"A bridge must be built between research and everyday production to allow research outcomes to be put smoothly in practice," states the Director-General of the National Land Survey (NLS) in his blog. The Finnish Spatial Research Institute (FGI) at the NLS has taken some initiatives that affect all of us and also offer opportunities to other public organisations and small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as large ones.
Crowdsourced mobile data refined into information products – openly but safely
The FGI has started a three-year project, one of three to be financed as a strategic research opening by Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation. The project, called MyGeoTrust collects spatial data of users of mobile devices by crowdsourcing. This is what, for example, Google and Apple – who together control 96 percent of the spatial data market – are doing, but they do it in a way that gives the person providing the data no say in how it is used. In addition, they keep such a tight hold on spatial data that small and medium-sized enterprises or innovative companies cannot access them or use them to build their business.
FGI collects crowdsourced spatial data at terms set by the users and for the benefit of communities and businesses. Users of mobile devices can control who gains access to their data, in which form and for what purpose. At the same time, users gain access to useful spatial data applications.
Businesses gain access to application programming interfaces (APIs) to utilise information products developed from crowdsourced mobile data. These have their uses in many lines of business – for example in transportation, advertising, urban planning, entertainment and education.
This strategic research opening is based on the varied expertise of the FGI. Partners include the University of Helsinki and several companies, such as HERE (Nokia), Sanoma and KONE. Cooperation and openness are principles that enabled Linus Torvalds to create the Linux operating system at a time when Microsoft and Apple dominated the market of personal computer operating systems.
Mobility as a service rather than vehicles and tickets
FGI also participates together with 23 other organisations – both public and private – in the first mobility operator in the world. With the help of a mobility operator, it is possible to combine traffic services of several service providers into integrated travel chains, packages that travellers can order as needed.
Even in mobility, we are going to take advantage of digitalisation, servicising, sharing economy and automation. FGI provides spatial data research results and expertise in positioning technologies and map user interfaces to the transport operator. Participants include the public transport provider Helsinki Region Transport, the telecoms operators Elisa and Sonera, the network company Ericsson, the bank and insurance company OP, systems provider Siemens, the US taxi service provider Uber and The Finnish Taxi Owners Federation's corporate services. The goal of the mobility operator is to have a million subscribers worldwide by 2018.
Laser scanning and the positioning service FinnRef
The laser scanning expertise and the positioning service FinnRef developed by FGI deserve their own story. Laser scanning is the foundation for, among other things, a very precise three-dimensional map, which shows the topographic features of the whole country at a precision of 20–30 centimetres. Laser scanning data is a part of the NLS' open data that is freely available to all.
The FinnRef positioning service offers an open and precise positioning signal to organisations and the general public. The service makes it possible to determine one's position in a reliable and more precise way than before.
Both laser scanning and positioning services have signified savings of several million euros for Finnish society. More information about laser scanning and FinnRef will follow another time.
Deputy Director-General, FGI