Putting geospatial at the heart of an infrastructure-led economy

Two weeks to go until the UK General Election; just one day before the 2017 GEO Business event opens its doors to infrastructure professionals at Islington’s Business Design Centre. Both will have infrastructure firmly at their heart as a driving force for the UK’s post-Brexit economic success.

No matter what your view on the latest political war of words over the deliverability of Labour’s recently announced “tax and spend”, investment in infrastructure is recognised as central to ensuring that the UK is fit for life outside Europe.

Put simply, it is about providing the UK with the vital world class infrastructure needed to keep us efficient, internally connected, and globally accessible. We need modern infrastructure that will enable the UK to remain attractive as a destination for foreign investment and ensure that, regardless of who actually ends up owning the assets, private investors continue pledging their support.

And regardless of who is in charge of the UK government on 9 June, all will face the same balancing act: how to provide services that meet the escalating travel, energy, water and communications needs of the public while also championing and protecting the all-important affordability for customers.

The geospatial sector has a huge role to play. Sitting in the driving seat of the new digitally enabled world of asset design, creation, operation and management, all of the firms and professionals attending GEO Business next week really do have a major role to play in helping the new UK government to deliver on their promises.

The reality is that, when politicians talk about investment in infrastructure they – like most of the people that vote for them – are really, only interested in the outcomes from that investment. That means presenting great ribbon cutting moments, delivering on time and below budget, looking attractive and being locally popular so as to underpin the political commitment.

But beyond such shallow aspirations, the key to gaining political investment support is to make sure it delivers – and can be shown to deliver – better services, greater efficiencies, lower costs and local, regional or national economic growth.

The arrival of information technology across the infrastructure sectors suddenly makes it possible to tick those boxes. As will be seen across the exhibition floor of GEO Business, throughout the conference and in workshop programmes of the show, the infrastructure supply chain increasingly understands this opportunity and has developed solutions which underpin the new political aspirations.

It starts of course with BIM – Building Information Management. Digital modelling tools now enable professionals to design and construct assets more efficiently. The public sector mandate 18 months ago to embrace BIM level 2 has certainly positioned the UK ahead of the global field and given us an unrivalled skill base from which to drive forward.

That means taking digital information management beyond the design and construction process into the management and operation phases of the asset lifecycle – the points in which the big money is being spent, the true client value can be reaped, and the real gains in customer service delivery can be achieved.

Embedded technology and systems to monitor and manage infrastructure and react to change as it happens; technologies to enable remote, drone operated routine inspection and maintenance to cut out cost and reduce error; technologies to assess behaviour and predict pinch-points on the infrastructure system so as to boost safety, reduce congestion and control pollution.

The geospatial sector must grasp this moment to drive the future. Ultimately it is about creating smarter infrastructure that can enhance our lives and integrate currently siloed investment in public services such as transport, healthcare, housing or education. It is time to shout about how a digitally enhanced geospatial infrastructure world can deliver the better outcomes demanded by society and by all leaders across the political spectrum.




GEO Business 2017, 23 – 24 May 2017, Business Design Centre, London UK

The geospatial event for everyone involved in the gathering, storing, processing and delivery of geospatial information. Incorporating an international trade exhibition, a cutting edge conference and a programme of live commercial workshops sessions, featuring the technology and services used by those working with spatial data.


This article was written by independent editorial expert and journalist Antony Oliver, who regularly contributes industry content for GEObuzz. Find Antony on Twitter @_Antonyoliver_

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