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Location and GeoSpatial data in 2020

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When I was growing up, 2020 felt light-years into the future. Five years after that depicted in Back To The Future 2, I can’t help but feel we should be flying around in our cars and eating rehydrated pizza at this point. But just because the hoverboards haven’t arrived, doesn’t mean that 2020 won’t be a year full of exciting tech that will change the way data is used in the property industry.

Here are five trends to watch this year in location and geospatial data that will make you feel like you’re living in the future.

“2020 will be the year PropTech levels up”

1. PropTech Grows Up

We’ve been hearing about the potential for PropTech for some time, and platforms such as Nimbus Maps have been around for a couple of years now, bringing together the masses of property-based and geospatial data that is available.
As with all tech, it’s taken a little while to find its feet and I predict 2020 is when you’ll find yourself unable to compete without using some of the tools available.

Modern PropTech allows every developer, from the part-time or first-time to the industry professional, to scour the country at scale for opportunities, and to do basic due diligence before leaving the office, saving thousands in wasted journeys and investigations.

2020 will be the year PropTech levels up, using advances in machine learning to know what sort of sites you are looking for and uncover sites you may not have even thought of.

It will become a vital tool for productivity, site finding, and site management as more data is brought to your fingertips.

2. The Year of Augmented Reality

AR, or Augmented Reality (or Mixed Reality, if you’re Microsoft) is the ability to overlay digital information onto a video feed of the real world.

Until now, this has been limited to Pokemon Go! style mobile games through your phone screen. However, this technology is maturing fast and truly-useful head-mounted AR glasses, such as Microsoft’s HoloLens, are starting to appear.

“…when Apple gets in on a technology, you know it’s about to become mainstream.”

There are strong rumours that both Apple and Samsung are planning to release AR headsets of their own this year, and when Apple gets in on a technology, you know it’s about to become mainstream.

AR will allow property professionals to view site plans and location information overlaid onto the real world. See exactly where that waste pipe runs underground, or what that window will look out onto, or view property ownership and site information as you walk around a space.

While virtual reality has been a bit of a let-down, industry experts have long seen AR as the true next-step-technology and modern cameras and location-tracking algorithms mean that the sickness-inducing days of glitchy models are long gone.

3. 5G

Whether it ends up involving Huawei or not, 5G is coming and it means a lot more than just faster downloads on your mobile phone.

5G’s big innovation is the number of concurrent devices it enables to be connected to the network. 5G will be the backbone for the long-promised Internet of Things (IoT), allowing all kinds of devices to report back all sorts of information, including location.

Sensors in buildings will allow for  ‘Digital Twins’ which provide a digital replica of a real world building or space, providing data in real-time about, for example,  temperature, wind, and weather.

This data can then be directly fed into architectural models to ensure new buildings are suitable for the environment that will host them.

During construction, a Digital Twin can help monitor each piece of equipment and material, and report any issues that might occur, quickly or even ahead of time, saving lives and money.

Meanwhile,, 5G also allows for remote monitoring of large sites, such as landfills, that are hard to police with humans alone.

4. Cloud GIS

GIS has been around for a while, working towards the basic viewing and analysis of geospatial data.  However, performing analysis on more than a few datasets at a time, or over a significant area, has been cost-prohibitive due to the computing power required.

GeoSpatial data analysis has long lagged behind a lot of the computing industry which has already moved on to processing data on server farms, in the cloud.

This changed in 2019 with the release of Google BigQuery GIS Beta, which brought spatial processing to the cloud. While it’s still very bare-bones for now, this year, cloud GIS should mature to the same level as traditional GIS software. It will allow near real-time analysis of large spatial datasets.

“GeoSpatial data analysis has long lagged behind…the computing industry which has already moved on to processing data on server farms, in the cloud”

Want to compare all of the title polygons in the country with OS MasterMap and provide a breakdown of site land usage? Done in minutes.

Want to process IoT data from thousands of sensors in real-time and have it reported to a management dashboard? Easy.

Want none of this and just want the results in your hands ready to turn into opportunities? No problem, leave it to PropTech firms like Nimbus to extract the value from the masses of data we have using these tools.

5. More Data

With every year that passes, more and more government data, especially from local authorities, is produced in easy-to-analyse spatial formats.

Slowly but surely, local authorities are putting planning, building control, and other data online and available to all. Her Majesty’s Land Registry are also releasing more data around property and transactions (expect leasehold information this year).

“This virtuous circle of more data and raised expectations will only carry on”

Vitally, the UK government says it is now committed to realising the economic value of the data it gathers. This is good news both for PropTech companies who have the skills and the will to wrangle this data into useful insights for the property professional, and for those who are willing to get their hands dirty and dive into the open data in search of that next opportunity.

This increased industry usage is also adding pressure on the government to improve the structure and quality of the data they produce. This virtuous circle of more data and raised expectations will only carry on.

I hope this article has whetted your appetite for learning more about the data that is out there and how it can be used, whatever your role. Or, at the very least, given you a few more buzzwords to use at the next conference! We all like collecting those. 2020 will be an exciting year, but they always are in PropTech!


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