The geospatial data sector is developing fast in the global environment. It is driven by major corporations such as Google (Alphabet), Microsoft, Apple and Huawei. Digitalisation and the resulting spread of AI and robotisation are increasing the significance of geospatial data and accurate positioning.
Applications depending on geospatial data include smart transport, digitalisation in agriculture, forestry and cities, and digital twins. Even stricter requirements are being set for geospatial data regarding joint use, accuracy and reliability. Current geospatial data is updated and specified at all times. New projects will also automate its collection.
Benefits for society: savings of billions in digitalisation projects
Geospatial data has become a key factor in major international projects, including the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). These projects would not be possible if it were not for a modern geospatial data infrastructure and analysis. On the European scale, the Commission’s framework programme Horizon Europe and the Digital Europe programmes largely define how digitalisation is developed in Europe.
At the end of last year, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry ordered an international evaluation of the research conducted by the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute (FGI) of the National Land Survey of Finland (NLS). An international scientific expert group evaluated the quality and impact of the FGI’s research as excellent. According to the expert group, FGI’s scientific research is of the highest international standard and its expertise is highly valued around the world. The research conducted by FGI is broadly used in society, in the transport and communications sector, safety and security, defence, and in the environmental and construction sectors, for example.
Benefits for companies: innovation for commercial activities
For example, the accurate forest inventory, which is based on modern laser scanning, has been developed in cooperation between FGI and forestry companies. Companies receive tens of millions of euros per year in financial benefits, and this also produces a significant societal impact.
The methodology is still under development, and current research focuses on the development of a smart harvester with Finnish industrial companies. Other societally significant projects include research of reference systems (coordinates and the elevation system) and their links to international systems, research of satellite positioning and jamming, research of smart vehicles and drones, as well as digital twins.
In all of its operations, FGI aims to engage all companies that transfer FGI’s innovation to commercial activities. The Location Innovation Hub (LIH), FGI’s latest European Digital Innovation Hub project, accelerates these activities especially in the sector of small and medium-sized enterprises.
The next Government will have an excellent opportunity to copy a piece of the strategy of the world’s largest companies, update the report on spatial data policy, and invest in geospatial data expertise. This will return billions of euros through successful automation and digitalisation projects.
The author is the Deputy Director General of the NLS’s Finnish Geospatial Research Institute.
In the National Land Survey of Finland blog, different authors discuss various matters topical to the National Land Survey of Finland.