In our Leaders Forum, we ask experts to look ahead into 2023. Today we talk automation with Felix Reinshagen.
Felix Reinshagen, co-founder of NavVis, previously worked as a software engineer and IT architect, and then held positions at McKinsey & Company in various international locations. He is a member of the Bavarian AI Council.
Is the geospatial sector in good shape to help solve the needs of the nation, e.g. climate change, renewable energy, infrastructure projects?
The COVID pandemic has given a boost to the geospatial sector because it has made the need for a digitised version of our physical reality very clear. Travel restrictions and inaccessible infrastructure have shifted mindsets, and the many who have begun to incorporate digital services into their workflows have become accustomed to the benefits.
The sector can also make a strong positive contribution in tackling climate change by increasing the ability to carry out daily planning, inspection and coordination activities from a screen, reducing the need for (and cost of) travel. If we consider the complex transition to renewable energy, as well as urban and infrastructure projects, geospatial services enable you to start with a very detailed, accurate and up-to-date version of the physical context.
What are the most important challenges facing the sector?
One of the biggest challenges is the shortage of qualified labour. We’re moving into times of increasing need for geospatial services in projects related to infrastructure, interior refurbishment and industrial planning, and the industry has struggled to provide the skilled labour needed to cope with the volume of work — not only digital competence but also very specific and scarce know-how.
The solution? Automation. Many are trying to improve it, but I think NavVis is leading the way. Historically, data acquisition, processing, and cleaning have always taken a long time. SLAM is a very important factor in partially automating fieldwork, as well as cloud-based and automated post-processing and data cleaning and delivery.
Which technologies or innovations are going to make their mark in 2023?
We’re likely to see a total explosion of cloud-based services in the geospatial market, which, until now, has lagged. These services have already been in the race for a few years; however, particularly in the geospatial sector, there was some hesitation for security and bandwidth reasons. 2022 showed us that even some of the most reluctant market players, such as government institutions and large corporations, have moved to cloud-based services.
What’s on your wish list for 2023?
I believe that the promise of AI in the geospatial world has not yet been fulfilled, for many reasons. As far as RGB imagery is concerned, there has already been some progress, and big players such as Google are already successfully implementing AI. But the technology has not yet reached a wider user base.
Usually, when someone in the market says that AI is at work, there are still a lot of man-hours and traditional algorithms behind the scenes. Next year, I expect much wider adoption of some of the capabilities that AI and large-scale neural networks have unlocked. I hope that what the newest generation of architecture has done for natural language processing and image generation, will be applied to the geospatial industry as well.
What are your customers and collaborators looking for in 2023?
In 2023, I think we’ll continue to see a discrepancy between the amount of work that could be done and the work that’s needed to efficiently boost our economies with the current workforce available. So, ultimately, it’s about automating both field and office work. In the field, SLAM technology will sweep the market, while in the office, cloud-based workflows will greatly reduce time and eliminate the need for manual work.
What are your company’s plans or priorities for 2023?
Further automation of the entire workflow. The digital model of a site will require repeated scans and we want to provide an extremely simple, easy-to-use, and labour- and cost-efficient workflow to increase productivity from field to finish. Synchronisation between the physical reality and the digital model needs to progress further to bring the digital twin concept to life, and this will be a big priority for us in 2023.
This article was first published in Issue 116 (Dec/Jan 2022-23) of Position magazine.
Stay up to date by getting stories like this delivered to your inbox.
Sign up to receive our free weekly Spatial Source newsletter.