The ‘smart’ use of geospatial data can transform outcomes for large estate owners, writes Adrian Burgess of PCSG
Each day the amount of data we are exposed to grows exponentially. Everyday items – from watches to TVs – now double as data sources, while the rise of mobile technology, advances in capturing techniques and networked sensors are all contributing to the phenomenon.
For built environment professionals, embracing this digital world is key to transforming performance in an industry that has traditionally lagged others in productivity.
But the value lies not in the data alone – it is in the ability to structure it, make sense of it and connect it up to help with improved decision-making and the delivery of better project outcomes.
As Jonathan Rosenberg, the former Google executive and adviser to Alphabet CEO, Larry Page, famously wrote in his blog: “Data is the sword of the 21st century, those who wield it well, the Samurai.”
The critical questions for asset owners/operators and developers are these:
- How do we leverage this mass of data to take better, more cost-effective decisions?
- How do we harness it to cut the time spent executing tasks or to resolve a decision over whether to forge ahead with a proposed development?
- How do we maintain control over it?
Fully exploited, relevant data will support business decisions or activities not just for short-term decision-making but across the whole lifetime of an asset or portfolio of assets.
Place-tagging data: Providing vital context for asset owners
Within this debate, one area currently under the spotlight is geospatial or ‘place-tagging’ data. Connected with data about assets – and made readily available – geospatial data has the potential to unlock huge value for developers, asset owners and operators by providing them with vital context about the local built and natural environment and community to inform their decisions.
The growing interest in this area – and recognition of the pivotal role that geospatial will play in the move to a fully Digital Built Britain – was underlined by its deployment as a key theme in October’s Digital Construction Week.
Identified as one of the seven ‘key’ trends for the sector, the organisers of the event said that “…a precise understanding of the physical is essential. It allows us to better understand, plan, predict and deliver.”
In November, with my colleague, Stephen Crompton from GroupBC, I presented at an event that was dedicated solely to the exploitation of geospatial data by the AEC sector. The GEODesign + BIM show in Amsterdam provided a platform for built environment professionals from across spatial planning, architecture, geospatial analytics, engineering and construction to share ideas and knowledge.
Its focus was to improve “(understanding of) how to put geospatial data to smart use…in a world where there is a growing demand for higher performing infrastructure and a focus among owners to maximise the return on their investment”.
Even the Chancellor has seized on its potential, with an announcement in the November Budget of a new Geospatial Commission to make the UK’s large bank of geospatial data more freely available.
The announcement is a further boost to the UK’s status as a world leader in digital innovation and an example of how advances in technology can be used to foster economic growth, deliver outstanding public services and generate savings for citizens.
Location-aware technologies are revolutionising the economy. From navigating public transport to tracking supply chains and planning efficient delivery routes, the digital services built on GPS and the current mapping data have quietly become everyday parts of daily life and commerce.
PCSG: Driving forward the geospatial agenda
At PCSG, we have been driving forward the agenda to connect built asset (BIM) data with geospatial data sets for some time.
Two years ago, we joined forces with Ordnance Survey (which today brands itself as a ‘big data company’) and GroupBC to research how we could best link these two areas to help large asset owners and operators resolve their day-to-day challenges.
The outcome was the unveiling last May of GeoConnect+, a cloud-based platform that connects BIM information with geospatial data sets via a common geo reference to enable asset teams to better manage large, disparate estates.
Owners can gain a detailed grip on information linked to their asset/proposed asset – equipping themselves with everything from data about ground conditions to surrounding natural and built environment constraints and social-economic data. In short, they can effectively combine information about the outside world with the inside.
Assets can be viewed on the map interface, layered with open datasets. Though this data has always been available, it was previously expensive and timely to access. With GeoConnect+, it is available to any team member on a web browser.
Early adopters of our new platform, Thames Water and JT Mackley, the civil engineer, have both reported an improvement in the effectiveness of their existing Common Data Environments (CDEs) through being able to connect once separated datasets from their in-house GIS and publicly available open datasets from Ordnance Survey.
The incentive to geolocate information is self-explanatory in a world where relevant information is pushed out to smart devices as you enter rooms, inspect and maintain equipment in remote facilities.
With the enhancements in location-aware technologies, the power of ‘where’ and geolocating our built asset information will become ever-more significant. To find out more about GeoConnect+ and how PCSG can help you to extract more value from built environment data contact firstname.lastname@example.org.