In our annual Leaders Forum, we ask experts to look ahead into 2023. Today we talk scaling up with Zack Wasson.
Zack Wasson is the founder of Diospatial, a specialist in reality capture and spatial solutions for the built and natural environments, whose clients include some of Australia’s largest government agencies, infrastructure operators, and engineering firms.
Is the geospatial sector in good shape to help solve the needs of the nation, e.g. climate change, renewable energy, infrastructure projects?
The Australian geospatial sector is playing an increasingly critical role in supporting the needs of the nation. Unfortunately, no sector is immune to the macroeconomic headwinds at play and I expect we’re going to face significant challenges over the next few years. Most critically, a chronic and worsening shortage of skilled resources needs to be addressed. From where I sit, I can see a golden opportunity for the geospatial sector to make a real difference over the next few years. I just hope, as a sector, we can sufficiently scale up to meet this demand and capitalise on the opportunity.
What are the most important challenges facing the sector?
I think there are two key challenges the sector needs to address: we need to scale up and educate to continue to meet increasing demand; and we need to accelerate the spatial maturity of our end users and stakeholders. If we can achieve these two things, we’ll be increasing our sector’s ability to meet demand and we’ll also be improving our end user’s ability to interpret, assess and make better decisions based on the services and information we provide.
Which technologies or innovations are going to make their mark in 2023?
I’m not expecting any radical innovations to arrive in 2023, but I do think we’ll see a continuation and acceleration of the trend towards spatial data and digital twins being used in every aspect of the built and natural environments. Particularly relevant to my service expertise, LiDAR surveys and photogrammetry mesh models are really starting to become the default way of doing things rather than an experimental trial. We’re seeing the LiDAR and photogrammetry market reach a ‘How did we do this before?’ point.
What’s on your wish list for 2023?
Perhaps quite specific to some of the challenges we face, I’d like to see the red tape and bureaucracy around drones reduced. We’ve become experts at navigating the bureaucracy, and perhaps that gives us a competitive advantage, but the red tape associated with some of our drone surveys is just ridiculous and counterproductive for actually reducing risk.
I’m excited to see where open data platforms and machine learning can take spatial analytics, not just in 2023 but further into the future. There’s an incredible amount of unrealised value to be unlocked from all this data we’re all racing around collecting. To unlock that value, the data needs to be accessible and there needs to be further innovation in automated analysis and processing.
What are your customers and collaborators looking for in 2023?
I think the key thing really must be accessibility and the availability of fit-for-purpose spatial data. Continuing to drive and develop industry standards will help improve interoperability of deliverables, set the benchmark for acceptable practices, and ensure that the value of a geospatial survey extends further across the lifecycle of an asset and isn’t siloed into a project-specific (short-term) need. The challenge is doing this in a way that doesn’t bog down the process of procuring and delivering the service.
What are your company’s plans or priorities for 2023?
I mean, for us, in case you haven’t noticed, it’s all about scaling up to meet demand. We’re seeing exponential growth in demand for our services and deliverables and we’re 100% focused on scaling up to meet that demand. We’re hunting for A-grade players to join the team, we’re always acquiring more of the latest equipment, and we’re making sure we set aside sufficient time each month to pay attention to R&D activities, which don’t drive short term revenue but really do move the needle on longer-term innovation and sustainable growth.
This article was first published in Issue 116 (Dec/Jan 2022-23) of Position magazine.
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