5-6 September 2019, Singapore - Quadrant CEO Mike Davie had the privilege of speaking at Location World 2019 on the topic of Co-creating Geospatial Infrastructure for Consumer Markets last Thursday, 5th September. He also gave a short introductory presentation on Quadrant and the crucial role of data in smart cities, where it can provide insights into areas like understanding and leveraging people movement patterns to build solutions, reducing budget misallocation and over-payment, improving road networks, and even delivering better healthcare.
Mike spoke alongside distinguished panelists including Ng Siau Yong, Director, GeoSpatial and Data Division & Chief Data Officer at Singapore Land Authority; Prof. Dr. Hasanuddin Z. Abidin, Head of Geospatial Information Agency of Indonesia; and Abhijit Sengupta, Head of Southeast Asia Product Operations at HERE Technologies.
As the leading provider of real-world location data at scale and quality with visibility to over half a billion mobile devices, Quadrant had a number of unique perspectives to share with the audience. The panel was timely as the commercial geospatial information industry continues to be at the forefront of innovation and development of geospatial information products that fulfil ever-greater consumer market demand.
As we head into 2020, there is greater scope than ever for collaboration between national geospatial agencies and commercial geospatial data providers towards strengthening geospatial information infrastructure at national, regional, and global levels. This will also contribute to making cities of the future smarter, more efficient, and more sustainable as we produce data at a global rate of 2.5 quintillion bytes per day.
Collaborative framework for geospatial stakeholders
From the public sector point of view, there is tremendous value to be had in developing a collaborative framework amongst the various stakeholders in the geospatial industry. Let’s look at two of the key ones. First and foremost is the issue of self-regulation. From artificial intelligence (AI) and smart sensors to cameras and facial recognition, technological advances in the geospatial industry will continue at a rapid pace.
This will inevitably raise questions in the public’s eye surrounding privacy, often leading to demands for government to step in and regulate. However, industry should get in front of this and set amongst themselves frameworks that protect individual rights while allowing for business growth and innovation. This will result in more trust and less public sector interference.
Secondly, in terms of collaboration, we have seen that as technology grows, develops, and becomes more sophisticated, the public sector risks getting left behind. Many of the benefits and advances will ultimately go to the private sector. A more collaborative approach will allow governments to benefit from these advances in the way they go about providing public services.
From the point of view of industry, they will be able to work on standardisation of technologies in order to avoid silos. Furthermore, many commercial geospatial applications (such as satellites) rely on public technologies and infrastructure, so this is an opportunity for all stakeholders to further work with each other.
Profitability, competitiveness, and sustainability
One of the key areas debated was whether, from the private sector point of view, such collaborative frameworks will affect business’s focus on profitability, competitiveness, and sustainability.
There is always a danger that the loudest voice in the room dominates the discussion and bends regulations in their favour, sometimes at the expense of smaller players. So, when exploring any collaborative framework for geospatial stakeholders, this should be kept in mind and avoided where possible.
Collective decisions may mean some firms need to curb profit-generating business practices, particularly those that could infringe on areas like privacy. However, standardisation and better communication would, in the long run, result in faster growth leading to profits and innovation.
For example, the need to ensure data provenance to bring trust to the data economy may result in some upfront costs for firms as they invest in data authentication technologies, but longer-term (as trust improves) they will benefit from more business and trusted market participants.
Strengthening the existing data infrastructure
The panel also discussed existing collaborations and partnerships between the public and private sectors already implemented in order to strengthen the data infrastructure. In Singapore, the government has a number of collaborative programmes in play across various industries.
One good example would be the Data Collaborative Programme (DCP), formerly known as the Data Sandbox Programme. This is a collaboration led by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) which seeks to work with private companies to ensure they allow for safe and economically sustainable data sharing practices.
Another example is Facebook’s work with the IMDA on an initiative called the Startup Station Singapore, aimed at start-ups that are innovating in the areas of data and AI. Given all this, how should such partnerships benefit users? Quadrant’s position is that these partnerships will prove useful provided we work with governments on two fronts.
The first is data authenticity and privacy. A lack of transparency breeds bad actors which can negatively affect both public and private sectors. So, we should work to ensure authenticity is generated. Privacy and consumer rights need to be protected to build trust.
The second concerns innovation. Singapore has been vocal on positioning itself as an AI leader and so has an interest in ensuring good quality data that can be mapped, organised, and used by firms to provide new products and services.
Watch this space: Data meets AI & IoT
Going forward from here, I believe there are two key areas that will be especially interesting to keep an eye on for both public and private stakeholders committed to co-creating geospatial infrastructure.
The first is the development in the internet of things (IoT), which will see a huge number of new gadgets and technologies enter our homes and offices. These will all be connected to the internet and, with enough collaboration, different technologies from different providers will be able to work together to create an ecosystem that is bigger and better for consumers and the market at large.
Second, AI is getting ever more powerful but is limited by the amount of good quality data available. If an AI algorithm is fed incorrect data, then the output will be incorrect. More collaboration amongst participants in the data economy will see data quality improve and thereby result in superior AI-driven products and services.
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