Vanessa Lawrence, Chief of UK Ordnance Survey, chaired the UN-GGIM Expert Committee.

Vanessa Lawrence, Chief of UK Ordnance Survey, chaired the UN-GGIM Expert Committee.

More than 50 million ‘things’ will be connected online by 2020, claims an international committee of geospatial experts assembled by the United Nations’ Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) initiative.

In a future trends report issued January 2013, the UN-GGIM includes ‘the internet of things’ as one of the main trends that will face its member states and international organisations over the next five to 10 years. Other predictions include:

> A massive rise in ‘modelled geospatial actor data’ – geo-tagged information obtained from people using websites and social media.

> More use and monitoring of geospatially enabled devices will require stronger policy and legal frameworks to protect providers of data, establish access protocols and clarify the privacy rights of individuals.

> Increasing reliance on new technologies and systems to manage and analyse massive amounts of data. Current global generation of data is estimated to be around 2.5 quintillion bytes per day.

> Increasing use of fast, real-time data modelling techniques, including graphical processing units (GPUs), parallel processing and NoSQL databases.

> Countries without fibre optics and core processing power will lag advanced countries in exploiting the advantages of geospatial information analysis. A partial solution is outsourcing and offshoring processing and analysis work, also hosting of information in the cloud.

> Cloud technologies will enable new commercial ventures, including Infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and data as a service (DaaS).

> Quality of aerial imagery will increase, as well as the speed of providing images to users.

> Unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) will become increasingly common, with potential to survey interior and disaster areas that can not be accessed by humans or other forms of aircraft.

> Accuracy of optical imaging sensors – spatial, spectral and radiometric – will improve substantially, to enable better identification of features. Stereoscopic, high-resolution, hyper-spectral imagery could also become more widely available.

> Mobile mapping systems (including 3D LiDAR scanning) will be upgraded for capturing more accurate street-level visual information, including points of interest (POI) and attribute data in more detail.

> Improvements in satellite gravimetry missions will cause more governments to change the basis of their vertical reference systems from large-scale terrestial observations to gravimetric geoids.

> Indoor spatial coverage is emerging but no overall technology solution has yet been identified. Current technologies, including ultrawideband, accelerometers and radio frequency identification, (RFID), are improving.

> Governments will need to change systems of funding, regulating, managing and providing access to data – all matters likely to provoke debates among their stakeholders. Pressures to provide information for free will need to be balanced against the operational costs of providers.

> Adoption of data-driven rather than cartographically enabled geographic information will require extensive international efforts to educate and train new professionals and operators, including data scientists, data analysts, data miners, data visualisers and data journalists.