Implications of Industry 4.0 for geospatial professionals

June 23rd, 2017, Published in Articles: PositionIT


Clare van Zwieten

Technological disrupters are increasingly commonplace and geospatial professionals need to be alert to developments arising from the Internet of Things (IoT) and the arrival of the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0).

Growth has been identified by research company, Gartner, as the foremost strategic priority for many businesses over the next two years, and to achieve this growth, decision makers will require insights into data and information to facilitate decisions that will boost productivity, efficiency and profitability. Not surprisingly, Industry 4.0 technologies are being seen as the answer to this quest for growth.

According to the World Economic Forum, the fourth industrial revolution, which includes developments in previously disjointed fields such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing, and genetics and biotechnology, will cause widespread disruption not only to business models but also to labour markets, with enormous change predicted in the skill sets required.

In order to thrive in this new world, geospatial professionals need to assess the potential impact of Industry 4.0 technologies on their traditional roles and decide on the skill-set adaptions that they will be required to make.

A key component of Industry 4.0 is digital data, and geospatial professionals are adept at handling large datasets. They also understand the benefits of data sharing and the need for data standards to facilitate data interoperability. It is not surprising then that geospatial experts feature, along with data analysts, in the 2016 World Economic Forum report, The Future of Jobs, as job categories that are expected to become critically important by the year 2020

Further good news is provided by Ordnance Survey Ireland’s Hugh Mangan, who believes that the core GIS industry will remain a highly specialised and complex area, requiring domain expertise, particularly in the power, water, property, telecoms, transport, health and environment sectors. In addition, he states that the creation and maintenance of authoritative core geospatial databases will continue to play an important role for many public sector and commercial organisations.

However, the problem is that geospatial professionals tend to work with historic data, and what the business world is crying out for is future predictability with IoT and Industry 4.0 seen as key to achieving this.

Consequently, geospatial professionals seeking to play a significant role in an Industry 4.0 world are advised to adapt to the changing times and requirements. According to Mangan, geospatial specialists will need to understand the provenance of data and the inter-relationships between complex data models, and they must also be able to leverage geospatial technologies across many application domains. He states that increasing numbers of computer science and data science graduates will take on geospatial tasks, and advises geospatial professionals to extend their careers by adopting data driven, as opposed to cartography driven geospatial technical competencies.

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