Q&A with driving forces behind Locate ’18 & Geosmart Asia

By on 24 January, 2018

Gary Maguire & Dr Zaffar Sadiq Mohamed-Ghouse

Locate ’18 is approaching rapidly, and will be joining forces with GeoSmart Asia 2018 for a special combined event in Adelaide. The recently released 2026 Spatial Industry Growth and Transformation Agenda will form a roadmap for the development of the national spatial industry in the decade to come, and combining of the two key geospatial conferences in the Asia-Pacific will play a key role in establishing the initial control point, upon which the agenda will build. Ahead of the 2018 event in April, we throw some questions at two of the driving forces behind Locate, Gary Maguire and Dr. Zaffar Sadiq Mohamed-Ghouse.

Dr. Zaffar Sadiq Mohamed-Ghouse is currently the NSW Director of Business, Research & International Relations at the CRC for Spatial Information, Australia’s peak research organisation for spatial, and Chairman of the board for Locate.

Gary Maguire is the Senior Geospatial Intelligence Officer for the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, South Australia. He is responsible for providing advice and direction on issues of interest to the Government of South Australia, and for leading the co-ordination, development, and implementation of cross-government geospatial systems and data-driven decision making outcomes. He is the Conference Convenor for GeoSmart Asia2018/ Locate18.

Position Mag: Dr. Zaffar and Gary, it’s a pleasure to feature you both as we look ahead to 2018. Last year was a huge year for the geospatial industry in Australia. Dr. Zaffar, at this time last year, you suggested that transformational developments over the next two decades would include wearables, autonomous transport, a significant erosion of privacy and an expansion of AI’s role in the semantic web. How have the developments in geospatial over 2017 altered this forecast?

Gary: Every day we see or hear of new uses in data or technology, advancement in scientific research and/or new technology that improves business outcomes or enhances our lives. Over the past year machine learning, artificial intelligence, cloud computing and robotics have change the landscape of the geospatial industry – and become more normalised. We are seeing more and more sensors coming online, resulting in massive amounts of data being collected. Governments are opening their data to the world. All this information has to be stored somewhere and the cloud is becoming the platform of choice. Machine learning technology is speeding the processing of complex analytics and changing the way the world does business with geospatial information. We are seeing Artificial Intelligence changing the way collect, manage, disseminate and interact with information and technology.

Zaffar: Blockchain is another upcoming area – a means of having secured property transactions which involves geospatial. The advancement of panoramic technology to capture real world information from a variety of platforms such as airborne (UAV), motor vehicles, cycling and even by walking has excited geospatial professionals to assist in creating affordable and accurate geospatial information. Further, advancement in surveying — accurate data capture technologies and high precision remote sensor technologies, have been exciting developments for geospatial professionals.

Are there any seismic shifts that have occurred or begun this year? How might the industry need to recalibrate?

Gary: Over the past 12 months, we’ve seen a dramatic shift for the spatial industry. One major event occurred in August. The announcement by the federal government to establish a National Space Agency for Australia will affect every person in our sector. SIBA, SSSI and many science based research groups have been longtime supporters of advancing a space agenda for Australia. Because of this initiative, it will bring an array of downstream benefits and new business opportunities to the whole geospatial sector in years to come.

The geospatial sector will need to extend itself into the space industry. Our sector needs to connect, understand and partner with the new world of space technology. At the same time, we need to work towards developing a complete supply chain model of space and geospatial. This will include advancing STEM education, scientific research, and training to open up new business opportunities for the geospatial industry. We also have an obligation to educate the space industry on the value that can be achieved through partnerships with geospatial sciences.

How has the market for geospatial services developed this year? In the Australian market, which client industries are adapting most effectively to integrating technology and services? Where do you see the most significant growth occurring?

Zaffar: As per the latest AlphaBeta Report, digital maps drives US$1.2 trillion of sales around the world. Digital maps are consumed in the form of apps for navigation and has reduced consumer benefits worth over US$550 billion by saving people’s time and fuel when traveling, as per the AlphaBeta report. From  an Australian perspective, construction, industry, logistics, agriculture, mining, defence and utility industries are all major adaptors of geospatial.  Health is also growing rapidly as an upcoming area for a spatial-enabled major transformation.

Locate18 is joining forces with Geosmart Asia and will be taking place in Adelaide. What can you tell me about the reasoning behind this partnership, and choice of location?

Gary: The thinking was to bring together two premier geospatial conferences from the Asia-Pacific region – to showcase the regional geospatial industry to all business sectors, in and outside geospatial. Our aim is to bring together executives, senior managers, technologists and data scientists working in government, the private sector, academia and not-for-profit. Showcase innovators, technologists, scientists and leaders who are willing to share their ideas, knowledge, and experiences on a wide range of subjects that will pave the way in defining the future direction of the spatial industry, while developing a richer culture of geospatial sciences around the world.

Why Adelaide, South Australia? It was recently named the fifth most livable city in the world by The Economist in 2017! The Adelaide Convention Centre has just finished a $397 million redevelopment overlooking the beautiful River Torrens and Adelaide Oval. We will be using these new facilities for the conference. Hotel accommodation is affordable on any budget and most hotels are not more than 10 minutes’ walk from the convention centre. There has been strong activation projects in the city laneways with many new bars, cafes and restaurants opening up – so delegates can extend their networking outside the conference centre. Finally, Adelaide has many direct flights, both nationally and internationally – more than some people think!

The event’s theme is ‘The Art, Science and Business of Geospatial’. Are there specific trends this theme responds to, or wants to develop as an agenda? How does this speak to tradition and disruption in the sector?

Zaffar: Cartography is the art and science of map making. In today’s innovation led world, digital cartography and 3D Cartography play a huge role to communicate digital maps to end users, in the form of apps and web-based platforms. The conference theme reflects the arts and science in this regard, in addition to business and user segments.

Gary: The theme was for us to explore what geospatial science and technology means to us. More importantly, what does it mean to a community that may not know that we exist? We wanted this conference to be a celebration of our industry and our people. To highlight the leadership in research sciences, innovators applying the art of geo-thinking in technology and data science, provide a platform for business to engage with existing and emerging markets. The conference will have several traditional themes like surveying, GIS, remote sensing, but this year we introduce verticals around defence intelligence, disaster management, agribusiness, smart cities, health, population and energy. We will have key session around disruptive sectors like the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and drones. We’ll also have skill development sessions around design thinking, communication and professional development, and an interaction zone within the exhibition centre, where delegates can hear directly from the vendors about their products, solutions and technical offerings.

Along with Locate, other bodies such as SIBA GITA and SSSI coordinate activities and initiatives to promote and celebrate the industry, such as the APSCA and SIBA GITA awards. How can people get involved?

Gary: With the joining up of two prestigious conference in 2017, and now GeoSmart Asia2018 and Locate18, we believe the Locate board has demonstrate its commitment to creating an environment that can advance the industry and its people. The Asia-Pacific Spatial Excellence Awards Gala dinner is just one way that our industry can showcase excellence and congratulate our leaders and innovators of the profession. We continue to see support year-on-year from industry associations, and in future we may see other organization wanting to participate in this prestigious event. The abstracts are open now. We really want you to share your stories – to inspire others and create new conversations.

This interview first appeared in the December/January 2018 edition of Position Magazine. To read more about the upcoming Locate Conference along with major features looking at the impact of artificial intelligence and developments in BIM, among others, check out the digital edition of the magazine here.

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