Spatial data has potential 

Text: Jaana Mäkelä

A little more than one fifth of all benefits enabled by spatial data has been realised so far. The built environment shows the highest potential.

Kaksi lelurekkaa nokakkain.
Kuva: Julia Hautojärvi.


The Report on spatial data policy and the Geospatial Platform Project, which are part of the Government’s Digitalisation of Public Services key projects, have made decision-makers at the highest level aware of spatial data and related benefits.

The economic impact of using spatial data was analysed in Spatineo’s study conducted in summer 2018. The study mainly analysed the potential impact in four ecosystems: bioeconomy, the built environment, social services and healthcare and traffic. Spatineo’s study is a meta-analysis of previous Finnish and international studies, the results of which were applied to Finnish conditions. One core requirement for using an existing study was that spatial data needed to be an integral part of a product, application or service, the use of which provides economically productive activities for public organisations, companies or citizens. The study also analysed the percentage of the benefits enabled by the Geospatial Platform of the total value.

According to the study, the annual potential benefits of using spatial data in Finland are up to EUR 13 billion, but only 22%, or EUR 3 billion, has been realised so far. When these analysed benefits are compared with Finland’s GDP, which was EUR 223.5 billion in 2017, or with the percentage of public expenses from GDP, which was 55% in 2017, the potential benefits are notable particularly in improving the efficiency of operations, but also in the production of new products and services. The ecosystems analysed in the study play a significant part in Finland’s economic growth. Bioeconomy made up EUR 60 billion (27%) of GDP, the built environment comprised EUR 34 billion (15%), healthcare and wellness services accounted for EUR 21 billion (9.4%), and transport covered EUR 22 billion (10%).

Only 14% of the potential of the built environment has been realised

The most significant benefits, EUR 5.9 billion in total, can be achieved in the ecosystem of the built environment. New technologies, such as LIDAR, enhanced GNSS, sensors, machine con- trol, machine learning and augmented reality, enable the use of smart 3D models in the planning and construc- tion of buildings and infrastructure. According to the Australian study (Economic value of spatial informa- tion in NSW, 2017), as much as 20% of planning and construction costs can be saved if 3D data models produced by companies and public organisations are combined. In Finland, this would mean annual savings of EUR 320 million in planning and EUR 3.5 billion in construction. Currently, only 14% of the potential benefits of the built environment have been realised.

The City of Espoo has estimated that it could save up to 30% of its infrastructure planning costs if the information required are available in the form of data models. Using laser scanning data and aerial photos, it is possible to inspect the building and dwelling registry and the status of illegal buildings. Based on the study conducted by FCG, Finnish municipalities have buildings outside of property taxation at a value of EUR 200–300 million.

Satellite imagery services are also expected to improve the efficiency of planning and monitoring of the built environment. For example, the European Union’s free Copernicus data is expected to produce the most benefits in agriculture and in the monitoring of the built environment.

Potential in social services and healthcare is difficult to estimate

In the field of social services and healthcare, the potential benefits of using spatial data in planning and implementation of services were estimated to be EUR 255–510 million.

The actual potential is difficult to estimate, as studies conducted in this area are not easily available. Aapeli Leminen’s study (Positio 2/2017), which combined the potential of using health technology and spatial data, is an excel- lent example of the development of services in healthcare. By decreasing 50% of diabetes patients’ follow-up visits to health centres for monitoring purposes by means of self-monitoring, combined with the optimised number and location of health centres through the analysis of spatial data, would produce savings of 60% in total monitoring costs and patient transport costs in the North Karelia region. At the national level, annual savings could be as high as EUR 35–40 million.

In the field of home care services, route optimisation can produce savings of more than 10% in working hours. These can in turn be invested directly in customer care. The value of time savings is EUR 13–25 million.

Transportation optimisation can still be improved

In public transport, the annual total benefit to citizens of the use of route planning is estimated at EUR 12–75 million. The use of navigation applications in private driving produces annual savings of EUR 24 million in fuel costs and savings of EUR 540 million in work-related travel.

Transport planning helps to produce savings of at least 10% from transport costs. This would result in savings of more than EUR 700 million in the industrial sector and in savings of more than EUR 600 million in trade sector. The currently estimated deployment rate is 30%, meaning that EUR 400 million of these benefits have been realised.

The Geospatial Platform will produce benefits of hundreds of millions of euros

The economic benefits enabled by the Geospatial Platform and its services extend to all four ecosystems. In 2025, the direct economic benefits produced by the Geospatial Platform are esti- mated to be EUR 150 million and its indirect benefits are estimated at EUR 400 million per year. These estimates are based on cost-benefit calculations related to the Geospatial Platform and an assessment which spatial data and services of the Platform are needed in different ecosystems.

The direct economic benefits of the Address Information Service of the Geospatial Platform are estimated to be EUR 12 million per year. Based on Charles Prescott’s study (Prescott 2015, What Is the Value of an Address?), it was estimated that the value of the Address Information Service in commercial services is more than EUR 100 million.

Potential cannot be realised without hard work

The economic benefits of the use of spatial data focus on cost savings through improved operational efficiency. How- ever, this efficiency cannot be realised without innovative applications and services that are developed by Finnish companies as well.

The huge potential of the use of spatial data cannot be realised without a strong will and hard work. We need to have courage and enthusiasm to test and deploy new methods and develop operational processes. We also need to invest in research in order to utilize new technologies. In addition, stakeholders need to engage in close long-term cooperation in ecosystems.


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