In search of positive disruption from Hammond’s tech-friendly budget

smart city_555265369_LowResWe really are at the end of business as usual. Across every sector of the UK economy – and infrastructure really is no exception – the disruptors are heading our way.

Buoyed by Chancellor Philip Hammond’s latest budget £500M commitment to developing new technologies, robotics and communication networks, and driven by the latest draft industrial strategy, post-Brexit UK is set to shake up the industrial status quo. Should geospatial engineers be concerned? Absolutely. Should you be worried? Absolutely not.

Provided, of course, you understand how to make this wave of disruptive technology work positively for you and for your businesses. The reality, as a quick scan down the list of exhibitors and workshops hosted at next May’s GEO Business event demonstrates, is that across the infrastructure world the disruptors have already arrived. Right now, they are busy transforming the way we work and for many the opportunity is already being embraced.

But it is also fair to say that, when it comes to the majority of businesses in this largely traditional sector, the supply chain remains largely unfit to meet this future vision. As we hear so often at industry conferences, the Googles and the Ubers are preparing to steal your lunch. Certainly, the rise of the digital economy is at the heart of this threat, bringing with it emerging and increasingly mainstream tools such 3D modelling, point clouds, remote wireless monitoring and wearable tech. All very exciting stuff, but in truth the real driver for change is the transformation in thinking by infrastructure owners and operators over what constitutes a good outcome.

Thus, it is the need to meet these transformed outcomes – the new demand for a focus on, for example, whole life value, circular and sustainable solutions, or a better customer experience – and the ability to establish a culture in which professionals can respond to them, which is likely to determine future success or failure for businesses across the sector.

In short, for most businesses across infrastructure, understanding how they can exploit the new disruptive technologies, tools and processes is the big opportunity and likely to be more important than actually driving it. It is this philosophy that underpins the GEO Business workshop programme. Dozens of future focused businesses will be on hand to bring their tech to life. To explain and demonstrate just how they will disrupt and turn the geospatial world on its head over the next few years – to your advantage.

We are talking artificial intelligence, robotics, data management, smart software and satellite imaging. Or there’s real time motion mapping, hyperspectral imaging or augmented reality modelling. All subjects that you can hear about at GEO Business – all subjects which are likely to expand your thinking and expand the breadth of solutions that you might offer your increasingly demanding clients.

And that is so important. Alongside investment in technology, Hammond’s first budget once again underlined the UK government’s commitment to infrastructure investment by ploughing more money into the current £500bn spending pipeline. But while one hand gives, the other lays down some pretty challenging targets in terms of driving efficiency.

Business as usual but cheaper just won’t cut it. Across infrastructure positive disruption is a vital step to secure and afford the future. So embrace it and find your positive disruption. This is not tomorrow’s issue or simply a young person’s problem to solve, or a young person’s opportunity to take. This is business critical stuff that everyone needs to address to stay in business.  Understanding the threat is the first step towards a strategy to meet the opportunity. It is the moment for traditional geospatial engineers to step forward, take responsibility, embrace the future and to create the outcomes that will support and grow the UK’s economy.


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


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.

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