which do address many of these issues. The present pandemic simply illustrates that time is running out for the world. Dreamers may talk of colonizing Mars but the fact is that the Blue Dot is the only home we have and will have for many years to come. It is fashionable to talk of the global village. The time has come to take care of the village and geospatial has to be one of the significant tolls towards this.


OUT OF TURN

Sanjay Kumar sanjay@geospatialmedia.net

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Self-reliant Societies to Add New Dimension to Global Sustainability

rowing up in a small village in the early 1970s, I fondly recall a model of self-sustainable society. Our village was surrounded by several other villages having diverse demography and economic activities. Though it was primarily an agriculture-based community, the populace had almost everything required to live. Interestingly, most of the locally driven supply chain was operated through ‘exchange in kind’, and only select items were traded through cash. Though the village was about 3km from the district center, we never felt the need of visiting the city for anything beyond administrative work. Today, we live in a global village, driven by principles of ‘knowledge economy’, ‘digital transactions’, ‘connected society’ and ‘home delivery’. While on the one hand there is state-of-the-art connectivity, on the other hand travel and mobility have increased beyond imagination. The globalization of knowledge and practices has made the world heavily interdependent. The concept of a knowledge economy, as defined by business experts, connotes to a process wherein one buys raw material from the cheapest available source, processes and manufactures via the most reasonable and skilled workforce, and sells in the best-paying market. While it makes perfect sense in the context of a global village, there are negatives to this too. To start with, it has made the world absolutely interdependent, and we frequently see how a change in the public policy of one country, a natural disaster in another and a war-like situation in some other part has an impact on local economies even in the unaffected parts of the world. This requires

even small businesses to view and analyze the world affairs. A consistent approach towards predictive information modelling of world affairs is key to successful entrepreneurial leadership and adds additional overhead cost to small businesses — making it unaffordable for local consumers. Secondly, the concept of a knowledge economy has added tremendous pressure on transportation and mobility. It is almost unsustainable to transport huge amount of raw material from one geography to another for production, and again transporting the finished products to another part. In most cases, these logistical arrangements are trans-continental. While this process may add to economic gains, in the end, it is definitely not sustainable. At the same time, we often see executives and managers (including myself) travelling most of the time for meeting our ecosystem stakeholders, adding further pressure on transportation logistics. Thirdly, local producers are often deprived of the end produce as it has been sold to the best-paying markets. Since the global markets (as a source of raw material and consumption) are volatile, it is natural for some or the other geographies to continue to experience natural and/or man-made challenges, and so, the fate of the producing class is always at risk. As there hasn’t been either availability or demand of these products in local markets, local governments and communities often are caught helpless and the only rescue is a stimulus package, which isn’t a sustainable economic process. Fourthly, while global villages facilitate cultural diversity through exchange of practices and processes, this also leads to slow elimination of the local culture by adding

commercially driven festivities, replacing the existing practices. Global giants whose business turnover are often larger than the GDP of several developing countries, create campaigns and engagements, especially around the young generation, taking away the spirit of centuries-old local culture. And finally, the concept of a global village and the resulting knowledge economy has added tremendous pressure on global environmental health. Just imagine the amount of transport infrastructure across air, water and surface that is being built, and even then, is falling short of the ever-growing demand. The end result – worldwide environmental degradation and local communities, which may not be a beneficiary a knowledge economy, paying the price. The Novel Coronavirus pandemic has seen the world undergoing one of its worst ever crisis in known history. A disease, which erupted in a small town, is today a pandemic, affecting billions of people, leading to crumbling of health and social infrastructure in several countries, bringing to halt economic activities, leaving the stock markets in free fall and triggering concerns of a global recession as big as the one that followed the World War I. As per estimates, trillions have been lost, and the count is still on. Though it’s a global problem, what is peculiar is that this crisis doesn’t have a global solution. The only remedy lies in social distancing. Are we at a stage wherein we need to add a new dimension to global sustainability? Will that be self-reliant communities?

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CORNER OFFICE

Better Regulations to Benefit Space Industry In the 1960s, exploration was about ‘look at what we can do that no other country can’. The current direction is much more about ‘what can we do with a larger number of partners’, says Dr. Scott Pace, Deputy Assistant to the President and Executive Secretary of the US National Space Council. Space is often called the final frontier and mankind’s common province. This calls for increased multilateralism, commercialization and democratization, and broad cooperation to address some of the pressing global challenges. What is the National Space Council doing in this regard? We see space as the final frontier, but in legal terms and international law, we would like to emphasize that as far as outer space is concerned, we don’t see it as a global commons. Global commons refers to a regime whose limits are defined by agreement, and people have not agreed on where limits exist in space. So, the areas of the high seas, for example, are global commons, but space is not really defined that way. We currently talk about it as a shared domain in which we work. Like many other sectors, the space industry is driven by, and is vulnerable to, geopolitical developments. In the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act 2015, we made it clear that US citizens have the right to engage in commercial exploration and use of space resources. We are currently working with the international community and drawing on legal precedents from other domains like the high seas to find ways to promote commercial development of space resources. Some people like to believe that the issue of space being a common province means that all legal issues are settled. We don’t believe that is really true — space is an area which is still quite undefined, and we are looking at having discussions with other like-minded countries that are interested in promoting the commercial development of space for creating a more predictable and stable environment for investors. 6

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Do you think that the National Space Council can take a leadership position in developing this global commons agenda? Even though we don’t see space as global commons, there are common issues that we need to address. The role of Space Council is to oversee and make sure that the work is getting done to advance the President’s agenda and to resolve conflicts that may come up. For example, if there is a conflict between, say, the Commerce and Defense departments over what position to take at the policy development stage, we would step in and work on a resolution. NASA has been on the forefront of commercialization of the space industry. How do you think this strategy so far has worked and boosted entrepreneurship? As part of its mission, which is centered on science and exploration, NASA has done many things in commercial partnerships with the industry. NASA’s primary job is not commercialization – that job belongs to the industry. NASA’s role is to follow its mission and to use industry partnerships to accomplish the mission. NASA is not a regulatory agency, and it does not act as a competitor with the industry. However, NASA does play an important role in R&D and being an important customer for the industry. At the Space Council, we look at the government’s role in space, we look at R&D work that may be too expensive, difficult or risky for the private sector. We see government as the first buyer of many new technologies. We work to provide a regulatory environment that is stable enough for investors to support new commercial ventures in space.

How do you see the New Space industry performing in the US? The amount of venture capital and private investment flowing into the space sector has been good. Of course, we have areas of over-capacity — there are many small launch companies, and all of them will not survive; we have multiple proposals for mega constellations, and not all of them will survive either. But then, that’s part of the market process. For commercial companies, there are a lot of advantages of operating in the United States in terms access to our legal system, access to capital and availability of talent. We must make sure that US regulations keep up with the speed of ongoing innovations. The market is evolving much more rapidly than the regulations, which is not good, because if you do not have a stable and predictable system, then eventually investments and money become hard to come by as risks increase. Some people in the IT industry are comfortable with the lack of clear regulations, but in the space industry, projects are very expensive and can have dual use applications (i.e., civil and military), and so you want to have a stable and predictable environment. It’s not like building a new website or a small app for iPhone. The stakes are a lot higher. The main challenge in the US is to make sure that we continue to be a good place to do business based on a clear and responsive regulatory structure.

principal reforms, the first one focusing on updating our commercial launch license processes. Right now, we have reusable rockets — previously they were expended. We have rockets that operate out of the East and West Coasts. We have higher launch rates, and so the demand for licenses overall has gone up. This is an area where a lot of reforms are needed, and we are working on that. We hope to have regulations out by next September for public comment and go final a little bit after that. The other area we are working on is commercial remote sensing. We have higher spatial resolution systems which we have been dealing with for a long time. We also have new sensors, hyperspectral sensors and radio frequency mapping from space. Again, the speed and the number of things coming through has been stressing the licensing system, so we are trying to make it more streamlined. And finally, we are looking at export controls, where the technology keeps changing. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plays a strong role in satellite licensing, but they are an independent regulatory commission, and so they have their own rules and procedures that are independent of what the administration does. In the future, we would like to see how we can make changes to make more companies want to operate and license communications satellites in the United States.

Can you throw light on some of the regulatory issues that have been addressed in the past couple of years? The President issued the second Space Policy Directive that dealt with commercial space regulatory reform. There have been three

Can you elaborate a bit on the work being done in the sphere of new GPS regulations? We are doing a policy review on GPS. There is a 2004 space-based position navigation timing policy that we are updating. We have updates dealing with space applications — GPS being used deep in space, almost to the Moon, so we are dealing with space navigation. We also have had discussions about how to protect infrastructure that relies on GPS and other position, navigation, and timing systems. We have a dialogue going on with FCC so that we can protect the GPS spectrum because it is critical for all kinds of IT systems. But at the same time, we have companies who are interested in rolling out

Some people in the IT industry are comfortable with the lack of clear regulations, but in the space industry, projects are very expensive and can have dual use applications (i.e., civil and military), and so you want to have a stable and predictable environment. It’s not like building a new website or a small app for iPhone. The stakes are a lot higher

www.geospatialworld.net | Mar-Apr 2020

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CORNER OFFICE

mobile broadband systems. We have to make sure that both these services coexist without interference, which can be a challenge. Everybody wants spectrum, but there is only one radio frequency band.

There was a very interesting article in Bloomberg that the world economy runs on GPS, which does not have a backup. How do you see that? GPS is a fairly unique system. There are several countries offering their own versions of it, but the problem is that they are all space-based, so their signals are quite weak. They are not all equal in terms of market acceptance. But it is easy to make a multi GNSS chip that can accept and process all these different signals. GPS is still the most trusted system because of the performance it has demonstrated. It has earned global trust and the other systems will need to earn that trust as well. What is needed is not a backup for GPS, but different complementary augmentations. In your phone, you have a GPS system, which also picks up Wi-Fi networks, cell networks and data from a wide variety of different systems. So, having a more resilient position navigation timing infrastructure where GPS is still the fundamental backbone is what we need. Industry 4.0 and Space 4.0 are often viewed as intertwined and they also have the same agenda. Will it be appropriate to say both are mutually reinforcing, or do you see Space 4.0 as a fundamental function of Industry 4.0? It is hard to divide things into areas like that. What we are witnessing in the space sector is the impact of different disruptive technologies. GPS grew in the 1990s by leveraging IT developments that took place in Silicon Valley, and we eventually went from having GPS devices as separate boxes to being embedded into our cell phones. If we look at remote sensing, it’s prohibitive to move large amounts of data, so people have built access to large data cubes. We 8

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have Cloud storage and massive amounts of data that we now interrogate. So, we don’t move the data, but we interrogate the data cubes. We are also taking advantage of data analytic techniques that are driving the remote sensing industry. Beyond IT, one of the more exciting areas in space is additive manufacturing. We are looking at 3D manufacturing techniques, layering techniques, etc. In each of these technology disruptions, what has happened is that recent developments have increased the productivity of the underlying technology. For instance, GPS took space technologies and improved the efficiency of traditional industries like construction, farming and transportation. Geographic data and remote sensing, combined with GPS, is improving the productivity of all kinds of global infrastructures. In the space realm, we have benefited enormously. Our satellites have become smaller and more capable. We are seeing how new manufacturing techniques like additive manufacturing have the capability to revolutionize launch vehicles. Just look at the production lines of satellites: instead of each satellite being hand crafted, we are moving towards factory production. Innovations in areas like IT, Cloud computing and additive manufacturing are transforming space industries that in turn are developing new capabilities. Innovation is more of a complex ecosystem then a series of separate eras.

Space has so far been immune to geopolitics, but with a spurt in decentralized techniques like Cloud, connected infrastructure and Blockchain, do you think political turbulence can impact the space industry? The space industry has historically been driven by geopolitics. The US race to the Moon and the stimulation of space industry in the 1960s were driven by geopolitical rivalry with the Soviet Union. The creation of launch vehicles and satellite industry was also driven by geopolitics. The desire to connect the rest of the world through satel-

lites, which is pretty much a commercial activity now, was also affected by the fact that the Soviet Union wanted to limit the free flow of information. The importance of communicating with the developing world more freely and openly, with the help of satellite communications, was clearly driven by geopolitical as well as commercial reasons. After 9/11, the main geopolitical problem was the rise of non-state actors. Chaos and terrorism emerged as grave issues for nation states, and space systems provided information to military and police forces to contain them. If you look at US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, space is crucial to everything they do.

In the last few years, NASA has consistently reduced the budget for Earth Observation, while focusing on deeper space and outer space. Given issues like climate change, do you think this is an area that needs to be looked into? NASA has continued to fund a strong program of Earth science research. The Earth science budget is quite healthy, but of course, scientists always want to do more. The agency likes to do the first of something; they like to be the pioneer. They are less adept at the ongoing operations for systems that are not central to NASA’s mission. So, for that you would use NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to operate weather satellites rather than NASA. It is not clear which agency, NASA or NOAA, should be responsible for ongoing operation of the exquisite, highly complex space systems needed for Climate Change monitoring. If you look at what Europe has been doing in the Copernicus program, that’s an example where they are operating really complex sophisticated systems, but in a sustained kind of way. That may be the best model in terms of the division of labor. We have to have weather predictions, so that’s going to be NOAA’s job. NASA’s job will be to continue to innovate and create new sensors and new capabilities. The future location of operational climate monitoring systems is uncertain.


Pix4Dsurvey


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VID - 19 CATASTROPHE

In less than three months since the first case of COVID-19 was identified in Wuhan in December 2019, the pandemic has brought the entire world to its knees. As humanity collectively braces up for the most trying times since World War II, there is suddenly a realization that despite tremendous advancements in science and technology, our healthcare facilities are inadequate, especially in the face of an unknown enemy. That health infrastructure can break down during major disease outbreaks was evident during Ebola and H1N1 outbreaks, even though they were not half as lethal. What the world needs, and it is becoming apparent now more than ever, is a coordinated global approach for developing an early detection and response system for disease prevention. And geospatial data and technologies are integral to that. By Anusuya Datta VITAL STATS

Tens of thousands dead

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Death toll multiplying every day

Health systems crippled across countries

www.geospatialworld.net | Mar-Apr 2020

20% of the world under lockdown

International flight bans in place

World economy officially in recession

Estimated global economic losses around $1 trillion


“We don’t know when the next epidemic will strike, but I believe we can protect ourselves if we invest in better tools, a more effective early detection system, and a more robust global response system… There are also some interesting advances that leverage the power of computing to help predict where pandemics are likely to emerge and model different approaches to preventing or containing them.” — Bill Gates, April 27, 2018 “We are in unchartered territory with #COVID19. We have never before seen a respiratory pathogen that is capable of community transmission, but which can also be contained with the right measures. Knowing and understanding an epidemic is the first step to defeating it.” — Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO), March 2, 2020 “We’ve been very clear in our messaging that to fight this we really need to find all of the cases, we need to know where the virus is so that we can tailor our approach to the areas that need it most and to do so we need to find the cases.” — Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, Infectious Disease Epidemiologist, Health Emergency Program, WHO, March 23, 2020

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those times, the indirect public health effects of water were understood to be greater than the direct effects — while droughts and floods led to food shortages and famines, food, people and pathogens moved most easily by water. However, in 1854, during the infamous London cholera outbreak, one Dr. John Snow laid the foundation of modern epide­ miology when he plotted the distribution of deaths on a local map, which ultimately helped him to trace a water pump as the source of the outbreak. “Today, disease cluster analyses, spatial comparisons, and

Tracking the outbreak Epidemiologists have traditionally used maps when analyzing associations between

Courtesy : Center for Systems Science and Engineering, John Hopkins University

hese are just some of the recent examples, but the relation between location and disease outbreak and treatment goes back to the ancient times. Back in 470 B.C., Alcmaeon of Croton was the first Greek doctor to state that the quality of water may influence the health of people. Hip­pocratic treatise Airs, Waters, Places, which came out around 400 B.C., deals with the different sources, qualities and health effects of water at length. The contami­nation of water by lead has been a topic in the discussions concerning the health of people in Roman times. Even in

mapping remain important methods for disease prediction, prevention, and control,” emphasizes Dr. Kristine Belesova, Dep­ uty Director, Centre on Climate Change and Planetary Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “The earliest visualization of the rela­ tionship between place and health was in 1694 on the topic of plague containment in Italy. The value of maps as a communication tool blossomed over the next 225 years in understanding and tracking infectious diseases such as yellow fever, cholera and the 1918 influenza pandemic,” explains Dr. Este Geraghty, Chief Medical Officer, Esri. From the 1960s, when computerized Geographic Information System came into existence, the possibilities for analyzing, visualizing and detecting patterns of disease spread dramatically increased. Since the SARS outbreak in 2003, the world has seen a revolution in applied geogra­phy through web-based tools. There are ump­teen maps and charts to show the alarming spread of COVID-19 spread and how health infrastructure across countries are crumbling.

COVID-19 outbreak situation, as of March 31, 2020 www.geospatialworld.net | Mar-Apr 2020

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“Increasingly, geospatial data is being included in more complex models used to inform early warning systems, model disease transmission and evaluate impacts of public health interventions” KRISTINE BELESOVA

Deputy Director, Centre on Climate Change & Planetary Health, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

location, environment and disease, and it is a given that good epidemiology science and good geographic information science go hand in hand. While mapping and field surveys are the most commonly used techniques, increasingly, novel sources of spatial Big Data, including those from smartphones, social media and even personal wearable devices, are being analyzed to translate the patients’ addresses into longitudes and latitudes to pinpoint their location on Earth, and find insights into epidemiology, genetics, social and behavioral sciences, and infectious diseases. For instance, as soon as the reports of first few cases of COVID-19 came out in the

southern state of Kerala in India, a team of health officials and the state disaster man­ agement authorities worked on war footing to collate the entire surveillance data of the affected people into live geo-maps, with each of the primary and secondary contacts traced, marked and identified on the map. Another map shows the classification of high-risk and low-risk zones, with focus on identifying the spread and possible on ground clusters of the possible expanse of the disease. Early detection is crucial when people are being exposed to potentially fatal diseases, and geospatial technology enables us to detect and respond to diseases in time. As Stefan Schweinfest, Director, Statistics Division, United Nations (UNSD/DESA), explains, “A health crisis is a human crisis. The immediate need for the provision of services is at the local level. We need to have the means in place to help every individual that is affected, and that presupposes of course that we know WHERE they are and WHAT services are nearby to provide the required support.” Contextualized data and geographical insights generated from digital maps and location-based technologies such as geofenc­ ing, GPS trackers and sensors can throw historic and predictive insights on patient behaviors along with minute layers of details on the existing system discrepancies and inefficiencies, thus simplifying planning and execution of health resources and programs,

“In a moment of a crisis, pandemics do not know political borders or physical limitations. We need global solidarity all the more urgently: sharing information, sharing knowledge and sharing technology in a uniform, integrated and interoperable way” STEFAN SCHWEINFEST

Director, Statistics Division, United Nations

points out Nikhil Kumar, Country Head — India, HERE Technologies. This can enable healthcare givers, medical practitioners and government agencies to prepare in advance for a disease outbreak, thus supporting in emergencies during an outbreak. Naturally, all authorities are looking at data through maps and interactive visualizations in these days of crisis, because “we instinctively understand the integrative power of mapping data; where people are affected, even concen­ trated areas and clustering,” Schweinfest adds.

IN PUBLIC HEALTH, GEOSPATIAL TECHNOLOGY CAN BE USED FOR PUBLIC HEALTH INFECTIOUS DISEASE MANAGEMENT

PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

Health departments can realize the import, query and maintenance functions of the designated format of infectious disease report cards of the national CDC system, online direct reporting and exporting of infectious disease survey chart. And the early warning based on absolute data comparison, synchronic comparison, poison distribution of infectious disease report card data can be achieved.

Health departments can report and confirm incidents and allocate resources directly through the network. Different processes can be performed according to a specific event, for instance, the real-time reports of emergency events by region, time, and type, centralized query export of emergency-related cases, and realtime analysis charts of emergency events by region and time.

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PUBLIC HEALTH RESOURCE DISTRIBUTION AND ALLOCATION MANAGEMENT The allocation of basic public health resources is the allocation of resources in response to public health emergencies in daily work. Once in an emergency state, it is possible to quickly understand the use of resources and the status of available resources, which would help to coordinate resources to a great extent in emergency situations.


Plotting on a map can bring different dimen­ sions of a challenge together. Some are demo­ graphic questions — what is the age profile, are they in communities with senior citizens and do they have the necessary health services nearby. Some may be focused on economic activity, transport patterns, environmental factors and social behavior. Others may be able to define and identify sources or ‘hot spots’ of infections to avoid, right down to individual cities, suburbs and neighborhoods. All of these elements are critical to understand the spread of an epidemic, to predict it, to intervene, to manage it and to prevent it in the future. “We know all too well that these global pandemics are matters of life and death, and it is, therefore, critical that geospatial tech­ nologies be employed to the greatest extent possible in helping address these issues,” underlines Barbara Ryan, former Director, Group on Earth Observation. Particularly in case of an epidemic, use of geospatial information technologies can realize personnel tracking, confirmed case distribution, grid management and spatial Big Data analysis to help authorities make smart decisions in epidemic prevention and control. When combined with Big Data, geospatial information technologies can play positive roles in the rapid visualization, dissemination

“We need platforms and tools that can support actions like gathering and storing foundational data and newly collected data, analyzing inputs, providing decision support, prioritizing resource allocation, performing fieldwork and evaluating outcomes” DR. ESTE GERAGHTY

Chief Medical Office ESRI

of epidemic information, spatial tracing of virus source, prediction of regional spreads, risk division of regions, identification of prevention and control priorities, control of resources, social emotional guidance, and panic elimination, explains Zhang Yaqing, Technical Director, Platform Center, SuperMap, whose company was involved in the COVID-19 combat operations in China. “Through data visualization, the trend of the disease, medical treatment and other related conditions were visualized on a map. The display of layered maps enabled the hierarchical regional management and control to assist small-to-community block management,” adds Li Yunxia, Account Director, Platform Center, SuperMap. Thus, a multi-level man­agement and control system for networked con­trol, regional sub-control and community joint control were formed to improve the enforceabil­ity and reliability of policies and measures.

Prediction is better than prevention As we saw with the COVID-19 pandemic, and even earlier with SARS and MERS, infec­ tious diseases that were formerly confined to remote areas now have the ability to expand their geographic range, jump species, become resistant to antimicrobial agents, and become more virulent and frequent. The combination of geospatial data from earth observation systems and public health surveillance can be used to improve public health deci­sionmaking, policy-relevant analysis and disease control, points out Ryan. For instance, WHO, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, ran an large-scale program for polio eradication globally wherein they made extensive use of crowdsourcing and GIS technologies for predicting, preventing and controlling the spread of that disease. “Predictive modeling can tell us areas where the greatest need or risk will be with 30, 60, and 90-day forecasts. This can help us mobilize resources in these locations in advance so that we can act faster,” says Kathryn M. Clifton, Data and Communi­cations Manager, Information Commu­nications Technologies for Develop­ ment, Catholic Relief Services. Modeling and

data analytics can inform these choices better than past events alone. In terms of health, that’s paramount — better timing can save thousands of lives. Clifton suggests that public health should follow similar approach like in natural disas­ ters. To avert natural disasters, areas that are at greater risk for emergencies are identified first and centers/agencies are set up to respond more quickly. The same can be done in the health arena. “What we all immediately see is the visualization of the existing spread of the virus by location, and at a particular point in time – and by particular profiles; age, gender, etc. However, predictive models of spread, that also capture behavioral aspects, are much more sophisticated and can take into account critical geospatial elements such as population density, demographic data, and transport routes,” highlights Schweinfest. Dr. Belesova points out that increasingly geospatial data is being included in more complex models used to inform early warning systems, model disease transmission and eval­uate impacts of public health interventions. Many modern epidemiological methods are based on spatial and temporal, as well as spatio-temporal analyses, including the use of geospatial and satellite data.

“Integrating data from smartphones and connected devices into GIS technologies could help uncover long term geographic trends in health of certain demographics, thus opening new realms and providing insights not previously attainable” NIKHIL KUMAR

Country Head — India HERE Technologies

www.geospatialworld.net | Mar-Apr 2020

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OPPORTUNITIES TO EMPLOY SPATIAL INFORMATION TO COMBAT COVID-19 MAP THE CASES

Map confirmed and active cases, deaths, and recoveries to identify where COVID-19 infections exist and have occurred. E.g. WHO and Johns Hopkins University dashboard.

MAP THE SPREAD

Time-enabled maps can reveal how infections spread over time and where you may want to target interventions. The University of Virginia Biocomplexity Institute has included a time slider in their dashboard to provide information on daily spread of the virus.

MAP VULNERABLE POPULATIONS

COVID-19 disproportionally impacts certain demographics such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. Mapping social vulnerability, age, and other factors help you monitor at-risk groups and regions you serve. E.g. Esri’s StoryMaps gives instructions on how to do this for any community.

MAP YOUR CAPABILITY TO RESPOND

Mapping of facilities, employees or citizens, medical resources, equipment, goods, and services to understand and respond to current and potential impacts of COVID-19. In the US, the Homeland Infrastructure Foundation-Level Data (HIFLD) is provided in an ArcGIS open data environment, making this resource, among others, available to those who need such information.

COMMUNICATE WITH MAPS

Interactive Web maps, dashboard apps, and StoryMaps can help rapidly communicate the situation on ground. Several jurisdictions are bringing their COVID-19 stories to life with ArcGIS Hub.

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For instance, the Centre on Climate Change and Planetary Health of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine uses advanced modeling techniques to link data on infectious diseases with climate and other environmental changes and develop early warning systems driven by earth observation data. Other exam­ ples include identifying spatial and environ­ mental risk factors for infectious diseases by applying geo-statistical and Machine Learning approaches using aerial (drone) and satel­ lite-based remote sensing data to assess how ecological and environmental changes impact infectious disease transmission. The School is also collaborating with World Resources Institute for developing a Planetary Health Watch — a system aimed at integrated monitoring of factors related to health impacts of global environmental changes, drivers of these changes, and policy responses to protect health. Dr. Belesova, however, warns that one has to be careful when reporting and visualizing data on COVID-19 cases. “These are cases that have not been tested or even visible. Countries currently have different capacity to test for the disease, which affects the proportion of cases that is captured in data on confirmed cases.” Agrees Dr. Geraghty. “While plotting cases is a critical step to understanding information, emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic require informed action. We need platforms and tools that can support actions like gathering and storing foundational data and newly collected data, analyzing inputs, providing decision sup­ port, prioritizing resource allocation, perform­ ing fieldwork and evaluating outcomes.”

GeoAI to the rescue GeoAI or Geospatial Artificial Intelligence is an emerging scientific discipline that combines innovations in spatial science, Artificial Intelli­ gence methods in Machine Learning, Big Data mining, and high-performance computing to extract knowledge from spatial Big Data. GeoAI is increasingly being used to model and capture the environment around us, linking locations in which we live and work, or people/ elements we interact with, to explore their potential role in influencing health outcomes. There is also extensive research into GeoAI being used for hypothesis generation, con-

www.geospatialworld.net | Mar-Apr 2020

“We know all too well that these global pandemics are matters of life and death, and it is, therefore, critical that geospatial technologies be employed to the greatest extent possible in helping address these issues” BARBARA RYAN

Former Director, Group on Earth Observation

ducting new data linkages and predicting disease occurrence. With the development of mobile technology, the users’ locations can be identified by mobile phone, which means signalling data can obtain personnel location information to track personnel trajectories. The disease prevention and control organizations can analyze close contact groups based on the travel information of diagnoses. Thus they can quickly find suspected patients and close contacts through data retrospective analysis, which is the so-called “contact tracking” and helps to quarantine and cut off the source of infection in time, explains Zhang. Location analytics provide useful tools to model behaviors and inform actions. From maps that analyze the genetic profile of the virus as it spreads from place to place to AI techniques that make sense of human movement data, we can enhance our understanding of viral transmission, determine if public health recommendations are being followed and predict whether travel bans and other measures will quell the spread of disease, adds Dr. Geraghty. There are examples where GeoAI was used in infectious disease modelling or prediction of disease occurrence and for disease surveillance. For instance, Deep Learning recurrent neural networks were used for real-time influenza fore­ casting at regional and city spatial scales in the US using spatial Big Data on Google Flu Trends and climate data (such as precipitation, temperature, sun exposure) from the National Climatic Data Centre. Geotagged tweets were analyzed against the CDC influenza-like illness (ILI) dataset to predict real-time regional ILI in the US using an


artificial neural network (ANN) optimized by an artificial tree algorithm. China earlier used Machine Learning to accurately forecast dengue outbreak in 2014 using climate data, weekly dengue fever cases, and research queries on the Chinese Internet search engine Baidu. Advancements in Artificial Intelligence have also seen a growing interest in realtime syndromic surveillance based on social media data in recent years. Deep Learning algo­rithms can be applied to Twitter data to detect illness outbreaks and then to build up and display information about these outbreaks, including relevant news articles, to provide situational awareness. In the US, this has demonstrated an ability to detect symptoms for Influenza-like illness, which were then confirmed from the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports (MMWR). There is further research onto improve on this sur­ veillance system to incorporate disease-spe­ cific information (e.g., mode of transmission) to enhance disease forecasting accuracy. When a major epidemic comes, the impact of panic on social operation may exceed the viral disease itself. To this end, it is necessary to track and evaluate the spatial spread of social emotions by analyzing massive social media data. For instance, as Li of SuperMap says, when facing an epidemic, public behavior might be irrational, highly infectious, and conformable. It is required to build a knowledge base of epidemic-related emotions and to dig out the dynamic evo­ lution of public opinion in time, space and semantics aspects from social media. By using Internet social data as a data source, the public topic categories from social data related to the epidemic can be obtained based on the construction of topic extraction and sentiment classification framework by topic models and Machine Learning methods. Based on the complex networks, the changing network of public topic can be built. Also, by using the network model, the public dynamic changes in topical emotions can be character­ ized. These outcomes contribute to the reveal of the temporal, spatial and semantic distribution characteristics and evolution patterns of public topic views under the COVID-19, adds Zhang.

According to Luis Sanz, CEO, CARTO, innovative statistical methods and computa­ tional tools can be used for public health sur­ veillance including spatio-temporal models for disease risk prediction, cluster detection, and travel-related spread of disease, which can further inform strategic policy in reduc­ ing the burden of diseases. “We are seeing an increasing trend of using geospatial tools for prevention and con­ tainment. An example of using geospatial for analysis and not just visualization is this risk analysis carried out by researchers in Spain, Brazil and the US,” he points out. The COVID-19 Map of Propagation Risk in the three countries aims to show the results of the estimated epidemic risk right down to the municipal level by modelling the epidemic spread which takes into account the recurrent mobility patterns (commuting) among municipalities. Incidentally, update of the map risk for Spain has been suspended temporarily due to unavailability of real mobility data following the declaration of a state of alarm in the country. The AsistenciaCovid19 app is an interesting example. While the primary and initial aim of the app is to reduce the pressure on emergency systems and track the status of symptoms when people are taking care of themselves at home, it also provides a method to understand the pandemic from a spatio-temporal perspective. Since there is a location element to the data being collected, the local authorities can visu­alize infections on an interactive map and per­form geospatial analysis to determine high risk areas. Governments can see how symptoms change over time and by location, allowing them to act faster in certain hotspots. Kumar points to the emergence of wear­ ables and connected devices in the past few years that are capable of collecting a reasona­ ble amount of individual health information such as heart rate patterns, sleeping patterns, etc. “Integrating this data into GIS technolo­ gies could help healthcare workers to uncover long term geographic trends in health of cer­ tain demographics or individuals living within certain regions, thus opening new realms of healthcare research and providing insights not previously attainable,” he believes.

“When combined with Big Data, geospatial information can play a role in rapid dissemination of epidemic information, spatial tracing of virus source, prediction of regional spreads and risks, identification of prevention and control priorities, social and emotional guidance” ZHANG YAQING Technical Director, Platform Center, SuperMap

“Predictive modeling can tell us areas where the greatest need or risk will be with 30, 60, and 90-day forecasts. This can help us mobilize resources in these locations in advance so that we can act faster” KATHRYN M. CLIFTON

Data & Communications Manager, ICT for Development, Catholic Relief Services

Beyond visualization At present, it seems prima facie geospatial tools are being used mostly for data visualiza­ tion. While there have been sporadic initia­ tives in spatial modelling of public healthcare information for disease prediction and prevention, what is wanting is a sophisticated integration of spatial analysis and GIS. Even in cases where it is being used for predictive modelling, the efforts are either localized or too small to be implemented on a global scale. The biggest example of this is while the World Health Organization (WHO) www.geospatialworld.net | Mar-Apr 2020

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houses a map gallery within its Global Health Observatory, it hosts no exclusive geospatial data on health in crises environments. There has been some effort once the enormity of COVID-19 outbreak became clear, but most of it is reactive and not proactive. Interestingly, in an internal survey of development organizations by Geospatial Media, it emerged that Health, which is SDG number 3, is not as big a priority area as compared to Land Rights, Environment Protection, Community Development and Emergency Response. (Graph 1) Even otherwise, disciplines such as urban planning and infrastructure, agriculture, natural resources and others have outpaced public and humanitarian health sciences in applying geospatial technologies. This reflects in the

priority areas for businesses as emerged in the Geospatial World Business Leaders’ Outlook 2020, a survey of 100+ CEOs and business leaders where health didn’t find a mention (Graph 2), in the top ten list. Healthcare organizations and medical practitioners usually have access to vast amounts of operational data that mostly tells a small part of the patient and treatment story. Converging spatial technology with medical data through visual mapping and predictive models could lead to informed treatment decisions and creation of timely health interventions, says Kumar. However, Clifton points out that often what happens in the health space is that national governments contribute this information to international health officials and

few people know about these efforts. “In the development sector we could utilize community mapping better to plan how communities will respond to a health crisis. Improving planning for events like this is very important to make sure resources are in place to help the most vulnerable,” she says. Clifton agrees that there is an issue in prioritizing of the efforts since in general, acute or ongoing crises are always prioritize over potential crises. What makes it worse is that there exists a huge digital divide in terms of use of tech­ nology in epidemiology in developed and developing parts of the world, which inevitably affects epidemiological research among other scientific activities, thinks Dr. Belesova. As access to technology expands, we need to make sure that the technologies are designed

Graph 1: Which sustainability areas do you see geospatial technologies making the maximum impact? 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Climate and environment

Disaster risk reduction

Water

Land Rights

Healthcare

Food Security

Education

Source: A survey of 400+ Development Sector professionals by Geospatial Media

Graph 2: Which traditional sectors will drive growth for the geospatial industry? 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Urban development

Utilities

Defense

Agriculture Environment

Land use

Water

Natural disasters

Natural Governance resources

Source: Geospatial World Business Leaders’ Outlook 2020; Survey of 100+ CEOs and Business Leaders, and 2,200+ industry professionals.

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www.geospatialworld.net | Mar-Apr 2020


in ways that suit needs of users in developing countries and that the necessary training is available to help them make most of it. However, despite this divide, digital tech­nologies are widely applied globally and offer new opportunities for disease surveillance and control. For example, widespread use of mobile phones has been analyzed to understand the role of human movement on infectious disease transmission in Kenya and Bangladesh and satellite-based Earth Observation data are increasingly used to map the distribution of populations at risk and disease burdens, and examine risk factors globally. Increasingly, countries are adopting electronic health information systems (such as DHIS2) allowing collection of spatially referenced data. Agrees Schweinfest. “In a moment of a cri­ sis, pandemics do not know political borders or physical limitations. The global spread through tourism and air travel has made this abundantly clear. We need global solidarity all the more urgently: sharing information, sharing knowl­ edge and sharing technology in a uniform, integrated and interoperable way is a practical and simple means to visualize data from the global level right down to the local level — and is able to connect us all in a common battle.”

Courtesy: Center for Systems Science and Engineering, John Hopkins University

The recovery path The COVID-19 outbreak is seeing govern­ ments across the world increasingly employing various surveillance methods to

track citizens to combat the spread of the pandemic. While much of it is essential at this crucial juncture, this will also shape not just the data privacy landscape, but also our healthcare systems, our governance, economy and society in times to come. Organizations like the US National Insti­tutes of Health (NIH) were already funding more research into mobile imaging, pervasive sensing, social media and location tracking. This is expected to go up in a postCOVID-19 world, leading to issues related to individual data privacy and protection. Further, there needs to proper ethical frameworks in place regarding use of Artificial Intelligence. As AI methods become more pervasive in healthcare research, the role of subject matter expertise becomes imperative to avoid erroneous discoveries and to properly understand the relationships being modelled. With an exponential smartphone explo­ sion, emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and the anticipated 5G rollout will ensure tremendous growth in location-data, creating a geo-aware world, where people would be able to track a specialist within their immediate vicinity or navigate through a huge public hospital using an indoor map, thinks Kumar. Alternatively, using real-time location trackers, a nurse could monitor a patient movement from the waiting room to various departments in a huge hospital campus. Simi­larly, an administrator

As of March 31, 2020, US had the maximum number of Coronavirus cases, leaving behind China and Italy

“Innovative statistical methods and computational tools can be used for public health surveillance including spatio-temporal models for disease risk prediction, cluster detection, and travel-related spread of disease, which can further inform strategic policy in reducing the burden of diseases, performing fieldwork and evaluating outcomes” LUIS SANZ

CEO, CARTO

could make staffing and resourcing decisions real-time, thus running efficient care delivery systems and saving lives. In addition to this, location data can be used to streamline the inpatient and first responder services as well. “This may all seem not much now, but during emergency situations, geospatial tech­ nology could very well help make a difference to monitor vulnerable populations through geofencing and drones that deliver medicines to remote areas,” he adds. As for building a global response system, now that there is a global awareness of pandem­ics, it will be easier to get community buy-in and mobilize resources to conduct community mapping and planning in the most vulnerable areas, says Cliffton. As Dr. Geraghty sums up: “Once we move beyond COVID-19 and into ‘blue skies,’ as my preparedness colleagues say, it is my hope that health organizations will review any lessons learned from this experience and begin to put comprehensive systems in place that will fur­ ther improve response efforts next time.” Anusuya Datta, Executive Editor anusuya@geospatialmedia.net www.geospatialworld.net | Mar-Apr 2020

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MADE IN

CHINA By mustering resources at its disposal and deploying the latest technology, China has mitigated the effects of COVID-19 to a significant extent and profiled people at risk. By Aditya Chaturvedi

T

he similarities in facts and fiction aren’t generally as obvious as in the case of 2011 Hollywood film Contagion, which today appears to be hauntingly prescient —almost like a chronicle of a pandemic foretold. Mass quarantines, food scarcity, endless queues and ghost towns due to a virus outbreak in the film make you feel as if we are living in a time that was well scripted several years ago. What is different, though, is the availability and use of sophisticated technologies that can, and in a lot of ways are, proving to be critical in combating the Novel Coronavirus and reclaiming our spaces. Like Black Deaths in Europe during the medieval ages or the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918, COVID-19 has exposed human fragility, along with the downside of an interconnected world. The only reprieve, thanks to technological advancements, is that we are 18

www.geospatialworld.net | Mar-Apr 2020

more equipped than any era in the history to respond to a pandemic. During the time of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak in 2002, it took scientists more than a year to decode the genome of the virus, whereas thanks to tech advancements, the Coronavirus genome was identified within a month. With despair lingering and the world in disarray, had it not been for effective and advanced technology solutions, we would have been staring at an unmanageable crisis. China illustrates this case. By mustering resources at its disposal and deploying the latest technology, the country has mitigated the effects of the virus to a significant extent and profiled people at risk. Today, several affected countries are looking at the Chinese model of best use of technology to save their populations in this race against time.

Positioning technologies It is known that positioning technologies play a crucial role during the time of crisis and disasters. Government agencies and first responders on the ground require precise positions to accurately assess the situation, pinpoint the most risky areas and carry out relief and rehabilitation efforts accordingly. In the case of epidemics and outbreaks too, GNSS comes in quite handy. In China, BeiDou, the country’s own GNSS constellation, helped track patients and affected places, thus containing the virus, apart from analyzing the pattern of the outbreak. With the help of reliable data and precise mapping and imagery, China could build thousands of new makeshift hospitals across the country. BeiDou is being used by decision-makers for transportation planning. Logistics companies are using GNSS terminals to help ply essential relief goods faster. BeiDou also has


a RDSS (Radio Determination Satellite Service) that is relaying information real-time. According to reports, the Chinese government was able to hasten the construction of two new hospitals in Wuhan mainly due to BeiDou. In Ruichang, Jiangxi province, the police forces are using BeiDou-enabled drones for monitoring congested public areas. The Chinese Ministry of Transportation was able to swiftly send emergency messages to over 6 million connected vehicles using BeiDou. The Chinese e-commerce giant JD also delivered medical equipment in remote hospital areas in Wuhan with the help of robots based on BeiDou.

people could see the geographical reach of the virus and could find out the distance between them and active infection.

Robotics From preparing meals at hospitals, doubling up as waiters in restaurants, spraying disinfectants to vending rice and dispensing hand sanitizers, robots were on the frontline to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. In many hospitals, robots were also performing diagnosis and conducting thermal imaging. Shenzhen-based company Multicopter is using robots to transport medical samples. A hospital in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, was being staffed entirely by robots. Wuchang Hospital, China Mobile and Cloud Minds, a manufacturer of Cloud-based robotics systems, came A robot called ‘Little Peanut’ delivers food to those quarantined in a Hanzhou hotel

Courtesy: Reuters

Courtesy: Si Wei, People’s Daily Online

Satellite monitoring While dozens of makeshift hospitals were being constructed at breakneck pace, their

progress was continuously being monitored using GaoFen, a constellation of high-resolution earth observation satellites. Zhuhai-1 hyperspectral imaging satellite and ESA’s Sentinel-1 also helped in non-stop monitoring of hospital construction. The Wuhan University actively collected and analyzed multiple data sources and identified which site would be best suitable for the hospital. TFSTAR, a second generation AI satellite designed by the Satellite Technology Research Center of University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (UESTC) and ADA-Space, is capable of powerful analytics and processing, which enables it to sift through the data. By combining TFSTAR’s data processing capability with geocoding, a health visualization of COVID-19 was created on which

Courtesy: China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation

Drones have been instrumental in fighting the epidemic in China

Satellite imagery shows the rapid construction of makeshift hospitals in Wuhan

together for this project aimed at making the hospital facility completely smart and digital. Most of the devices in the hospital are IoT enabled and services are carried out by robots. The initial screening of the patients is done by 5G-enabled thermometers that send instant updates. Also, there are rings and bracelets that are connected to the CloudMinds AI platform so that it can monitor all changes in the body. As per a Reuters report, a small robot called Little Peanut was delivering food to passengers on a flight from Singapore to Hangzhou, China who were being held under quarantine in a hotel. www.geospatialworld.net | Mar-Apr 2020

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CloudMinds alone has deployed 100 robots in the country’s hospitals. A few modified robots like Cloud Ginger (aka XR-1) and the Smart Transportation Robot carry food and medicine to patients from healthcare providers without any human contact.

Courtesy: NYT

Health sensors and apps Utilizing its sophisticated and expansive surveillance network for public good, the Chinese government joined hands with tech giants Alibaba and Tencent to develop a color-coded health rating system that is tracking millions of people daily. The smartphone app was first deployed in Hangzhou in collaboration with from Alibaba. It assigns three colors to people — green, yellow and red — on the basis of their travel and medical histories. In the industrial hub of Shenzhen, a similar software was created by Tencent. Whether a person should be quarantined or allowed in public spaces was decided based on the color code. Citizens had to log into the app using pay wallet services like Alibaba’s Alipay, Ant’s wallet, etc. Only those The green color on this a color-coded health rating system developed by the Chinese government in partnership with tech giants Alibaba and Tencent signifies that the user is fit to move around and drive

people who were assigned a green color code could be allowed in public spheres after using the designated QR code at metro stations, offices and other public places. There were checkpoints at most public places where the code and a person’s body temperature was checked. More than 200 Chinese cities were using this system.

Drones In some of the severely affected areas, where humans were at a risk of catching the virus, drones came to the rescue. Drones were transporting both medical equipment and patient samples, saving time and enhancing the speed of deliveries, while preventing contamination of medical samples. Drones were also flying with QR code placards that could be scanned to register health information. Agricultural drones were spraying disinfectants in the countryside. Drones powered with facial recognition were also being used to broadcast warnings to the citizens to not step out of their homes, and chide them for not wearing face masks.

Smartphone apps are also being used to keep a tab on people’s movements and ascertain whether or not they have been in contact with an infected person Antwork, a group company of Japanese dronemaker Terra Drone, carried medical samples and other essential materials in Xinchang when the city was grappling with the virus.

Big Data and facial recognition Access to public information has led to the creation of dashboards that are continuously monitoring the virus. Several organizations are developing dashboards using Big Data. Face recognition and infrared temperature detection techniques have been installed in all leading cities. Chinese AI companies like SenseTime and Hanwang Technology have claimed to come up with a special facial recognition technology that can accurately recognize people even if they are masked. Smartphone apps are also being used to keep a tab on people’s movements and ascertain whether or not they have been in contact with an infected person. Al Jazeera reported that telecom company China Mobile sent text messages to state media agencies, informing them about the people who have been infected. The messages included all the details about the people’s travel history. Courtesy: SCMP

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Courtesy: Terra Drone group

Drones are being used to transport medical samples in some parts of China

A few Chinese companies have come up with a special facial recognition technology that can recognize people even if they are wearing a mask

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WAYS IN WHICH GIS CAN BE USED IN AN EPIDEMIC

Healthmap – Real Time Disease Map

Epidemic thematic service map

It enables real-time visual display of epidemic data. After the epidemic information concerning provincial and municipal health commission and emergency headquarters is released, it can be immediately mapped and the spatial, temporal and quantitative features of the epidemic data can be visually displayed on maps. This can express the geospatial positioning information of counties, townships, villages and groups, and further provide accurate base map foundation for the epidemic data-on-map within the province. Users can easily assess the epidemic risk level distribution of surroundings, city statistics, location of confirmed cases and distribution of fixed-point hospital and fever clinics. This map can provide scientific and effective technical support for the establishment of an effective early warning mechanism and prevention and control policies.

Dynamic map system of epidemic prevention and control Such a system integrates multi-source data of administrative division maps and epidemic prevention and control. Based on the capabilities of spatial Big Data analysis and insight and visualization of spatial Big Data, the thematic applications of situational awareness of epidemic prevention and control and related research and judgment of epidemic situation can be provided to the concerned authorities and the general public. The system supports the integration of protective resource data (reported epidemic data, key personnel data, quarantine stations and centralized medical treatment points) and spatial data (administrative divisions and grid-based map data) to achieve accurate spatial positioning and management.

Epidemic situation awareness map

It visually shows the geographical distribution of new confirmed cases, cumulative diagnoses and recovered cases through administrative divisions and community grid maps. It also supports the use of aggregation, heat and scattered points to display the epidemic trend in a manner of spatio-temporal evolution, and displays the development trend of the epidemic in multiple dimensions.

Epidemic correlation research and judgment map It is used to find out the train, bus, subway and plane information of diagnosis connected to the network based on Big Data analysis and geographic visualization through the real-time comparison of the coordinated traffic ticket information and epidemic observers.

Mobile epidemic map It enables more people to view epidemic information conveniently and in real-time on portable devices. With inputs from: SuperMap Technical Director Zhou Wenwen & Account Director-Platform Center Li Yunxia

www.geospatialworld.net | Mar-Apr 2020

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Artificial Intelligence With the help of data analytics and predictive models, medical professionals are able to understand more about a lot of diseases. Baidu, the Chinese Internet giant, has made its Lineatrfold algorithm available to teams that are fighting the outbreak, according to the MIT Technology Review. Unlike Ebola, HIV and Influenza, COVID-19 has only a single strand RNA, so it is able to rapidly mutate. The algorithm is a lot faster than other algorithms that help predict the structure of a virus. Baidu has also made tools to effectively screen large populations and an AI-powered infrared system that can detect change in a person’s body temperature. It was being used in Beijing’s Qinghe Railway Station to identify passengers who were potentially infected. The

Courtesy: Neolix

CCTV cameras have also been installed at most locations to ensure that those who are quarantined don’t step out.

Apollo and Neolix autonomous vehicles have been delivering essential supplies to hospitals

says that it has been used on more than 5,000 patients throughout China.

Apollo has also made its micro-car kits and autonomous driving Cloud services available for free to companies fighting the virus. Idriverplus, a Chinese self-driving company that operates electric street cleaning vehicles, is also a part of the mission. The company’s flagship vehicles are being used to disinfect hospitals.

Autonomous vehicles At a time of severe crunch of healthcare professionals and the risk of people-to-

Courtesy: Getty Images

Disinfecting robots, smart helmets, thermal camera-equipped drones and advanced facial recognition software are all being deployed in the fight against COVID-19 in China

system can examine up to 200 people in one minute without disrupting passenger flow. Alibaba has developed a Cloud-based Coronavirus diagnosis tool that the company claims is more than 96% accurate and takes less than 20 seconds to work. The tool uses AI to detect traces of the virus. Alibaba 22

www.geospatialworld.net | Mar-Apr 2020

people contact, autonomous vehicles are proving to be of great utility in delivering essential goods like medicines and food items. Apollo, which is Baidu’s autonomous vehicle platform, has joined hands with self-driving startup Neolix to deliver supplies and food to a big hospital in Beijing. Baidu

Mobile tracking/mass surveillance China is not known to be a country that abides by individual data privacy as an inalienable right. In order to effectively fight the virus, it has created a massive surveillance system. The Chinese government is gathering people’s smartphone location data, body temperatures, travel history and other details in a centralized database, in which the data is being analyzed using Big Data and Machine Learning. Thousands of facial recognition-powered CCTV cameras have also been installed at almost every quarantine center and only those who have been assigned the green color code are allowed to drive on the roads. WeChat, the popular instant messaging app that also has a digital wallet, is being used to collect data. Using this data, the government can find out the number of people with whom an infected person was in close contact and order them to self-isolate themselves. For instance, if in the past ten days, an infected person bought biscuits from a grocery store using WeChat money or AliPay, the cashier


Courtesy: Getty Images

at the store who was in contact with him, will be ordered to quarantine himself.

Lessons for others To mitigate the epidemic and effectively scan people diagnosed with the virus, countries across the globe are tracking smartphone data. For instance, in Australia, it has become mandatory for all mobile connectivity companies to save at least two years of data of every person, including data regarding his whereabouts, or simply location data. There is no doubt that this data would be critical in examining the travel history of the person who has tested positive. It would also become easier to spot any phone that has been in close range of the infected person’s phone in the past few months. The owners of those phones can then be screened, irrespective of whether or not they have developed symptoms. US, Singapore, Poland, Israel and South Korea are some of the other countries that are using smartphone tracking. It is believed that the British government is discussing the possibility of location data tracking with British Telecom, the country’s largest operator. A Washington Post report says that the Courtesy: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

Location, mapping, Big Data and Machine Learning have come to the rescue

Countries across the globe are actively tracking smartphone location data to contain the virus

White House is in talks with tech giants like Google and Facebook to effectively track user location data and gain insights from it. Further, reports suggest that most global telecom companies are planning to develop a comprehensive framework that will enable sharing of data on an unparalleled scale. While there is no denying that the seriousness of the current scenario demands these measures, it is also essential to not completely ride roughshod over privacy. The ramification of these steps by countries and corporations could be ominous for citizen liberty and make surveillance a new normal, even in the most democratic establishments. What’s worrying is that once the states get control of complete user data, they may consolidate a new database simply for the sake of a more intrusive surveillance system, or behavior adjustment. The ominous possibility doesn’t only end here. Bio-surveillance could emerge as normal. It is our pulse rate, blood pressure and other biological parameters that drastically change when we feel happy, sad and angry. If a government knows what makes a particular person cheerful or gloomy, it can very easily devise strategies for manipulation.

Going forward: Privacy implications While such advanced technologies have come to the rescue of millions at such a critical time, they have come at a heavy cost — as far as privacy is concerned. China is already known for its iron fist control on Internet and an intrusive surveillance system, which has been considerably strengthened with the installation of facial recognition powered CCTV cameras in all major cities to fight the Coronavirus. There is no doubt that extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and getting rid of the virus, saving lives and resuming normalcy is of paramount interest. This has necessitated that the contentious privacy versus security debate is muted, and rightly so. But it will definitely flare up again, and a few months down the line, we may land up in a really complex situation regarding individual privacy. As for whether the governments who have made ingress into the turf of personal user data will retract once the crisis gets over or further cement their grip over the control of individual data? There is no clarity yet. Aditya Chaturvedi, Assistant Editor, aditya@geospatialmedia.net www.geospatialworld.net | Mar-Apr 2020

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Prevention, Control, Protection In case of a disease outbreak, efficient use of geospatial data and mapping technologies can help in both containing and responding to crisis, and the past decade stands testimony to that. By Avneep Dhingra

B

e it an interactive story map from Esri presenting a narrative of what is COVID-19, how the disease has spread and similar cases in the past, or the World Health Organization dashboard providing the latest updates on the Novel Coronavirus outbreak, reliance on mapping to track and depict such events has in a way reignited the discussion about the significance of geospatial technologies and data in disease prevention and control. However, this is not the first time when geospatial data and tools — especially the Geographic Information System (GIS) — have been used to check a disease outbreak and help governments and healthcare professionals in responding to an epidemic. Let us revisit some of the past cases.

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also facilitated quick response and sound decision-making.

Zika virus epidemic Towards the beginning of 2015, a widespread epidemic of Zika fever, which originated from the Zika virus in Brazil, spread to parts of South and North America, and also affected several islands in the Pacific and Southeast Asia. In February 2016, the World Health Organisation declared the outbreak a public health emergency. To monitor the diffusion of Zika virus, which is spread by the Aedes mosquito, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention used GIS. Mapping of Zika virus enabled researchers to identify parts of the world where the mosquito could thrive, and cross-reference the results with census data. Soon, it became clear that Zika posed great danger to pregnant women, and areas with large population of expecting mothers were marked. Necessary steps were taken in those areas for the safety and wellbeing of the vulnerable section of the society. Geospatial technology use in tracking the virus eventually led to effective policy-making, testing and social awareness. Residents of the worst-hit areas were encouraged to use insecticide and larvicide, among other things, to limit the spread of the disease. In the US, a dashboard monitoring the number of Zika cases in the country was made available to the general public. Courtesy: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

be paid because it would take four days to send a text message. NetHope went in with its technology partners and donor organizations and provided connectivity to more than 400 organizations. “When we started mapping, it emerged that infection rates were falling in areas with connectivity. Even then Ebola treatment units were being set up in such areas. However, in areas where the rates were high, there was no connectivity or treatment units. Had we not mapped these areas, we wouldn’t have found that correlation,” she added. “There are so many applications of geospatial data for our members. When combined with other data, geospatial data becomes very rich,” she emphasized. The integration of geospatial with emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence presents great opportunities and applications in healthcare, since the location factor plays a key role in both population and individual health. Multiple disciplines within public health such as precision medicine benefit from it. “With regard to Artificial Intelligence, we already see its deployment across the entire ArcGIS community. This is not a new trend — it started as far back as 2014, when AI was used along with ArcGIS in response efforts for the Ebola outbreak,” says Dangermond. Apart from mapping, spatial-temporal analysis to assess household risk factors for Ebola in remote and severely-affected parts was performed and gravity spatial models of transmission for the epidemic were developed. Not only did geospatial tools and data help authorities in countering the virus, they

Courtesy: WHO

West African Ebola virus epidemic The three years of Ebola virus epidemic (2013-2016) wreaked havoc in Western African and other parts of the world. It was the most widespread outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in history, leading to massive loss of life and socioeconomic disruption. While the worst-hit countries were Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, cases were reported from several parts of the world. “At that time, ArcGIS was used to understand and predict disease transmission behavior, as well as support responding agencies to accurately specify where, how and when to deploy resources. The technology also helped communities to support communications with organizations and to collaborate in a more transparent way, so they could get the help they needed to the right location more rapidly,” recalls Esri Founder and President Jack Dangermond. During those years, mapping of cases by first responders ensured that Ebola treatment units were set up at the right places and remote areas with no connectivity received maximum assistance. “In the beginning of the Ebola virus crisis, 23 of our member organizations were working in Liberia and Sierra Leone. It was very difficult to get information about rural areas as there was no connectivity,” Lauren Woodman, CEO of NetHope, a consortium of over 50 leading humanitarian, development and conservation organizations, told Geospatial World in an earlier interview. Frontline health workers couldn’t

This WHO map shows geographic distribution of Ebola virus disease in humans and animals

This US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention map shows the Zika case count in the country in 2017 www.geospatialworld.net | Mar-Apr 2020

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H1N1 pandemic H1N1, a novel influenza virus, emerged in January 2009 and lasted for more than a year till August 2010. During this period, cases of people infected with the virus were reported from all parts of the world, with the United States, Brazil, India, Mexico and China being the worst hit countries. In the US, the first few patients were detected in the beginning of 2009. The cases of those infected with the virus, which contained a unique combination of influenza genes not previously identified in humans and animals, shot up quickly and spread across the country. At that time, GIS was used extensively for visualization and exploratory spatial analysis to gain insights into the outbreak. National and local health departments in the US, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention US, used Esri’s GIS technology to gauge concentration of the H1N1 virus. The mapping tool came in handy for both the general public and professionals/ researchers, since the epidemic had a geographic component.

Location is the basic principle of any field investigation. In case of an outbreak of the magnitude of COVID-19, the dimension of ‘where’ assumes more significance than ‘who’ and ‘when’. Geospatial tools and data have tremendous potential in epidemiology — mapping the event, procuring relevant supplemental data and taking evidencebased decisions 26

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Courtesy: WHO

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This WHO map shows worldwide distribution of H1N1 pandemic in 2009

To track the virus, Daniel Janies, a researcher from Ohio State University, used a supercomputer, Google Earth and a network of scientists who shared genetic data. The researcher’s program reflected how the H1N1 virus mutated, spread and made people sick all over the world. His map showed how standard influenza changed over time to become resistant to a class of drugs meant for fighting flu that were overused treating livestock in China. Even though the virus first emerged in Mexico, Janies traced its genetic ancestry and linked it to viruses found in pigs, birds and humans. As the education agency in Texas recommended rescheduling or cancellation of several events to prevent student travel and minimize contact, Lubbock Independent School District students used the school’s ArcGIS Desktop ArcMap application to

create a base map of Texas counties. While analyzing the data, they discovered that the darkest colors (on the map) representing the maximum confirmed cases appeared in the heavily populated areas, not the border counties. The visual element created by the students using GIS became relevant not only to the healthcare officials, but to all of western Texas.

Burundi malaria outbreak Burundi, a landlocked country in the Great Rift Valley, where the African Great Lakes region and East Africa converge, witnessed a malaria outbreak last year, leaving more than two third of its 11-million population suffering from the disease since January 2019. As the country’s health authorities sought help from Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the

Courtesy: Missing Maps

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As several Malaria-hit parts of Burundi were not mapped, Missing Maps volunteers stepped in and traced nearly 90,000 buildings in the rural region of Ruyigi near the border with Tanzania


This thematic map of the Avian influenza A (H7N9) epidemic in China shows distribution of cumulative numbers of cases. The map was created in ArcGIS (ESRI Inc., Redlands, CA, USA).

Avian influenza Between February 2013 and March 2015, cases of humans being infected with an avian influenza A(H7N9) virus were reported from mainland China. To understand and counter the virus, researchers used the available data to map the spread of the virus and forecast where it would strike

next. Mapping the virus helped in determining some very crucial information such as factors instigating its spread. Mapping of different layers of data offered a valuable approach to describing the spread of and risk factors for the influenza. Further, predictive risk map of human infections in China on the basis of modelling was useful in identifying the areas

Courtesy: ResearchGate

Courtesy: NCBI Resources

problem of areas not finding a mention on the map surfaced. That was when the Missing Maps volunteers stepped in and traced nearly 90,000 buildings in the rural region of Ruyigi near the border with Tanzania. In the following months, 64 teams on the ground managed to carry out indoor residual spraying in 97% of households in the health district of Kinyinya. The challenge of covering a vast territory with far-off settlements was overcome with meticulous preparation and organization using GIS. “It helps us plan all aspects of the IRS activity: the size of the teams, the number of days required and the associated financial aspects,” explains Traoré B. Housséini, MSF Water and Sanitation Manager, in a blog on Missing Maps website. Through its relentless efforts and efficient use of geospatial technology, MSF prevented malaria from spreading in eastern Burundi, with an indoor residual spraying (IRS) campaign to protect around 300,000 inhabitants.

This map shows areas covered by vaccination teams during the polio eradication campaign in northern Nigeria

where surveillance and preventive interventions were required.

Polio eradication in India, Nigeria Geospatial technologies, especially satellite imagery and GPS, played a pivotal role in eradicating polio from the Eastern Indian state of Bihar. A large number of cases due to low immunization levels were tackled by enhancing evidence-based advocacy, setting up additional vaccination sites and planning and monitoring supplemental immunization activities in remote areas. With the help of these technologies, the full immunization coverage increased from 32% in 2005-06 to over 70% in 2013 in certain parts of the state. Similarly, the battle against polio in Nigeria was won by tracking vaccination teams using GPS and satellite imagery. Satellite images allowed precise location of remote settlements and hamlets that did not feature on maps. Additionally, GPS tracking helped in efficiently planning assignments for vaccination teams and supervising their movement in real time. Also, accurate maps of 10 states that were previously unmapped helped in dramatic reduction of chronically “left out” settlements. www.geospatialworld.net | Mar-Apr 2020

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The integration of geospatial with emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence presents great opportunities and applications in healthcare, since the location factor plays a key role in both population and individual health During the outbreak, multiple websites were launched to offer frequently updated maps showing the dynamics of the disease at three different scales —region, country and world. Some of those sites offered the functions for interactive mapping and spatial analysis. This was perhaps the first time when the general public got quick and easy access to the information about how a dangerous disease is spatially close to them and what are the conditions in other parts of the world.

Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

SARS outbreak Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS, or SARS-1), a viral respiratory disease of zoonotic origin, surfaced in the early 2000s. As many as 10,000 SARS cases from 30 countries were reported in a year’s time between 2002 and 2003. The outbreak provided an opportunity for GIS professionals to demonstrate the effectiveness of modern spatial analysis and mapping techniques in modelling, tracking and presenting the information about the spread of the disease.

This map shows countries infected with SARS between November 2002 and August 2003 Countries with confirmed infections

Countries without confirmed cases

Courtesy: WHO

Countries with confirmed deaths

The World Health Organization’s Situation Dashboard on the Novel Coronavirus outbreak, as on March 31, 2020

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Getting basics right Location is the basic principle of any field investigation. In case of an outbreak of the magnitude of COVID-19, the dimension of ‘where’ assumes more significance than ‘who’ and ‘when’. Geospatial tools and data have tremendous potential in epidemiology — mapping the event, procuring relevant supplemental data and taking evidence-based decisions. In the process of fighting an epidemic, geospatial information can be used for personnel tracking, confirmed case distribution, grid management and spatial big data analysis to help authorities make smart decisions. “When combined with Big Data, geospatial data can play a positive role in rapid visualization, dissemination of epidemic information, spatial tracing of virus source, prediction of regional spread, risk division of regions, identification of prevention and control priorities, control of resources and panic elimination,” say SuperMap Technical Director of Platform Center Zhou Wen­ wen and Account Director of Platform Center Li Yunxia. While the continuing loss of life and business due to the Novel Coronavirus is both tragic and worrisome, it is also an opportunity for the decision-makers to understand that geospatial technologies and data not only prove crucial in containing and responding to the spread of a disease, but also help in pre-empting and preventing them. Avneep Dhingra, Associate Editor avneep@geospatialmedia.net


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POPULATION DATA

LEAVING NO ONE BEHIND An increasing number of data providers are today combining information from censuses with satellite-derived geospatial features to redistribute populations and produce gridded population datasets. By Mahashreveta Choudhary

T

he COVID-19 pandemic, which originated from Wuhan, China has created a war-like situation in the world. More than 170 countries are affected; people are mostly confined to their homes, if not battling for their lives or recovering in hospitals; and nations are struggling to limit the number of those infected. The situation is even more challenging in

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underdeveloped, or remote parts, where the administrations don’t even know the population count, let alone providing people with food, medicines and other essentials in this time of crisis.

Importance of population data. Identifying the size, structure and distribution of a population is essential for plan-


a grid area. The population data derived by this process is called gridded population data.

Traditional methodology There are various methods of data collection, the most common and reliable among them being the census, or the complete enumeration survey. Governments all over the world bank on this method to collect data concerning population, housing, agriculture, etc. A population census is considered highly accurate because data from each household is collected and studied before drawing any conclusions. However, the method has its limitations. For example, census data is only collected once in ten years and thus may not be fully accurate after a certain period, as a lot can change in just a few years. In some countries, the gap between two census is even longer. Another limitation of this methods is the inability of the enumerators to access certain locations, especially conflict or disaster-hit regions, as well as areas where local language presents a communication barrier. In such cases, the population residing in an area is either miscounted or is completely left uncounted. Integrating geospatial for accuracy The advancements in geospatial technology and remote sensing have paved the way for the production of more frequent popula-

tion data which is more accurate and helps governments to design development plans “leaving no one behind”. An increasing number of data providers are combining information from censuses with satellite-derived geospatial features to redistribute populations and produce gridded population datasets. “Gridded population datasets can be used in a wide range of application areas, such as disaster response, health interventions and survey planning, and they can offer us more spatially refined estimates,” explains Rabiee. The integration also allows redistributing population data within different geographic boundaries to identify and characterize settlements and built infrastructure, manage resources, urban and rural planning, risk management and disaster response. Satellite imagery is significant to this method of producing population estimates because it does not face geographical and temporal limitations of traditional data sources and allows for more frequent population estimates.

Challenges of gridded population data While gridded population data offers great opportunities in both science and immediate response applications, it is not perfect. For datasets based on census data, users need to be aware of the age

Courtesy: POPGRID Viewer

ning development related works. Without knowing where people are located, governments and policymakers cannot improve/ expand access to health, transportation, energy and other services. SDSN TReNDS Manager Maryam Rabiee, who has complied a report titled Leaving No One off the Map: A Guide for Gridded Population Data for Sustainable Development, says, “Population and the environment are constantly changing and to ensure that we leave no one behind, we need reliable population data. A number of SDG indicators are related to population, and they measure access to basic services and facilities.” As population scientists have expanded the range of topics they study, increasingly focusing on the relationship between population and social, economic and health conditions, there have been enhancements in data collection and emergence of new data collection techniques and procedures. This has also led to the evolution of the concept of gridded population data. After creating a base map of geographic cells based on satellite imagery, each cell can be viewed as the representation of an area on the surface of the Earth, typically defined by its latitude-longitude coordinates. The collection of these cells, rows and columns defines

CIESIN’s POPGRID dashboard shows gridded population data of the United States www.geospatialworld.net | Mar-Apr 2020

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POPULATION DATA

Gridded popula­tion data can be used in a wide range of application areas such as health interventions & survey planning

The POPGRID dashboard allows its users to compare population data and information from six data sources

Governments all over the world still bank on census to collect data concerning population and housing

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and quality of the censuses. Further, the datasets can be dramatically different for different countries. Highlighting these challenges, Hayden Dahmm, SDSN TReNDS Manager who worked with Rabiee on the report, says, “They (gridded data) are not universally accurate and uncertainty is inherent in the estimations. For example, there can be issues with mistaking rock formations for houses, overlooking settlements in heavily forested areas, or incorrectly distributing populations over uninhabited areas. Additionally, coastlines are a source of greater uncertainty, and different models can produce highly different estimations of the local population. If we apply these models without recognizing their unique characteristics, there is a possibility that people will be overlooked.” “Despite the progress around gridded population data, there is still considerable ambiguity with regard to the datasets. Each of the datasets has been developed for different purposes and each has its advantages and disadvantages. In our research with stakeholders, it was apparent that most policymakers and other data users lack the time and technical expertise to understand different characteristics, applications, limitations and potential of gridded datasets,” explains Rabiiee.

Overcoming data problems To address most of these challenges, POPGRID was established. Led by the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) at Columbia University, SDSN TReNDS and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD), POPGRID is a “data collaborative” which aims to accelerate the development and use of high quality georeferenced data on human settlements, infrastructure and populations by convening and drawing on the expertise of an international, interdisciplinary community of data developers and users from both public and private sectors. “Our main focus at POPGRID is to do a better job sharing, accessing and documenting


High resolution gridded population data showing gender distribution

these kinds of data, and in particular to work with the stakeholder and user communities to have a better sense of their priorities and needs and see if we can match the provision of data with the demand and use for gridded population data,” says Dr. Robert Chen, SDSN TReNDS Co-Chair, Director of CIESIN, and Manager of NASA’s Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC).

Inclusive approach To bridge the knowledge gap around gridded population data and help improve its accessibility and understanding among policymakers and other users, SDSN TReNDS,

on behalf of the POPGRID Collaborative, has complied a report. “The report drawn from an extensive literature review and interviews with key data providers and users in POPGRID, presents an overview, analysis and recommendations for the use of gridded population datasets in a wide range of application areas. The document also presents a comparison assessment of the use of different datasets and their varying outputs, and will address many misconceptions around gridded population data,” explains Rabiee. The report was written with two overarching questions in mind — how can gridded population data supplement current

Gridded population data can be a valuable supplement to traditional data sources, but it is not error-free. Although these datasets address some of the limitations of traditional sources, they do add their own sources of uncertainty. More validation work is needed to compare gridded population data estimates against authoritative data on population location

population data sources and support users from the sustainable development community to make timely, informed decisions; and which gridded population dataset is the most suitable for a the user? Dahmn says, “Gridded population data are to complement, not substitute census data. The datasets featured in this report rely on information derived from national censuses to produce estimates with higher frequency and/or granularity.” The report also suggests that gridded population data can be a valuable supplement to traditional data sources, but it is not error-free. Although these datasets address some of the limitations of traditional sources, they do add their own sources of uncertainty. More validation work is needed to compare gridded population data estimates against authoritative data on population location. There is a critical need for a more systematic analysis and objective validation of these products to further refine methods and improve their accuracy and utility. Mahashreveta Choudhary Correspondent mahashreveta@geospatialmedia.net www.geospatialworld.net | Mar-Apr 2020

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Geo Route to

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

SDGs

We cannot address tomorrow’s problems with today’s tools. The growing complexity of social, economic and environmental challenges requires us to embrace geospatial technologies and acknowledge the critical role that collaborations and partnerships can play in building a sustainable world. By Megha Datta

T

he growing complexities of social, economic and environmental problems has prompted actors from diverse fields to come together and address these issues. It’s no secret that we cannot counter tomorrow’s problems with today’s tools and technologies. That’s why when the

United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it stressed on specific guidelines for appropriate use of technologies and building trusted collaborations to map, monitor and achieve the global goals. Special emphasis was placed on geospatial and earth observation data for measuring, monitoring and reporting of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to assess progress, take requisite action where needed and have positive outcomes.

Visualization and analytics offered by geospatial and earth observation technologies have helped governments and the development sector to plan and implement welfare programs efficiently. A variety of datasets are currently being generated and made available for no or minimal cost to non-profits around the world. There has also been an increase in the use of innovative tools and technologies to solve some of the most pressing problems such as access to healthcare, resources to the farming community and impact of human activities on the environment. When combined with other technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), geospatial technology becomes even more effective. No wonder the UN and its member states are also using geospatial technologies for creating innovative reporting platforms.

Application of Geospatial Technologies in Development Sector

Vulnerability assessment surveys in disaster-prone areas

Drafting proposals for budget allocation

Urban planning and governance

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Planning and decisionmaking; monitoring; and reporting

Measuring carbon sequestration, tree density, green cover, carbon credit & tree age

www.geospatialworld.net | Mar-Apr 2020

Providing information in the absence of conventional data sources

Remotely assessing quality, quantity, depth, temperature and flow of water in ponds, rivers, etc.

Mapping health centres, schools and other facilities

Mapping of settlements and roads

Community mapping for ensuring basic rights to people

Representation, situation analysis and reporting of data


To find out how these technologies are being used for humanitarian works in the development sector, Geospatial Media and Communications conducted an online survey, which saw participation from nearly 400 working professionals from various organizations. Type of organization

2%

12%

16%

25%

45%

Donor or aid agencies

Research and academia

NGOs and international organizations

Government consultants

Technology consultants

Geography of respondents/organizations’ work

Level of respondent

7% 21%

13%

54%

Europe

15%

18%

9%

North America

Middle EastÂ

Senior level professional

Latin America

Executive level

Asia-Pacific

21%

11% Mid level professional

31%

Entry level professional

Africa

Area of expertise

Gender issues

Poverty alleviation

Health

Food security

Ecological restoration

Emergency response

Land rights

Disaster management

Community development

Environment protection

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SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

Growing popularity Geospatial technologies have certainly gained in terms of popularity in the development sector. While sectors like defense, infrastructure, urban development and utilities have traditionally been ahead in adoption, use of these technologies for humanitarian works has picked up in the recent past. An overwhelming majority of respondents said that geospatial information was an important part of decision-making in their respective organizations (Graph 1). Interestingly, NGOs, intergovernmental organizations and donor/aid agencies are leading in experimenting with geospatial use, leaving behind government organizations and technology consultants involved in developmental activities. According to some respondents, their organizations have now made provisions for software licences, workstations, primary and ancillary satellite imagery, toposheets and other data sources in their funding proposals, as these are crucial for making sustainable decisions.

Graph 2: Which geospatial technology is most impactful for your work?

Satellite imagery GPS-based ICT tools (mobile or handheld device)

Surveying and mapping technologies

Graph 1: How important are geospatial technologies for you?

GIS or visualization tools

Not something we are aware of Something we have heard about, buy not using currently Something we are beginning to experiment with An important part of the analytics and decision-making for our organization 0

Consultant

10

20

30

Government

40

50

60

70

80

90

NGOs/Donor

Focus on visualization The growing use of geospatial technologies in the development sector is clearly focused around visualization (Graph 2). Both GIS and satellite imagery are used primarily to monitor things like disease outbreak, extent of damage during a natural disaster and population spread in places that don’t have any other data source. There are many other areas that can benefit from these technologies, but most of them lie unexplored. For instance, an integrated geospatial system for early warning and a communication system based on real-time data can play a crucial role in limiting loss of life and destruction of property in case of a calamity. Further, sharing good practices and knowledge exchange can not only boost technology adoption, but produce better results. So, in a way, the very purpose of using geospatial is acting as a hurdle in exploring its true potential. The real power of geospatial technologies comes into play when they are used as an integration platform that can assimilate datasets from various sources to provide predictive and prescriptive analytics for informed decision-making, which in turn can save lives and resources, and create a more sustainable world. 44

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Maximum impact areas Majority of the respondents felt that climate and environment and disaster risk reduction are the two areas that will witness the maximum impact of geospatial technologies. In the middle of the 20th Century (1950-1960), when GIS and remote sensing technologies started developing, apart from defense and security, these technologies were used for environment management and disaster risk reduction. Hence, this has been a steadily growing trend over the years. Surprisingly, some of the problems having an immediate impact on mankind, such as health and food security, weren’t seen as high impact areas by the participants. The survey findings clearly indicate underutilization of geospatial technologies in the development sector (Graph 3). Graph 3: In which of the following sustainability areas do you see geospatial technologies making the maximum impact? Climate and environment Disaster risk reduction Water Land rights Health Food security Education


Connectivity is the key The implementation of geospatial technologies is dependent on several basic factors. Most of the development and aid agencies working in remote and far-flung areas often struggle with basic Internet connectivity. As many as 75% of respondents cited Internet (Wi-Fi or mobile) as a powerful enabler for geospatial technologies. If the World Bank estimate on Internet connectivity (49.723% of global population) is to be believed, more than half of the world is currently without active Internet services. In such a scenario, adoption of geospatial technologies, which rely heavily on Cloud and connectivity, will not be possible. While innovations in offline technologies that support field work and generate data that can be later fed into the Cloud are being explored, bridging the digital divide is a must for geospatial adoption. A positive trend that emerged from the survey was equal stress on 4IR technologies like Internet of Things, Cloud, Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, Drones and Big Data, which are perceived to be powerful enablers for geospatial.

We prefer locally sourced technologies

Graph 5: How do you select vendors for geospatial technologies?

We select the best-in-class tools

We prefer freely available data/ technologies

We prefer open source technologies

Benefits and reliance Enhanced decision-making, followed by improved analytics, were seen as the biggest benefits of using geospatial technologies by all three respondent segments (Graph 4). Majority of the respondents said that they relied on open source or freely available data and technologies for their geospatial needs (Graph 5). The two likely reasons for this are: high cost of proprietary software and services, and easy availability of data and technology solutions for development projects. There is a greater need for the proprietary industry and the open source/ data community to collaborate to enhance the value and utility of these technologies. At the same time, the development sector needs to come up with its own geospatial strategy in alignment with the digital strategy, so that it can equally leverage open source and proprietary technologies.

Deciding authority So, who takes a call on deploying geospatial technologies and how widespread is the use? Surprisingly, while more than half of the respondents said that the use of geospatial technologies is a core part of their work, less than 20% said that the use is mandated by aid agencies (Graph 6). This suggests that though the development agencies recognize the potential of these technologies, they do so because of their own need for data-based decision-making and are not particularly encouraged by their funding partners towards higher use/ adoption. A change in this attitude will ensure better adoption and adequate funding for geospatial within organizations. Since the same technology infrastructure can be used in multiple initiatives, it will power non-profits to deliver better results. A change in the funders/ donors mindset will also encourage them to use geospatial platforms to manage their own funds, analyse the spread of their aid, review its effectiveness and undertake nuanced auditing.

Graph 4: What are the benefits of using geospatial technologies?

Graph 6: Who decides on use of geospatial technologies?

Cost savings

Mandated by aid agencies

Risk assessment

Consultants

Data integration Project implementers Improved visualization Senior executives or decision-makers

Improved analytics Enhanced decision-making 0

Consultant

10

20

30

Government

40

50

60

70

NGOs/Donor

80

90

It’s a core part of our work/mandate

0

20

Consultant

40

60

Government

80

100

120

NGOs/Donor

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SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

Graph 7: Who are the principal users of geospatial technologies in your organization?

Consultants

Partners

Program participants

Own Staff: Decision makers

Own Staff: Project implementers

Even though the highest number of respondents said that their own staff or decision-makers use geospatial technology, the difference between other users wasn’t significant (Graph 7). The survey suggests that geospatial technologies are used across the board, by consultants, partners and program participants.

Challenges in implementation Geospatial implementation in the development sector is not immune to challenges and resistance, especially since its value is often embedded into a systemic output and communicating its benefits is not easy. Further, lack of awareness is another major roadblock in the adoption of these technologies. “Donors and Graph 8: What are the challenges in the implementation of geospatial technologies in your organization?

35%

Lack of awareness of its use and benefits

13%

Cost of hardware/software

13%

Lack of technology/data inrastructure

10%

Availability of trained human resource

9%

Lack of government support

5%

Knowledge or experience of use

5%

Country specify policy hurdles

3%

Retaining skilled human resource

3%

Lack of clarity of return on investment

2%

Resistance from stockholders

2%

Lack of basic connectivity (Internet or Mobile)

46

www.geospatialworld.net | Mar-Apr 2020

project implementers are not yet geospatially savvy and often implement geospatial technologies without proper understanding of their benefits. They can also be resistant to advice,” explains a senior official from a leading development agency who does not wish to be named. The geospatial industry needs to invest both time and resources in generating awareness about the potential of these technologies and how they can positively impact outputs in almost all projects. The industry also needs to engage with development organizations and help the latter devise geospatial strategies. Low levels of data and geospatial literacy is a common problem in most developing countries which is directly connected with the their education system. Then there is the issue of high cost of technology, which is a major concern for most humanitarian and aid organizations, followed by lack of technology and data infrastructure (Graph 8). These problems can be overcome by developing stronger collaborative mechanisms between technology providers and end users (development organizations/ professionals) to increase the level of engagement. This process will require professionals to learn, unlearn and re-learn many technical skills, which can be an uphill task. From the technology providers’ standpoint, often, their focus on delivering solutions makes it difficult for them to take the end users along. That’s why, many development or aid agencies are now looking to have professionals who understand both technology and development issues — people who can be instrumental in bridging this gap. The technology providers also need to get creative on the use of innovative financing models, and apply “as a service” and “pay as you go” models.

The road ahead The survey produced some interesting insights on the penetration of geospatial technology within the development sector and perspectives from different stakeholders (government agencies, technology consultants and research and academia). Even though the responses reflect an encouraging trend as far as geospatial awareness and adoption are concerned, there is still much to be achieved. In order to fully leverage the “geospatial advantage”, there needs to be both a top-down and a bottom-up approach. While having a national geospatial strategy will definitely help, having a geospatial strategy in alignment with the internal digital strategy will work best for development organizations. Recognition of geospatial technologies as a key enabler for decision-making and allocation of adequate budget for their adoption is the best way forward. Megha Datta, Director, Global Development Agenda megha@geospatialmedia.net


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VUX-240

VQ-580 II

VQ-480 II

for surveying at low flight altitudes e.g. powerline, rail track and pipeline inspection

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dual channel turnkey system for high altitude, large scale mapping

VQ-780 II

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INDUSTRY TRENDS

YEAR OF CONSOLIDATION Over the last five years, the geospatial industry has seen steady growth in both M&As and partnerships, with 2018 marking the peak of the two business trends. However, in 2019, the industry witnessed more partnerships than acquisitions, signaling a shift towards collaboration. By Aditya Chaturvedi and Iqbal Ahmed

M

ergers and Acquisitions (M&As) and partnerships are essential for business growth. Apart from market expansion, domain consolidation, portfolio diversification, capacity augmentation and corporate restructuring, M&As and partnerships help an enterprise in keeping up with the changing business trends. They are also

48

www.geospatialworld.net | Mar-Apr 2020

crucial for ramping up innovativeness and infusing dynamism to cater to increasing customer expectations and industry demands. Over the last five years, the professional geospatial industry has seen steady growth in both M&As and partnerships, with 2018 marking the peak of the two business trends. However, in 2019, the industry witnessed more partnerships than acquisitions, signal-

ling a shift towards collaboration. The year saw a slight dip in the number of partnerships as compared to 2018 — 153 to 136, while there was a sharp fall in the number of acquisitions —72 to 41.

Trends in M&As and partnerships There has also been a major shift away from the traditional geospatial-dependent


153

Partnerships 136

133

M&As 114

72

44

47

42

35

2014

2015

41

39

2016

2017

2018

2019

Trends in M&As and partnerships (2014-2019)

sectors to other sectors that utilize geospatial technologies. For the sake of the readers’ clarity, we have divided the industry into three parts: Professional Geospatial Market (PGM), which includes national mapping agencies, thematic mapping organizations and commercial companies; Location Analytics and Business Intelli­ gence (LA&BI); and Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC). In 2019, while the number of partnerships remained steady in all three segments, there was a noticeable decline in M&As.

Factors driving M&As and partnerships  Product/service enrichment: M&As and partnerships are mostly carried out by companies to enrich their products and services. For example, Here Maps partnered with Blis to enrich data-driven insights through location analytics. Similarly, Maxar, a leading NewSpace and geospatial analytics company, partnered with Vulcan to support domain awareness systems.  Portfolio diversification: A company’s decision to diversify its portfolio often takes it on the path of acquisition. For example, FourSquare, one of the leading location platforms, expanded its market base by acquiring its former competitor Placed. Acquisition of Geographica by CARTO was another example of the confluence of geospatial and Location Intelligence.

Collaboration with User Industry

Embedment with Business Analytics Vertical/Workflow Integration

9%

11%

Product/Service Enrichment

2%

Geographic Expansion

36%

Purpose of Merger & Acquisitions

13%

29% Portfolio Diversification Geographic Expansion

Portfolio Diversification

Product/Service Enrichment

7%

11% Collaboration with User Industry

31% 16%

Purpose of Partnerships

16% Embedment with Business Analytics

20% Vertical/Workflow Integration

Key reasons for M&As and partnership (2014-2019) www.geospatialworld.net | Mar-Apr 2020

49

Sources: Geospatial Media Analysis

63


INDUSTRY TRENDS

 Geographic expansion: Companies acquire or partner with other players to expand their geographic reach, growth and access to new markets and talent pool. For example, Trimble acquired fleet management company Veltec to step into a new market for its fleet safety and efficiency solutions.  Vertical/workflow integration: Integration of workflow is another reason for partnerships. For example, Esri, the world’s leading Location Intelligence company, joined hands with Intel-owned autonomous driving startup Mobileye for enhancing its data collection capability and getting real-time updates for dynamic edge mapping. Bentley Systems forged a partnership with Microsoft 365 to automate its BIM workflow.  Integrating business analytics: Geospatial companies team up with several IT or analytics firms to leverage their analytical capabilities. For example, Near, a leading Location Intelligence platform, partnered with Oracle’s BlueKai Marketplace to make their data available to the global audience.  Collaboration with user industries: Partnerships are mostly forged with user industries. For example, TomTom partnered with NVIDIA to build a Cloud-to-Car mapping system using Artificial Intelligence. Orbital Insight and RBC Capital Markets decided to work together to develop future geospatial analytics products.

M&As Partnerships

Within North America

With Europe

With Asia Pacific

With Middle East

67

23

7

N/A

212

41

28

5

Major Industry Trends

A

n analysis of the top 13 companies in all three segments suggests that in the Professional Geospatial Market, most M&As and partnerships from 2018 to 2019 were done by hardware companies, followed by services, software and solution firms. Hardware companies such as Trimble, Hexagon and Terra Drone Corporation continued to acquire companies to expand geographic reach, diversify portfolio and enrich products and services. In the LA&BI segment, most M&As and partnerships from 2018 to 2019 were done by content companies, followed by software and platform firms. Companies like Salesforce acquired MapAnything, a location-based service company to incorporate map-based visualization, asset tracking and route optimization to improve productivity for field sales and service teams, and provide a better customer experience. In the AEC space, majority of big companies like Trimble, Topcon Positioning, FARO and Autodesk forged partnerships to enhance their software solutions by integrating geospatial information systems and 3D modeling software.

Within Europe

With North America

M&As

31

16

Partnerships

45

38

M&As Partnerships

Region wise distribution of M&As and partnerships (2017-2019) North America

50

Europe

Asia Pacific

www.geospatialworld.net | Mar-Apr 2020

South America

Middle East

With Asia Pacific

With Middle East

With South America

X

X

X

8

3

1

Within Asia Pacific

With Europe

With North America

With Middle East

1

4

4

X

15

2

8

2


Partnerships M&As 43 40

23 20

18 12

12

12

9 6

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Trends in Professional Geospatial Market (PGM)

4 1

1 6

7 1 1

1 2 1 1 2

7 11

4 4 2014

5

11

5 2015

Hardware

5 2016

2017

Services

2018

Software

2019

Solutions

Merger & Acquisition trends based on company’s offering

2 1

8 4

5

4 4

7 2014

2015 Hardware

5

6

11

17

12

11

13

13

2016 Services

6

11 13

12

15

2017

11

2018

Software

Partnerships trends based on company’s offering

Solutions

2019

Professional Geospatial Market (PGM) In the PGM segment, as compared to 2018, 2019 saw a nearly 50% decline in M&As (23-12). However, there was a slight increase in partnerships (39-40). Most partnerships were forged in vertical/workflow integration, while acquisitions were made for portfolio diversification. Interestingly, M&As among hardware and solution companies dropped significantly, as compared to the previous year. However, among services and software companies, M&As remained the same. In partnerships, software companies occupied a large space, while service companies too seemed to be taking a leap.

In the Professional Geospatial Market, which includes national mapping agencies, thematic mapping organizations and commercial companies, most of the M&As and partnerships in 2019 were done by hardware companies, followed by services, software and solutions companies www.geospatialworld.net | Mar-Apr 2020

51

Sources: Geospatial Media Analysis

39

37


INDUSTRY TRENDS

M&As

68

Partnerships

64

50 43

13

8

9

9

9

2014

2015

2016

2017

9

2018

Trends in Location Analytics & Business Intelligence

3

1 1

3

2

3

3

2014

4

Content

4

3

2 2015

1

1

1

2

1

4

3

2

1

2

2

2

2

3

2016 Location Data

1 2017

2018

Platform

Software

2019 Solutions

Merger & Acquisition trends based on company’s offering

10 19

7 3 4 5 2

Content

17

20

15

10

6 2015

9

12 11

15

2014

9

13

8 3 4 2 6 4

11

10

11 3

15

2016 Location Data

2017 Platform

2018 Software

Partnerships trends based on company’s offering

52

www.geospatialworld.net | Mar-Apr 2020

2019 Solutions

Location Analytics & Business Intelligence (LA&BI) In the Location Analytics & Business Intelligence segment, partnerships were more conspicuous than M&As, although there was a decline in both. While the M&As mostly focused on portfolio diversification, partnerships were forged between companies to collaborate with user industries and to enrich products/services. In 2019, most partnerships were done by platform companies, as against content companies a year ago. Also, there were several collaborations between location and IT companies. One common trend observed in the last five years (2014 to 2019) is that of M&As happening among platform and solutions-based companies. Although in 2017 and 2018, content-based companies too occupied a large space, their share was insignificant in 2019. In partnerships too, platform companies occupied the maximum space in 2017, while in 2018, it was dominated by content companies. Interestingly, 2019 again saw a surge in the share of platform companies. Meanwhile, content companies such as Here Technologies and Mapbox continued to forge partnerships with user industries to deliver the most powerful geospatial solutions to improve connected mobility and provide real-time asset tracking. Companies like Here Maps, PlaceIQ and Factual forged the maximum number of partnerships in 2018 and 2019. Cuebiq, a consumer insights and measurement company, did major partnerships in the OTT platform and out of home advertising segment.

2019

Sources: Geospatial Media Analysis

21

19


M&As Partnerships

46 40 36

34

32

24 22

21

20

18

20

13

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Trends in Architecture, Engineering & Construction

8 4 6 7 6 2

2015

6 2016

Hardware

7

9 2017

Services

4

1

5

1 5

7 2014

6

10

3

18

3

2

10

3 2018

Software

2019

Solutions

Merger & Acquisition trends based on company’s offering

8

4 6 7 6 2

2015

Hardware

Services

7

9

6 2016

4

1

5

1 6

7 2014

6

10

3

18

3

2

10

2017

3 2018

Software

Partnerships trends based on company’s offering

Solutions

2019

Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) In the AEC segment, 2019 was a year of consolidation. Majority of big companies like Trimble, Topcon Positioning, FARO, Oracle, Autodesk, Bentley Systems, etc. focused on enhancing their software solutions by integrating geospatial information systems and 3D modeling software. The number of M&As dropped from 36 in 2018 to 20 in 2019, while the number of partnerships decreased from 46 to 32. Companies like Autodesk, Bentley and Aspen Technology entered into strategic partnerships with the likes of Unity and Microsoft to embed business analytics capabilities in their product portfolios. The partnership between Autodesk and Topcon Positioning, for instance, enabled project owners and construction companies to form a seamless connection between the office and field to increase on-site worker productivity and overall quality and safety. Autodesk also strengthened its collaboration with Leica Geosystems to bring new efficiencies in building construction. Way forward With mounting economic and geopolitical uncertainties posing new challenges, last year saw a fall in M&As. Also, the broader industry focus, which revolved around portfolio diversification till a couple of years ago, shifted towards product/service enrichment and workflow integration, leading to more partnerships across segments. With companies targeting technology upgradation and better outreach, the industry seems to be gearing up for an impending disruption. Aditya Chaturvedi, Assistant Editor, aditya@geospatialmedia.net; Iqbal Ahmad, Research Analyst, iqbal@geospatialmedia.net www.geospatialworld.net | Mar-Apr 2020

53


SURVEY OF INDIA Department of Science and Technology

Survey of India Mandate National Map Policy (NMP)-2005 mandates Survey of India (SoI) To: • Provide, maintain and allow access and make available the NTDB (National Topographical Data Base) • Promote the use of Geospatial knowledge and intelligence through partnerships and other mechanism

A. National Spatial Reference Frame • NationalGroundControlpoints(GCPs)Library • ContinuouslyOperatingReferenceStation (CORS)Network • PrecisionBenchmarks(BMs) • Tidalobservationsandpredictionoftides • Fieldgravityobservationsacrosscountry • FieldGeo-magneticobservationsacrosscountry

B. National Digital Elevation Model (DEM) • NationalDEMof±10metreaccuracy • HighResolutionDEMof±3metreaccuracy • UltrahighResolutionDEMof±50cmaccuracy

C. National Topographical Template

D. Administrative Boundaries

• Topographicmapsonallscales • Aeronauticalcharts • SpecialsurveysforAirports/AirfieldsofAAI/ Navy/Coastguard. • SpecialmapsforIndianAirForce

• International,state,district,tehsilandVillage boundaries • InternationalBoundary(IB)Survey • Inter-stateBoundary(ISB)Survey • Administrativeboundariesdatauptodistrict andvillagelevel

E. Toponymy (Place names) Standardized Geographical names database

https://indiamaps.gov.in https://g2g.indiamaps.gov.in/soig2g https://soinakshe.uk.gov.in http://www.surveyofindia.gov.in/pages/display/257-sahyog--mobile-app-by-soi


Large Scale Mapping (LSM) Using Professional Survey Grade UAV/Drone Large Scale Topographic Data is the basic input for Planning of the developmental projects. Accurate and updated resource maps of the country with High Resolution Terrain & Topographic Information is the key requirement. UAV/Drone based data acquisition provides the High Resolution Source Data for mapping requirements in less time & low cost in comparison to other comparative technologies like Aerial Photography.

Village Inhabited Areas

Urban Areas

Survey/Resurvey of Revenue Covered Area

Sub-urban Areas

Work Components

Capturing High Horizontal & Vertical Resolution Digital Data Ground Control Points using UAV/Drone (GCPs)

Data Processing

Analysing

Final Output

SOI has signed MoUs for LSM projects (Governments/Organisations)

Government of Maharashtra

Government of Haryana

Government of Karnataka

Indian Railways

Government of NCT Delhi

Government of Madhya Pradesh

SURVEYOR GENERAL OFFICE Hathibarkala Estate, Dehradun, Pin - 248 001 (T) +91-135-2747051-58 Ext 4360 | (F) +91-135-2744064, 2743331 Email- sgo.soi@gov.in | Website- http://www.surveyofindia.gov.in


CASE STUDY

With the help of cutting-edge surveying technology, the Nepal Survey Department measured the height of Sagarmatha, or the Mount Everest, and will soon reveal how high the world’s highest mountain is.

T

he 2015 earthquake of 7.8 magnitude in Nepal not only claimed around 9,000 lives and injured over 22,000, it also raised speculation about the height of the Mount Everest, known as Sagarmatha (head of the sky) in Nepalese, as scientists believed that the world’s highest mountain may have shrunk slightly. To put to rest such speculations, the Nepal Survey Department decided to go ahead with the measurement of the Everest. “Nepal hadn’t done anything like that before, and so we thought why not do it now? But we required high-end technology, and Trimble provided that to us,” recalls Ganesh Prasad Bhatta, Executive Director of Land Management Training Center and former Director General of Nepal Survey Department. 56

www.geospatialworld.net | Mar-Apr 2020

“We are the national mapping agency of Nepal and so this is a very important project for us as it will go on to enhance our overall capacity. Countries have measured the Everest in the past, but this is the first time that Nepal has done it. The conclusion of the project will be a proud moment for us,” feels Prakash Joshi, Director General of Nepal Survey Department. The most commonly accepted figure for the Everest’s height is 29,029 feet, a measurement provided by the Survey of India in 1954.

Devising methodology After devising a detailed internal methodology based on GNSS surveying, gravity surveying, precise levelling and trigonometric levelling, the department started the project (field work) early in 2018. “Towards the

end of 2017, we organized an international workshop, which was attended by experts from the US, Europe, New Zealand, India and China. The sole objective of the event was to showcase our methodology to the world,” says Susheel Dangol, Chief Survey Officer and Coordinator of The Mount Everest Height Measurement Program.

Technological edge It was during this workshop that the department contacted Trimble, which readily agreed to offer its cutting-edge surveying solutions that made a task as mammoth as surveying the Everest possible. “Trimble is proud to be associated with the Nepal Survey Department for this project to measure Sagarmatha. This is one of the most prestigious projects for us in the region. We recommended the department


After devising a detailed internal methodology based on GNSS surveying, gravity surveying, precise levelling and trigonometric levelling, the department started the field work early in 2018

The Trimble R10 (in picture) came in handy because it was easy to carry, had antenna and receiver built into the device and had a long battery backup

a few of our selected products such as the R10 integrated GNSS receiver, R9S as the base station to provide correction services to R10, robotic total stations and the Trimble Business Center (TBC) survey CAD software,” says Amit Saxena, Regional Sales Manager, Geospatial, SAARC Region at Trimble.

advanced surveying techniques. High-end training was also given to the team leaders to ensure that they do not face difficulties during the expedition. “At the stage of precise levelling, the seven-member survey department project team used Trimble S9 robotic total station,” says Saxena.

Thorough process Apart from carrying out a GNSS survey on the top of the Everest for nearly 75 minutes, the department conducted a similar survey at 300 stations, gravity survey at 300 stations, 248km of precise levelling starting from the IndiaNepal boundary to various stations, and trigonometric levelling at 12 stations. “The R10 came in really handy because of three reasons: it was easy to carry, had antenna and receiver built into the device and had a long battery backup,” points out Dangol. “Some of the other major advantages of using the R10 receiver are that its HD GNSS technology helps in precise data capture and 360-degree satellite tracking enables surveyors to track the points quickly,” explains Saxena. R10 makes the collection of more accurate data faster and easier. Built with powerful technologies integrated into a sleek design, the unique system provides surveyors with a powerful way to increase data collection productivity in every project. Before the project was started, Trimble trained over 30 survey department staff in

Boost to data processing Beating the odds, the expedition team completed the data collection process by December 2019. The survey department is now processing the data using TBC and is likely to come back with the exact height of the Everest in the next few months. “This will act as a benchmark for several other projects in the region. Considering the time, resources and the environment, this will turn out to be a project of its kind,” emphasizes Saxena. Among other things, TBC offers customizable templates, simplified selection tools and automated plotting functionality. The software allows its user to manage, process and create customer deliverables for all survey tasks with just one software package. It was an experience of a lifetime, if not a life-altering experience, for the team members. “As you climb up, the wind speed is a problem. So is lack of appetite and risk of falling ill. While we were coming back after collecting data, I ran out of oxygen and was unconscious

The Nepal Survey Department used multiple high-end Trimble products such as the R9S (in picture) to complete the Everest measurement project

for almost five minutes. If a Sherpa hadn’t come to my aid, I would probably not have made it back alive. At the end of the expedition, though, I realized that it was worth risking my life,” recalls Rabin Karki, Survey Officer and a member of the expedition team. Now that the data collection is done, there is a sense of pride and excitement in the survey department. “We will be coming back with the numbers soon. For now, I would like to thank Trimble for providing us its technology and cooperating with us at every stage of the project,” says Prakash Joshi. Courtesy: Trimble www.geospatialworld.net | Mar-Apr 2020

57


INTERVIEW

OPEN DATA IS THE FUTURE OF DATA NatureServe started mapping biodiversity before the invention of GIS. Spatial data has been a cornerstone of our work since the 1970s, reveals Sean T. O’Brien, President and CEO of the US-based non-profit. As we enter into the digital age, the future will be all about data. Do you think data will have a significant role to play in sustainable development in the coming times? That’s quite inevitable. Geospatial data will play an important role in sustainable development. We are generating enormous amounts of data from all kinds of sensors — satellites, camera traps, environmental monitoring stations, cell phones, and people — about the state of the planet. The problem is that there is so much data coming from so many sources that it is difficult to effectively analyze and use all the information. The key is to distinguish the signal from noise to identify the most important information for conservation and sustainable development. Thankfully, many organizations are working on making all kinds of data openly available and using cloud computing and Machine Learning to analyze data for conservation-focused development. Can you tell us how you are using data, especially spatial data/GIS/maps, to forward your development or governance agenda? Our mission is to provide the scientific basis for effective conservation actions. We are working every day to prevent extinction. We do this by documenting the location and condition of species and ecosystems throughout the Americas. NatureServe started mapping biodiversity before the invention of GIS. In fact, spatial data has been a cornerstone of our work since the 1970s. Going forward, our most important initiative is to expand the application and utility of our data for decision-making through better data sharing and visualization tools. This includes spatially explicit modelling of suitable habitat for species, currently and under climate change scenarios, and reducing barriers in access to our data by disseminating these products through an online portal and APIs. We are also looking at new sources of data to supplement the on-the-ground data 58

www.geospatialworld.net | Mar-Apr 2020


collection by scientists that has been the foundation of our work for almost 50 years.

Along with innovations and technology advancements, there is a growing disparity in terms of data access. For instance, the developed world has emerging data economies and the developing/underdeveloped parts have populations with absolutely no access to data. How can we bridge this divide? I believe that the decreasing costs of technology and the spread of technical skills will democratize access to information. While many countries cannot afford to launch satellites, they can access a lot of satellite data online. Many developing countries are on the forefront of the open data movement. As knowledge (like programming skills) spreads globally, many countries will leapfrog to modern geospatial data analysis, much like they skipped land-line telephones and built robust cellular networks and virtual payment systems that are ahead of ‘developed’ countries. These countries will take leadership roles in creative use of data and technology. It’s likely they will make use of geospatial data in ways we haven’t even imagined. What are your views on open data, especially government data that has been created with taxpayers’ money? NatureServe’s objective is to prevent species extinction. We do this by providing the best data at the quality and resolution needed to make the best decisions. Better data for better decisions translates into better outcomes for biodiversity. Providing open data can get the information into the hands of the people who need it to protect imperiled species, but it can also put data in the hands of those that could inflict harm by collecting or poaching vulnerable populations. We strive to maximize usage of open data for decision-making, while respecting data provider policies and safeguarding sensitive species from harm. Open data is the future of data, and except for certain critical information, data on biodiversity should be available to empower conservation planning.

Carl Sagan said, “The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life and there’s nowhere else, at least in the near future”. With mankind facing crisis in the form of Climate Change and depleting resources, are we running out of time? Yes. Sadly, it is that simple. And time is our enemy. The rate of change in our climate, the pace of extinction, the combined heat and water stress on ecosystems and people, and the pollution of our food supply by plastics, among other threats, means that we will face a humanitarian crisis sooner than we thought just a few years ago. We need to use all the resources we have, geospatial data and analyses being key among them, to address the challenges facing us and future generations. While we are looking at the extinction of one million species in the next 20 years, careful field work and modern technology can lead to successes in identifying, tracking, and making informed conservation decisions on behalf of highly endangered species, and hopefully bring this number down. Organizations like NatureServe are working every day to preserve biodiversity. We need individuals to care as much as we do about protecting our planet’s most vulnerable species. How can we address this crisis at an individual level and as a society? We recognize the huge challenge we face, but we are also eternal optimists. We know the expertise and technology exist to drastically change the way we coexist with nature. Governments, corporations and institutions will drive

The decreasing costs of technology and the spread of technical skills will democratize access to information. While many countries cannot afford to launch satellites, they can access a lot of satellite data online

the biggest percentage of change, but individuals are the ultimate influencers in society through political protest, voting and pressure on corporations, as well as by consciously and purposefully reducing their carbon footprint with changes in their lifestyles like biking, recycling, focusing on energy waste, food waste, etc. Eventually, corporations and governments with deep resources in technology will have to answer to their customers, constituents and citizens to create scalable change.

Can you share one heart touching moment or experience that made you feel proud of the work you do? I like to think we follow in the footsteps of Alexander von Humboldt, one of the most important naturalists and geospatial analysts in history. At NatureServe, we make maps of the planet’s life, much like Humboldt and other explorers made in the age of sail. A key element in these maps is scale, and very often these maps are at scales that make it hard see the effect at the local scale. Once our staff was working with a Kuna indigenous community in Panama. We printed a huge map created using a digital elevation model and vegetation cover data. Working with the indigenous people and using markers, we (they, really) mapped how the community used resources in the environment. Our team realized then that something that was simple to us was incredible useful to this indigenous community which didn’t have access to geospatial technology. Our map gave the Kuna a view into their world that had not been previously available. And their insights enlightened our view of the ecosystem as well. What would be your message to our readers? Our planet is in crisis. We are in the midst of the 6th Extinction — forever diminishing the biodiversity of our planet. NatureServe is working to slow this extinction, and fundamental to preventing the permanent loss of Earth’s biodiversity is knowing what species exist, where they are found, and which are most at risk. We coordinate a biodiversity observation network that provides the scientific expertise and explicit geospatial information to conserve biodiversity across the Americas. All of us must demand more from governments to make the best decisions to protect the future of the planet. www.geospatialworld.net | Mar-Apr 2020

59


ENVIRONMENT

THE HUMAN EFFECT Tracking and understanding the impact human beings have on the environmental. By Mike Lane

R

egardless of which side of the aisle you sit on, it’s hard to ignore the growing amount of scientific research and data on the environmental impact human beings have on Earth. And while scientists are just beginning to understand many of these effects, they need more evidence and information to minimize and mitigate our impact. Some degree of change is natural. It can be slow, gradual and continual — rivers flow and create wear on the surrounding land, deserts shift as air circulates around and through them, and trees grow and affect their environments with subterranean root systems and overhead canopies. At other times, change is sudden and drastic. Hurricanes are devastating when they make landfall, and floods and fires wreak destruction wherever they occur. While these may seem like natural occurrences, the degree to which such environmental disasters are influenced by human activities is still being studied. What’s certain is that humans do change the world in significant ways. We build cities, we dig mines, we plant fields of agricultural crops. Sometimes it’s easy to see these and other small, fast changes — like when land is cleared to make room for a new school — but it’s harder to track the wider, slower changes happening to the planet. Enterprising researchers are using geospatial technologies to collect, monitor and understand all the ways human activities are changing the planet. From the migration of river deltas to the construction of man-made islands in Dubai, the transformations are constant. It’s impossible to address every avenue of change, but three specific university research projects are providing data and insight that can be applied to assess and better understand our environmental impact on Earth.

Protecting elephants in Africa As the human population continues to grow in Africa, elephants’ habitats are being repurposed for agriculture and settlement. To plan long-term, sustainable solutions, it is necessary to have accurate data on elephant numbers, migration patterns and locations. A monitoring system that uses remote sensing and Machine Learning can identify

Croatia’s Pag Island suffers from extreme soil erosion due to a combination of harsh climatic conditions and intensive grazing and deforestation caused by humans

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herds and better protect them from land use conflicts. Human residents use several techniques to deter elephants from entering their cropland and inhabited areas. These techniques include chili fences and bombs, bee fences, and technological solutions designed as early warning systems for communities. But the elephants need to be kept safe too. High-resolution satellite imagery combined with remote sensing and Machine Learning can be used to monitor and protect herds, and a group of researchers at the University of Oxford is doing just that. They partnered with the Elephants Without Borders non-profit organization, which contributed GPS tracking collars for herds in the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area in Sub-Saharan Africa. The researchers accessed multispectral imagery and used remote sensing to locate areas of interest where a concentration of elephants could be identified. Images were then processed, and the researchers developed a convolutional neural network (CNN), an algorithm that automates the detection of herds in satellite images. To do this, the GPS collar data was cross-referenced with image coordinates, which provided the algorithm with exact examples of what elephants look like from space. Additionally, training data was collected from Addo Elephant National Park in South Africa, where there is a high concentration of elephants in a relatively small area. After labelling satellite images by drawing bounding boxes around individual elephants and non-elephant objects (e.g. trees) in the landscape, Machine Learning was applied to teach the machine the difference. Eventually, the algorithm will be smart enough to detect wild elephant populations in images without relying on GPS collar data. There are already a number of CNNs that are more accurate than human detection in challenging image classification and object detection areas. With enough training data, CNNs can learn complex, distinctive features of objects in a short time. Developing a close to real-time monitoring technique will allow scientists to track herds more accurately and efficiently, enabling more effective conservation planning and management.


With human population growing in Africa, habitats of elephants are being repurposed for agriculture and settlement, which may impact migration patterns and access to resources

According to the US Census Bureau, the Atlanta metropolitan area had the nation’s fourth highest population growth between 2010-2018

Surveying soil erosion in Croatia Pag Island, part of Croatia, also needs the attention of conservationists. It’s suffering from extreme soil erosion, thanks to a combination of harsh climatic conditions and human influence caused by intensive grazing and deforestation. The remaining soil sediments that make up the island’s unique landscape are under threat, and researchers are working to create digital models of the situation and prevent further erosion. Erosion can lead to negative outcomes, like soil degradation and removal, resulting in land deprivation and decreased agricultural productivity. A PhD student at the University of Zadar in Croatia has set out to model and better understand the soil erosion mechanism and intensity. He hopes that his research on Pag Island will be the basis for planning soil erosion limitation and mitigation measures that could prevent further endangerment of valuable soil sediments and grasslands. Research focusing on Pag Island is particularly valuable due to the island’s unique bare, karstic landscape and specific scarce vegetation cover. Soil sediments are the basis of the Mediterranean grassland environment, which is part of Natura 2000, a network of protected core breeding and resting sites for rare and threatened species in the European Union. Within his PhD program, soil erosion is studied on the macro, meso, and micro levels using high-resolution multispectral imagery, LiDAR, UAV photogrammetry and 3D digital surface models to detect and map remaining soil sediments and main erosion hotspots on Pag Island. He is also studying the influence of specific climate change-related intensive rain events by collecting meteorological data. His findings may help scientists preserve Pag Island’s natural landscape and maintain its remaining soil cover. Land quality and classification is a highly important factor in the health of the planet — so important that another researcher 5,000 miles away is also working to record changes in the land where she lives.

such as Atlanta. Satellite imagery and analysis algorithms are being used to assess the effect that agriculture, mining, deforestation and urban development have on the Earth’s surface. Change detection is a process that measures how the features of an area have changed over time; it often involves comparing aerial photographs and satellite imagery. A Geographic Information Science and Technology graduate student completing her master’s degree at the Georgia Institute of Technology is working to determine how urbanization has affected Georgia by comparing Landsat satellite imagery from the early 1970s, the early 1980s and the present. She will mosaic the imagery and run a Machine Learning analyst algorithm to generate change detection based on variables such as the normalized difference vegetation index. Once land cover classifications are complete for all three eras, a complete picture of the human effect on Georgia’s landscape will begin to emerge. Scientists can then determine what changes, if any, are necessary to sustain green space and other desirable characteristics in the state’s topography. An image is a snapshot of a single moment in time, but it can carry a lot of valuable information. Imagery could be used to help scientists understand how deforestation impacts Chinese pandas or how coastal development and pollution in Hong Kong have led to a significant decline in white dolphins. One of the challenges with geospatial data like the examples above is that the second you capture it, it’s outdated. So how do you extract the critical details an image contains before it’s irrelevant? With powerful, versatile processing tools, geospatial imagery can be converted into actionable information and real location intelligence that can then be used to make decisions — like how to best mitigate humanity’s effects on nature and protect the Earth. This planet is our home, so we must do our best to learn about it and take care of it if we hope to live long, healthy, productive lives.

Tracking changing land use in Atlanta, Georgia Since 1970, Georgia has experienced a population boom — the number of residents grew from 4.7 million to 9.6 million. At the same time, land use and land cover have evolved, especially in larger cities

Mike Lane, Global Education Manager, Hexagon Geospatial www.geospatialworld.net | Mar-Apr 2020

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BOOK REVIEW

Reinventing Economics for the Age of Autonomy Written by: Dr. Christopher Tucker

Published By: Atlas Observatory Press

Reviewed By: Aditya Chaturvedi

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t’s the economy stupid! James Carville, Bill Clinton’s strategist during the 1992 presidential election campaign coined this memorable phrase that has gone down to succinctly epitomize how economics is at the core of everything from politics to consumer behavior to social issues. Perhaps we need a similar catchphrase to highlight the centrality of exploding population when it comes to tackling with ecological issues? In his path breaking and thought-provoking new book, ‘A Planet of 3 Billions’, Dr. Christopher Tucker, challenges long-held economic assumptions about population being intrinsic to economic growth and stability, and calls for reinventing economics for the age of autonomy, guided by sustainability and resilience. With the premise that the Earth has far exceeded its ‘carrying capacity’ and is ecologically overburdened by increasing population, the book geographically maps the destruction of ecology over thousands of years. It highlights the intersectional relationship between population explosion, technological innovations, sociological changes, and ecological depletion. The earth’s population grew at a glacial pace for more than 200, 000 years and reached 170 million around 1CE. It was only in the 1800s that human population touched 1 billion for the first time. Dr. Tucker 62

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presents a meticulous analysis, backed by empirical data, scientific research and rigorous interdisciplinary approach to conclude that we reached our peak population capacity in 1950 – when the global population was three billion. He vigorously argues that population is at the heart of the ongoing divisive debate on climate change, which can be made more inclusive only when we reach a consensus that there could be no solution without addressing the population problem. If we unravel the enigma of global warming and climate change, it becomes clear that it is ‘only 1/10th of the larger human footprint that is undermining the carrying capacity of our planet’. Breakneck scientific, technological and agricultural advancements after the First Industrial Revolution, and further accelerated after the Second World War, led to massive urbanization, increase in longevity, and reduction in diseases and increase in living standard that led to rapid population explosion. The book establishes a direct correlation between increasing population and industrialization, urbanization, mechanization of agriculture and mass production of ammonia that lead to proliferation of fertilizers. One of the reasons, Dr. Tucker explains, why ecological thinking is not inherent to our economic thinking and policy making, is because the raging 19th century debates between Adam Smith, David Ricardo and Robert Malthus that shaped the modern capitalistic economic thinking, never took ecological toll as a consequence and the issue of waste generation into account. It was not entirely their fault because the concept of economy predates the concept of ‘nature’ and ‘ecology’ – invented by Alexander Von Humboldt in the early 19th century and Sir Arthur George Tansley in the early

20th century respectively. This is one of the reasons why we must reimagine economics, as core Neo-Classical assumptions are woefully underequipped to prepare a roadmap for climate change mitigation in the era underpinned by technological convergence. The Fourth Industrial revolution should be viewed as a Schumpeterian ‘Creative Destruction’ and not as a continuum of steady progression of technological advancements in a Neo-Ricardian framework. This more than anything prioritizes the need for a new way of economic thinking and asking aloud the population question. The book goes on a voyage of thousands of years, charts havoc wreaked by human habitation, and impels us to refresh our thinking and alter our modus operandi if we are to save the planet. What’s more – it doesn’t stop at merely diagnosing the ailments, but also provides remedial solutions in the form of a ‘cookbook’: women empowerment, smart cities, ecosphere reclamation, efficient waste management, new vocabulary of ‘growth’, reformed geo-engineering, and modernized land usage.


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