01 - 03 February, 2021
Intercontinental London – The O2
44 (0) 207 368 9836
Q&A with John Kedar, Fr. Director International Engagement, Ordnance Survey
John Kedar served a career in the UK armed forces, including leading its deployable GEOINT capabilities. He has subsequently worked for six years as Ordnance Survey’s Director of International Engagement, during which time he helped grow Ordnance Survey’s global reputation and steer the development of the United Nations Integrated Geospatial Information Framework (IGIF). He is now working independently and will be chairing at DGI 2020.
We sat down with John Kedar to find out more about how geospatial organisations are opening the door to innovation. Here’s what he had to say…
How do you think geopolitics could affect accessibility to 5G for geospatial intelligence organisations across the globe?
A large number of the apps on people's devices rely on location, so as 5G usage increases huge amounts of location-based data will be produced. Further to this, we'll see greater IoT connectivity, and increased machine to machine communication such as connected automated vehicles. The questions over data privacy and security are becoming much more pressing in a fairly unregulated space. In a global scenario, decisions about who and what receives what type of data, features and attributes, can be difficult to determine.
The internet has given us more access to geospatial intelligence than ever before, 5G will only serve to enhance that. We need to start using the data that is available better and faster to improve judgement calls and gain the advantage whilst recognising privacy.
As the resolution of imagery gets better, do you foresee any issues between GIS and privacy regulations such as GDPR?
GDPR in Europe has started to wake people up to the fact that they own their personal data, and that it needs to be protected. That will be an increasingly significant driver in the era of IoT and 5G in order to stop people’s daily activity becoming public information. With increasing amounts of data collection being undertaken, the approach to privacy must continually be reassessed. Under GDPR, I think GEOINT organisations will have to be very careful how they use, handle and release high-quality imagery, from whatever source, if people and their actions are recognisable.
What will be the next disruptive imagery collection platform?
On the more traditional side, microsatellites are very cheap, meaning you can gain greater persistence. However, because of their size, they don’t have the same resolution as larger, more expensive satellites. The disruptive innovation I think we’ll start to see more of over the coming years is High Altitude Pseudo Satellites (HAPS).
HAPS are drones with massive wingspans, and typically solar-powered which also wins environmentally. They fly much higher than the traditional height of drone and aircraft. They have a smaller payload than aircraft but more than microsatellites, but it’s plentyto support high quality sensors, for example a survey standard camera, and a communication system. HAPS have the potential to provide persistence as they can stay aloft for weeks and months, collecting and downloading sensor data. Add good automated feature extraction and the cost of geospatial information reduces significantly and can be better maintained.
On the less traditional side, another disruptive imagery capture platform is social media. There is so much imagery online through social media and other on-line platforms that it is becoming disruptive to traditional collection. If you’re trying to build 3D images of a city, social media might give you access to images of buildings, streets, metro facilities and inside shopping centres. It works against us too - I’ve seen photos posted on social media by soldiers on guard duty outside military bases.
Some of this disruption will be competitive, but our community must focus on the complementary aspects of different sources, of which there are many. Advantage will come from properly understanding the challenges we seek to solve and the associated decisions, using the best appropriate sources, data integration and analytics.
Where will AI and ML be able to streamline operations in the future?
As AI and ML advance, geospatial professionals can start to create a more rounded picture from increasingly accessible open sources. The information is there, but it’s dispersed between so many sources that we need techniques to get through the fog in order to get meaningful insights.
AI is a great buzz word, but it isn’t going to solve anything immediately. It takes a long time to develop and we must judge between reality and hype. But it does have the potential to find and bring different sources together, quality check for trust-worthiness and leave geospatial intelligence analysts free to focus on getting closer to decision making and complex problem-solving. It won’t happen overnight but eventually I think the drudgery of data sourcing and integration will become much less prevalent.
How can geospatial organisations in a notoriously closed industry foster a culture of innovation?
Internally, geospatial organisations tend to have a culture which facilitates innovation. The UK has the Geovation Hub in London, which is supported by the UK MoD, and Singapore’s GeoWorks is another good example of this. Both are aimed at helping small businesses and start-ups use geospatial techniques.
Where we’re falling short is breaking across the industry boundaries. Geospatial data and tools are used across many industries. For example, Uber is founded on geospatial data and geospatial tools. We need a better bridge from traditional industry players into these new ‘geospatial industries’. The World Geospatial Industry Council, which was launched last year, is a step in the right direction. It works with a number of established geospatial players to open up communication and geospatial understanding across industrial sectors.
Resource scarcity and environmental change were the most commonly selected top drivers for adoption of GIS, do you agree with this?
I wouldn’t disagree with environmental change and resource scarcity being amongst the top drivers. If you’re in the Maldives, rising sea-levels are critical, if in the Sahel the management of water is increasingly important. We’ve had some interesting discussions in the UN in recent years, and smaller island states often prioritise the remit of geospatial in a very different light to the western developed countries. Disaster management and climate change go hand in hand. It’s one of many factors impacting design and use of GIS and associated web services.
However, I think there’s a lot more at play here. Economic development is a massive driving force for geospatial. For example, understanding where your buried utilities are can reduce the cost of repairing leaks by pinpointing exactly where the pipes are. It can reduce the cost of road works and the amount of time roads are closed which has a direct impact on the economy. The insurance industry also benefits from using property specific data, such as terrain for flood risk. The great thing about fundamental geospatial data is that the same trusted data supports management of scarce resources, economic development, the environment and social betterment.
John Kedar will be chairing at DGI 2020. Download the agenda for more details.