3 Geospatial Industry Thought Leaders Share a Look at 2017 & Geo Industry Outlook, Trends to Watch in 2018

geotech industry outlook 2018

Year end is rapidly approaching and that leaves us with the usual questions: what was hot in 2017 and what’s on the horizon for the GeoTech industry in 2018? I reached out to several GeoTech industry leaders for their opinion and they enthusiastically shared their thoughts, experience, and vision.  Thanks to James Fee, Anthony Quartararo, and Geoff Zeiss for contributing their opinions and optimism for the industry. So, what do you think is going to be HOT in 2018?

James Fee, CTO, CityZenith

How was your 2017, what awesome things happened to you/your company?
2017 was great for Cityzenith!  We launched in May (http://spatiallyadjusted.com/launch-of-cityzenith/), we were selected for Dreamit Urban Tech and we moved to Unity as our 3D engine (http://spatiallyadjusted.com/thoughts-on-cesium/).  Amazing to think about how much change that is in one year but we did it.  Our focus is now to build out our analytical tools so anyone, not just GIS professionals, can perform complex spatial analysis.  Heck even GIS pros can do it, just with less cost.  2018 is when we’ll really accelerate on combining GIS, BIM, IoT and APIs.

Where do you see the GeoTech industry going in 2018 re. trends or hot tech, what’s gonna be hot, what’s gonna flop?
I think this is going to be the big year of AR.  VR has it’s place of course but AR is really going to take off.  Given Apple and Google are baking in the technology into their devices and companies such as Mapbox are really jumping in with both feet.  Because of Unity, we can offer AR and VR quickly and easily in 2018.  Drag and drop a BIM file, visualize in Unity on desktop, AR on tablets.  It’s the inevitable conclusion of where 3D has been going.

Can you share a tip about one event you attended this year that was awesome?
I skipped out on most conferences this year to focus on our launch and move to Unity.  I’ll be out and about in 2018 in full force though.  I did attend Realcomm 2017 in San Diego which was a real eye opener to me on how the Real Estate sector is embracing technology.  We spend so much time getting to As-Built drawings but this whole industry wants to take those as-builts and connect them to IoT.  That’s what we call Smart Campus and I think it will be HUGE in 2018.

Is there a company or personal milestone you want to share? 
Has to be our launch back in May 2017.  Such an exciting time and we put so much effort into getting to that place.  I’m lucky to work with such a great team (http://cityzenith.com/company).  2018 will be an even better year with Smart World Professional coming out.

Will you have a new year resolution or goal?
I’m going to blog more as we transition through conversion to Unity and how we’re using traditionally non-GIS or CAD tools to deliver products to our customers.

Can you identify your favorite pick for GEO newsmaker of the year? 
Without at doubt it is Mapbox and their Series C round with Softbank (https://blog.mapbox.com/softbank-mapbox-series-c-be207b866b27).  Just goes to show you how when you break out of the traditional GIS space, there is so much greater good out there to accomplish.  I’m in awe of what Eric and his team have done.  I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings for them.

About James:

James Fee is the company’s Chief Technology Officer and has over 20 years of experience in CAD/BIM, GIS and database sectors; along with over 15 years working for AECOM and other AEC firms developing cloud-based services for clients around the world.

Twitter: @jamesmfee
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamesfee

Anthony Quartararo, CEO Spatial Networks

How was your 2017, what awesome things happened to you/your company?
At SNI, we saw continued growth in our data subscription business including new interest in the finance and infrastructure industries.  Even more exciting has been the continued growth of the Fulcrum platform and I feel comfortable stating that is the industry leading mobile data collection platform.  We’ve seen major expansion in many of our domestic and international enterprise customers, which reinforces the fact that we are solving real business problems across the entire business landscape, and our SMB customer base has consistently grown at a double-digit rate.  We are investing heavily in our sales and marketing teams and looking to expand internationally with various channel partners, and we’ve already seen some early success.  We’re confident 2018 will be even more successful across our business.

Can you share a tip about one event  you attended this year that was awesome?
I continue to be impressed with the American Geographical Society’s (http://americangeo.org/ ) Geography2050 (http://2018.geography2050.org/) annual event, held at Columbia University in mid-November.  This past year, the theme was “mobility” and all that this involves.  These events are part of a multi-year strategic dialogue about where our world will be in the year 2050, and how geospatial technologies will impact what our world over the next 30+ years.  Full disclosure, I am a Councilor for the AGS, essentially a Board member, but I can still confidently state this event is one of the most  rewarding I attend each year.

Where do you see the GeoTech industry going in 2018 re: trends or hot tech, what’s gonna be hot, what’s gonna flop?
I still am fairly bullish on drone/UAV technology and advances in sensors, applications integrations and use-cases for Government and Commercial markets.  I also see blockchain technologies starting to appear in the geospatial industries, including software, data integrity and user identification.

Is there a company or personal milestone you want to share?
In mid-2017, SNI implemented an employee stock incentive plan.  What this means is this that we are now opening up opportunities for ownership via stock options to everyone in the company.  I see this is as yet another tool we have to attract top talent as well retain top talent, and ultimately, reward everyone for their hard work and dedication when SNI becomes an acquisition target.  We want to make sure everyone benefits from any merger or acquisition activity in the future and this stock incentive plan as been in the works for several years, and I am very pleased to be able to offer this to the entire team at SNI.

Will you share a new year resolution or goal?
My goal for SNI is to grow the company to 50 full-time staff in two domestic offices, and to double top line revenue from 2017 while still remaining profitable.

Can you identify your favorite pick for GEO newsmaker of the year?
MDA/DigitalGlobe/Radiant have made tremendous impacts on the global geospatial industry over the past 12 months, with the acquisition of DigitalGlobe by MDA, shortly after DigitalGlobe acquired both Timbr and the Radiant Group, which included The HumanGeo Group and Radiant, and combined with advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence, the new company is poised to make significant impacts on the entire industry for years to come.

About Anthony:

Tony is the CEO of Spatial Networks, an industry leading geospatial intelligence company based in St Petersburg, Florida. They provide unique solutions to Government and Industry in order to solve their “hard problems” by leveraging their  global capabilities for high-fidelity, on-demand, ground collected geospatial data, analytics and innovative technologies.

Twitter: @tonyquartararo
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anthonyquartararo/

Geoff Zeiss, Principal at Between The Poles

The pace of digitalization of industry is accelerating. This will impact construction in the next few years and may be disruptive for an industry who productivity has been stagnant for decades. Two of McKinsey’s five key technologies contributing to this process are geospatial technology (laser scanning, photogrammetry, handheld scanners, and SLAM software for GPS-denied areas and indoor mapping) and building information modeling (BIM). Software for comparing BIM models to meshes and point clouds captured with LiDAR and phodar will penetrate significantly into the construction industry. Feature extraction from point clouds and 3D meshes with the assistance of machine learning will begin to show up in consumer products and will also be used professionally.

Two areas that I would like to highlight especially for the coming year are mapping underground infrastructure and BIM + geospatial interoperability.

BIM + geospatial interoperability

The effects of population growth, urbanization and climate change are motivating us to contemplate serious changes in how we build and maintain buildings and infrastructure. This change will require new tools. There are important industry drivers that suggest that AEC and geospatial interoperability is one of them. A specific challenge currently facing the AEC and geospatial industries is integrating building information models (BIM) and geospatial infrastructure and building models. There are parallels between what happened in the 1990s in unsuccessfully addressing CAD+GIS interoperability and the current challenge of BIM+geospatial interoperability. But there are also important differences which provide grounds for optimism that the availability of both BIM and geospatial standards, a vibrant open source geospatial community, and a new willingness on the part of major software players in the BIM and geospatial industries will make it possible to successfully address the latest interoperability challenge facing the AEC (architecture, engineering and construction) and geospatial industries.

First of all, there has been significant progress in developing common conceptual models for geospatial and AEC views of city infrastructure. The major breakthrough in bringing the architectural and geospatial views onto a common footing is the OGC LandInfra Conceptual Model developed by the OGC in cooperation with buildingSMART International and approved as an OGC standard.

Secondly, there is enough open source geospatial code and a vibrant developer community now that it is possible using the available open source geospatial APIs and libraries – together with some genuine innovative development – to create an open, non-proprietary, 3D geospatial platform for integrating geospatial and BIM. An example is mago3D developed by Gaia3D.

Finally, major players in the AEC and geospatial industries, Autodesk and ESRI, have agreed to collaborate beginnign next year.  Together the combination of major players supporting the effort, standards organization like the OGC and buildingSmart already working to address the problem, and a broad range of open source code and a vibrant developer community may be enough to address the technical problems. If building and infrastructure owners and facilities managers become aware of the risk of not solving the problem, a solution to the BIM + geospatial challenge will be found.

Mapping underground infrastructure

Currently, the exchange of underground utility information between infrastructure organizations within the same jurisdiction or in adjacent jurisdictions has been greatly hampered by incompatible and incomplete data. The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) intends to make a significant contribution towards facilitating improved information management, sharing and collaboration which should make infrastructure planning, operations and maintenance, and emergency response less costly and time consuming, and more effective. The OGC has initiated a three-phase project to develop interoperability standards for underground infrastructure. The Underground Infrastructure CDS project is supported by the Fund for the City of New York and its sister organization, the National Center for Civic Innovation, the Ordnance Survey and other organizations.

A major geospatial technology vendor has begun significant investment in underground remote sensing technology which I expect will accelerate next year. Leica Geosystems recognized a major opportunity in underground utility detection and two years ago acquired IDS’s Georadar Divison. The first significant technology announced by the Hexagon GeoRadar groups was the towable Pegasus: Stream array. Designed to be towed by a vehicle at speeds up to 15 km/hr, it was designed to provide simultaneous above and below-ground 3D scanning.  As with laser scanning where Leica Geosystems is democratizing the market and has just introduced the BLK360 with one button operation and a low price intended to broaden laser scanning to the non-expert professional market, Leica’s goal is to make underground utility detection accessible to the broad market of non-expert professionals including surveyors and geospatial professionals. The biggest constraint limiting ground penetrating radar (GPR) penetration is the difficulty of interpreting GPR scans.  To surmount this hurdle and enable non-expert professionals to use GPR, Leica Geosystems developed software that enables users with minimal training to extract pipes and other infrastructure from GPR data into a CAD drawing. In addition it supports overlaying electromagnetic scans to enable multi-sensor analysis.  IDS GeoRadar has just introduced the Stream C, a compact GPR array solution for real-time 3D mapping of underground utilities which is equipped with software for automatically mapping underground infrastructure.

An innovative pilot in Chicago led by City Digital, Cityzenith, Accenture, HBK Engineering, and the City of Chicago collects digital images of open excavations, extracts 3D information from them and shares the information. When local engineering firms and utilities excavate in streets or sidewalks, workers take a digital photo of the visible pipes and wires exposed by the excavation. The images are then scanned into the mapping platform, which extracts key data points from it: location, depth, and diameter of the pipes and other attributes of the infrastructure in the photo.

Another way to capture the location of underground facilities during construction is to equip excavation equipment with cameras making it possible to record videos during excavation. An experiment by Stephane Cote of Bentley has shown that the resulting videos can be used by a tool such as Bentley’s ContextCapture to create a 3D mesh showing the uncovered pipes and cables as well as neighbouring structures whose location is known. Together this information makes it possible to determine the location of the underground infrastructure.

Capturing this data in a shared, open database would a first step toward developing a model of the subsurface that can be reliably used for urban planning, design, construction and maintenance. The Netherlands has recently embarked on a national program supported by legislation and standards to do just that.  In 2015 a new law was passed by the States General or parliament in the Netherlands creating a Basisregistratie Ondergrond (BRO) or Key Registry for the Subsurface. Starting next year the law mandates that if you excavate or drill you have to share your data with the registry. The registry is required to be open and accessible to all citizens of the Netherlands.  The combination of an open registry of underground features, as is being implemented in the Netherlands, together with excavation equipment equipped with cameras as in Stephane Cote’s demonstration would be a low cost way to rapidly begin capturing reliable information about underground infrastructure.

About Geoff:

Geoff Zeiss has more than 20 years experience in the geospatial software industry and 15 years experience developing enterprise geospatial solutions for the utilities, communications, and public works industries.

Twitter: @gzeiss
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/geoffzeiss/


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Author: GISuser

GISuser, founded by Spatial Media (2003), is the leading online technology, news resource for GIS and mapping professionals

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