From the parcel ordered and delivered to you on the same day, to the morning traffic alert that diverts you along a quicker driving route, geospatial data is increasingly powering the way we go about our daily lives. As the number of goods and services underpinned by geospatial data continues to grow, the Geospatial Commission will be working with Frontier Economics to look at the features and dynamics of this ‘geospatial data market’.
Bomi Okuyiga, our Senior Economic Adviser, takes us through the details of this pivotal research exercise for the Commission.
When we think about the financial market or the property market, a fairly common understanding of the goods and services on offer, and who provides them, is likely to come to mind. But when someone mentions the ‘geospatial data market’ (“It never comes up in conversation, you say? It’s a predictably frequent event for me in this job…!”) what do we think of?
An economic market implies an area (this could be a physical area, but is increasingly digital), where buyers and sellers exchange goods and services. The forces of supply and demand also coexist in this market, determining the prices paid for products on offer. By looking specifically at a geospatial data market, as opposed to a geospatial data industry or sector, we are going beyond just understanding which companies are involved, and the products they offer. Our interest is in the dynamics of the entire geospatial data system that facilitates these exchanges between buyers and sellers, and how this may be changing.
There are a number of questions we will explore throughout the research about the geospatial data market, for example how to define it, its characteristics and the way in which it functions. Many of the insights into the market that we want to explore have not been considered in this level of depth before, and we aim to discover just how the geospatial data market has adapted and expanded over time.
What is on offer in the geospatial data market?
Geospatial data, otherwise known as location-based data, is commonly seen as a foundation upon which a wide range of services can be developed to create new information products or services.
Often, to gain the greatest insights from location-based data, it is combined with ‘non-geographic data’. For example, apps such as Petrol Prices and WhatGas combine data on the location of petrol stations alongside the prices on offer for diesel and petrol. This powerful combination of data helps drivers to easily find not only the nearest, but also the cheapest, fuel prices around them.
We can think of the different elements of the geospatial data market as a linked chain, with the activities in each chain leading to a set of product and/or service offerings that create value for businesses and consumers:
- Data capture: The collection of geospatial data through a range of methods, for example surveying, capturing satellite imagery and remote detection.
- Data management: The organisation, quality assurance and maintenance of geospatial data, including converting the data into usable formats where necessary
- Data publishing and provision: Distributing geospatial data to interested users, including businesses and consumers, using a range of tools and technologies
- Data analysis and exploitation: Interpreting geospatial data, or geospatial data combined with other types of data, in order to develop new insights that inform decision-making
- Data services: The delivery of location-based content and services to consumers, which is underpinned by geospatial data (or the insights derived from this data)
This final element of the chain shows just how wide the scope is likely to be for the potential range of data services founded upon location data. As location-based data becomes increasingly integrated into existing industries and business models, we want to discover just how wide this reach is, and what could influence its progression.
How can we define the geospatial data market?
If we expect geospatial data to become increasingly integrated into many existing markets, how will it be possible to define a standalone ‘geospatial data market’?
It may sound counterintuitive, but one thing we expect to discover as part of the research is a time limit of the presence of an isolated geospatial data market. In the same way that technology revolutionised business and transformed all aspects of the economy and society, decision-making without location-based insights will soon become obsolete.
An earlier project in the Commission used the Beauhurst platform, which tracks the UK’s fastest-growing companies, to better understand company activity amongst a sample of geospatial solution and product providers. Over 400 companies registered in the UK whose primary business proposition is related to geospatial data were identified. Although this is only a small subset of the entire geospatial data market, a number of innovative products and services using geospatial data were identified, including:
- Pointr - Pointr have created an indoor location-tracking solution, which allows you to easily navigate large buildings such as airport terminals and shopping centres. Pointr’s service, which can be developed into a mobile app, has been used in Gatwick Airport, Harrods and train stations such as London King’s Cross
- VU.CITY - VU.CITY produces 3D simulations of city spaces for use in planning and architecture, on a continuously updated digital platform. The cities covered by VU.CITY’s platform include London, New York and Paris. VU.CITY are one of the winners of our Geospatial Commission crowdsourcing competition
- Team Surv - TeamSurv uses crowdsourced data from ships and boats to measure the depths of our seas, whereby they record position and depth data as they go about their normal activities. The data is collected and processed by TeamSurv, to inform safe navigation planning, coastal engineering and ecosystem mapping
With such a broad spectrum of companies offering services underpinned by geospatial data, defining this market will have to be approached as an art, rather than a science.
How does the geospatial data market operate?
To inform our thinking on the most effective ways in which to encourage the market to innovate and add value, we need to establish how the geospatial data market functions. This includes developing an understanding of the structure of the market, and the key characteristics that influence the dynamics of how the market functions.
The scope of our work will cover both public and private sector organisations (including our Partner Bodies, known as the ‘Geo6’) and the interactions between them, as the aim is to gain a full understanding of the scope of the entire geospatial system.
We have posed a number of questions to answer as the research progresses, for example:
- Are there geospatial data types, or uses/applications of geospatial data that should exist, but do not? Why do they not exist?
- What are the different business models and revenue streams that can be observed in the geospatial data market?
- What other markets/ecosystems is the geospatial data market integrated into, and how is this transforming commercial activity?
If you have a particular interest in the geospatial data market or want to find out more about the progress of the work, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.