The dust is finally settling after another stellar Locate conference, and four phenomena revealed themselves as ubiquitous, rapidly developing and happening right now.
Locate co-located with Geosmart Asia for 2018 to provide a bustling, inspiring three days of presentations, networking, and socialising for delegates at the Adelaide Convention Centre.
Whilst being physically impossible to attend all the promising sessions across the seven concurrent tracks presented in the event’s main program, certain developments, trends and technologies revealed themselves as ubiquitous over the course of the conference.
Below we summarise some of the key take-aways and trends of this year’s Locate — ideas and developments that wove themselves through a myriad of applications, technologies and disciplines, and will continue to make their presence felt in the years to come.
1. Women to the front
Diversity and inclusion in the geospatial industry was a powerful and recurrent theme at this year’s conference. Packed out sessions in the Interaction Zone led by Mary Lewitzka, Penny Baldock and Georgie Cassar with the Women in Geospatial Science Professional Network (WGSPN), and Jacobs’ inclusion champion Mary-Ellen Feeney saw delegates flocking well above the seating capacity (including a large cohort of geospatial men), capitalising on a current wave of initiative and energy to promote diversity in the spatial sciences. Strategies on building inclusive networks across genders, skillsets and industries were discussed, along with an impromptu talk from Sharon Ferrier on approaches to improving public presentations. The spatial diversity leadership group led by SIBA|GITA chair Deanna Hutchinson met in person on April 9. Women in spatial leadership roles were well represented across the conference program — watch this space.
2. Industry 4.0
References to the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ came thick and fast over the course of the conference. Whilst not all commentators may agree on the precise extent of this phenomenon, it’s clear that the confluence of automation and M2M communication that promises to redefine manufacturing processes will have far-reaching impacts for most forms of commerce, the lives of individuals and government alike.
Within this broad transformation, manufacturing costs are beginning to be decimated and decentralised, and consumers will begin to see Uber-like transformations of service to cost-ratios in unexpected places — insurance provision, food production, construction, creative industries.
Spatial will not be spared — and this unique confluence of factors should be embraced and harnessed. Augmented Reality, which could be considered a part of this catch-all tranformation, is already transforming the geospatial industry and BIM work practices, but Spookfish’s Simon Cope offered some further thoughts on its impact on our industry in his closing keynote.
Cope sees two of Industry 4.0’s key drivers as critical to the geospatial industry. Firstly the massive explosion in data, specifically capture data, and then automation of storage and processing, with automated analytics systems that are developing rapidly in their wake. In a market made up of thousands of vertical applications, he sees open solutions and partnerships as key to harnessing this evolutionary step effectively — and one that will substantially change how spatial companies operate, not just the products and services they offer.
3. AI and machine learning
Another key driver of Industry 4.0 is the rapid advancement of artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques — better represented than ever at this year’s Locate. Stunning examples of products and services that harness or are built upon these techniques as foundational technologies were on display throughout Locate ’18, including PSMA Australia’s Geoscape, Consilium and DigitalGlobe’s freshly-launched GAIA and many more, with a dedicated track running all Tuesday. It is these techniques powering the rapid growth of automated analytics of capture data, with increasing numbers of self-learning algorithms training away on an ever-growing store of satellite and aerial imagery.
4. Cloud power
So the cloud is nothing new, but its flexibility and ubiquity continues to expand at scale, and the competence offered by heavyweights such as AWS is supercharging the proliferation of automated processing and analytics. Mark Korver, Geospatial lead at AWS (formerly Amazon Web Services) pulled no punches in his lean presentation on how AWS spurs innovation in the spatial industry. Mark powered through a list of spatial powerhouse projects built upon, or migrated to AWS’ serverless technologies, including MapBox, Planet Labs and NASA’s ambitious Cumulus, a cloud platform under development to showcase NASA’s over 22 petabytes of open Earth Observation data, with two datacentre-class operations being entirely virtualised, managed and hosted by AWS.
But the real killer app is the horsepower on tap offered by AWS and other cloud service providers for those needing to train self-learning neural networks. Any student or researcher with a classifier or clustering algorithm and a stack of data to train it can now hire almost untapped power — as many TFLOPS as you need, a decade of CPU years overnight — and by morning have a fully trained model. Citing the Azavea project as an example of this technique, Korver then introduced AWS’ SageMaker product, designed precisely for this purpose.
Standouts in a sea of highlights
As previously suggested, finding highlights in the Locate – Geosmart Asia ’18 program was nigh on impossible — there were simply too many intriguing sessions, keynotes and events.
Locate convenor Gary Maguire warmly welcomed all attendees with his opening address, kicking off day two, followed by Fleet Space Technologies’ Flavia Tata-Nardini with an inspiring keynote alongside Google’s Ed Parsons and Oregon’s Chief Geography Officer Cy Smith, setting the stage for a bustling market day and packed special edition of GeoRabble.
Surveyors were well represented at this year’s conference, and the presentations in the GDA2020 track led by ICSM chair Michael Giudici were overflowing.
Fascinating sessions in the Health and Community track were well attended despite kicking bright and early on the morning following the Asia Pacific Spatial Excellence Awards Gala, with Dr. Neil Coffee opening proceedings and detailed presentations from Mark Daker, Dr. Saad Alsharah and Penny Baldock, Minister for the Department for Communities and Social Inclusion
Julia Mitchell of the CRCSI provided a comprehensive on the rapid progress and uptake of the SBAS testbed, and the wealth of new applications made possible by the new resolution offered by precise point positioning (PPP) in the industry trials currently underway.
Marking a year since it’s launch, the 2026 Spatial Industry and Growth Transformation Agenda team gave a detailed set of updates on their progress towards key initiatives and core activity pillars, announcing a more secure and far-reaching funding base at the same time, and also previewing the CRCSI’s successor entity, FrontierSI.
There were simply not enough time in three days for this delegate to see more of Locate ’18, but you can see more coverage from attendees, speakers and organisers at the #Locate18 hashtag on Twitter.
Congratulations to the entire organising team and everybody who participated for such a multifaceted, inspiring event.