Last Updated on 5th October 2021

Why is Geospatial Information so Important?

Geospatial technology like LiDAR scanners can help us with geospatial data collection. But it’s what we can do with this geospatial data that is phenomenally powerful. The data collected about the earth’s surface and the objects on it can help with much more than just geographic mapping. So what are the benefits of geospatial information and why is it so important?

The Benefits of Geospatial Information

Using geospatial technologies to gather location information provides us with data that can give a deeper understanding of a whole host of issues. This spatial data can answer questions, help with predictions, analysis and decision making.

Spatial data can be combined with other data from various sources, creating different data layers. Things like weather data, census data, satellite imagery, aerial photography and even social media data can help to build up visualisations that tell us a lot about the world around us.

Geospatial data can be used in a wide variety of different industries and provide invaluable insight when used wisely. Here are some examples of why it’s vital to our society and environment today.

Geospatial Data Can Help Society

There are so many applications of geospatial data in society that we’re just scratching the surface. Here are a few examples of how such data can help society:

GIS is used in urban planning by allowing spatial analysis and modelling of urban environments. Getting all the relevant data needed for land maps, planning applications and site selection are complex, and the data quality is improved by advances in geospatial technology. Using a moving vehicle, it’s possible to collect data about large areas or city blocks quickly and efficiently.

point cloud data collected with the ZEB Horizon mounted to a car
Road layout captured with the ZEB Horizon mounted to a car

Having lived through a recent global pandemic, response to infectious disease is something we have all been very aware of in recent times. Geospatial data played a vital part in providing a better understanding of the available resources. For example, GeoSLAM technology was used to scan potential sites for alternative hospitals required for the overflow of patients infected from the Covid-19 virus. GeoSLAM’s 3D geospatial mapping technology was used to quickly scan a building, create a 2D floor plan or 3D model, without being intrusive to patients or hospital staff. As the scanner is handheld, there are no long set up times and no need to close areas of the building, you simply scan as you walk.

These scans can identify if a building has the infrastructure and space to serve as an alternative hospital and assist in making quick decisions. They can also be coupled with wider geographic data to determine the locations such facilities are most needed.  Geospatial data can also help to identify geographic patterns like disease clusters which can help to determine cause or limit spread.

The effects of extreme weather conditions like tornados, earthquakes or wildfires can be better managed using geospatial data. Weather data and forecasts coupled with satellite imagery, census data and other gis data can be used to make predictions on the spread and keep the population safe. After an earthquake event, areas that need help and support can easily be identified. The precise location of communities in need can be pinpointed so they can get the help they need.

As well as people and societies, geospatial data collection is vital for protecting our environment. Here are some of the benefits that such information can bring:

industrial estate land development
Land-use Changes

The ways in which land is used is more important than we may think. Changing land from agricultural to urban, deforestation and other usage changes can affect biodiversity, climate change and much more. Geospatial data can help to predict geographic patterns, determine the suitability of land for changes in use and inform of potential effects.

forest conservation
Conservation

Geospatial information can be used to help conservation efforts, informing large scale projects like forest management and habitat protection. For example, the Australian National University uses mobile scanning to map trees and forests, and combines this data with high resolution photography, aerial imagery, meteorological data and more to guide forestry research and habitat protection.  

Using Geographic Information Systems for Safety

Sometimes, it can be dangerous to access certain areas and collecting geospatial data via remote sensing can help keep people safe.

Mining

Rapid scanning with LiDAR scanners helps those on-site to map tunnels, stockpile volumes, pits and caves. Understanding these environments and the changes taking place, and being able to collect the data quickly can help to keep people safe.

Often, technology like LiDAR scanners can remove the need for a person to enter a potentially dangerous environment. Spatial analysis can take place using equipment only and with a LiDAR scanner like GeoSLAM’s ZEB Horizon, data can be collected quickly to create 3D maps to understand, plan and find potential problems, creating a much safer working environment.

Measuring stockpile volumes using the ZEB Horizon mounted to a drone
Measuring stockpile volumes using the ZEB Horizon mounted to a drone

Geospatial Information in Security & Defence

Using a geographic information system to capture geospatial data is invaluable for security and defence.

Public Safety

Laser scanners can be used to map terrain, simulate battlefield environments, and plan routes for military operations, which helps with intelligence and decision making.

They are also used by police and security personnel to quickly capture geospatial data to record evidence or to create plans for entrance and exit routes for large venues, such as stadiums and schools, in a case of emergency.

A case study with Entropy Group found that officers who have access to 2D floorplans and 3D models have improved situational awareness and more confidence in responding to an emergency at a facility they are familiar with, resulting in a 21% decrease in response times.

AEC and Geospatial Data

In architecture, engineering and construction there are many applications for geospatial data. Understanding sites, landscapes and buildings help large scale projects run smoothly. Here are some applications in the industry:

Scanning a large landmark or historical site can provide us with descriptive information about the area. This information can be used to create a digital twin of the site, aiding the preservation of heritage areas.  Earlier this year, GeoSLAM created a digital twin of Rio’s Christ The Redeemer statue to inform restoration efforts ahead of the landmark’s 90th anniversary celebrations.

In construction, large teams of people need to work closely together in order to complete complex builds. This is extremely difficult without access to accurate information about sites, materials and progress. Historically, different data formats left siloes and made it difficult for teams to work together. Improvements in geospatial data collection are changing the game for the construction industry. Spatial data can be combined with other data layers like workflow and plans to increase efficiency and safety.

With GeoSLAM’s Connect software platform, multiple point clouds can be compared and any areas that have changed are automatically highlighted. Point clouds can also be compared with CAD models to track progress of a construction site.

Discoveries using Geospatial Information

Sometimes, a specific location is dangerous or even impossible to access. Using 3D mobile mapping techniques to capture geospatial data helps us to visualise these spaces and make new discoveries.

Geospatial data helps us to understand the world, and it can also help us to discover hidden spaces. Underground networks and caves for example, can be hard to access and explore. With geospatial data, it’s possible to create a digital model or photographic interpretation of an area that has never been explored before. This can lead to new and exciting discoveries about the world around us, for example this ancient city now covered in thick jungle.

Uncovering an ancient city in Micronesia with the ZEB Horizon

Geospatial Data Touches Almost Everything

Without Geospatial information, our daily life could be very different. We don’t realise how much impact these technologies have on the development of spaces, buildings, natural resource management and much more. Geospatial data is vitally important to our world, and we hope we’ve managed to help you appreciate some of the reasons why.

You can learn more about GeoSLAM being used for geospatial here.

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