FROM THE COUNCIL

WGIC Amplifies Private Sector Impact at GeoBuiz 2023 

WGIC seized every opportunity to expand the contours and value proposition of the private geospatial sector at GeoBuiz 2023.

The World Geospatial Industry Council (WGIC) uses every opportunity to expand the contours of the geospatial industry and its value proposition. GeoBuiz Summit 2023 was one such opportunity to connect with American stakeholders. Barbara Ryan, Executive Director of WGIC, represented the Council at the event by participating in several sessions, establishing connections with many new companies, and reconnecting with current companies.  

This year’s tagline of GeoBuiz Summit – Simplifying Complexities, Amplifying Impact – applies well to a sector with numerous stakeholders, partners, and touchpoints. Geospatial technologies touch every person every day, often without their knowledge. The conference, which brought geospatial stakeholders from across the US, provided context and delved into technical areas such as spatial digital twins and enhancing the consumer experience. Themes such as automation, digital cities, utilities and infrastructure, position navigation, and timing were also discussed. The conference aimed to simplify a range of complex topics to maximize the impacts of the technology. 

Speakers of GeoBuiz's 3DNTM – Way Forward and Next Steps Panel Discussion at GeoBuiz 2023
Speakers of GeoBuiz’s 3DNTM – Way Forward and Next Steps Panel Discussion. From left to right: Barbara Ryan (WGIC), Mark Reichardt (Geospatial World), Mike Tischler (USGS National Geospatial Program) 

Consultative Workshop on Value of 3D National Topography Model in Economy and Society 

The pre-conference consultative workshop on the “Value of 3D National Topography Model (3DNTM) in Economy & Society” highlighted the significance of high-resolution national-level elevation data for applications in critical sectors of the US economy. The workshop aimed at facilitating partnerships and collaboration between federal agencies and private sector users of data and technology. The session brought together experts such as Mark Reichardt, Senior Consultant at Geospatial World, Mike Tischler, Director of USGS National Geospatial Program, and Barbara Ryan, WGIC Executive Director. 

During the workshop, Ryan emphasized the importance of collaboration between the public and private sectors to achieve successful projects. Further, she highlighted the need for a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities and the importance of risk and reward for both parties involved in public-private partnerships (PPPs). Ryan provided an example of the US Geological Survey (USGS), a federal government agency collecting data for almost a century, and observed that the private sector has improved capabilities in this area now. Ryan also discussed the use of spatial digital twins as a forcing function in creating a virtual representation of the physical universe, which is, indeed, the metaverse. 

The workshop also discussed the United States’ efforts to transition its topographic map database from paper to an electronic format and to include better elevation data. The program, developed within the USGS, has successfully created a comprehensive and detailed database that includes information such as the top/bottom of trees, buildings, and elevation data. As technology advances, the program is embracing automated data collection modalities.   

During the discussion, Ryan emphasized the importance of integrating all data, including geospatial data, to maximize the potential benefits of the platform. Collaboration is a key factor in leveraging the value of geospatial data as, in the words of Leonardo DaVinci, “everything is connected to everything else.” In light of this, the time is ripe for integrating all geospatial data to realize its full potential. This effort would benefit many critical sectors of the economy while improving public sector governance and increasing business in the private sector. 

Space Infrastructure and Geospatial Industry 

Speakers of GeoBuiz's Space Infrastructure and Geospatial Industry panel
Speakers of GeoBuiz’s Space Infrastructure and Geospatial Industry panel: From left to right: Keith Masback (Geospatial World), Robbie Schingler (Planet Labs), Sean Wiid (UP42), Barbara Ryan (WGIC).  *Image is taken from Sean Wiid’s LinkedIn page. 

The space infrastructure and geospatial industry have been making significant progress in recent years. These advancements have brought new opportunities and challenges for the industry, which were discussed in a panel titled “Space Infrastructure and Geospatial Industry: Empowering World Economy and Society.” Besides Barbara Ryan of WGIC, the panelists included prominent figures in the industry, like Robbie Schingler, Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Planet Labs, Sean Wiid, CEO of UP42, and Chirag Parikh, Executive Secretary of National Space Council, who delivered a recorded video message. The discussion was ably moderated by Keith Masback of Geospatial World. 

During the discussion, Ryan emphasized the importance of having a trade association like WGIC that represents the geospatial industry as a whole—and highlighted the significance of bringing together the public and private sector capabilities for the betterment of society and the economy. She also shared the work that WGIC did for COP26, where WGIC participated in a high-level dialogue to identify how earth observation technologies can significantly contribute to climate action. As a result of this work, at COP27, WGIC received the Prince Talal International Prize for Human Development. 

Ryan stressed the role of the private geospatial industry in contributing towards sustainable development goals (SDGs) and accelerating climate action. She tied it back to WGIC’s first strategic goal of strengthening the sector’s contributions to the global economy and society. As more government agencies open up their data, it will empower the economy and create more jobs. 

MARCOM Roundtable 

Ryan had an informal participation in the MarCom Roundtable on ‘Branding Geospatial Industry in World Economy and Society,’ which sought to address the challenges faced by the geospatial industry in effectively communicating its value proposition to the mainstream economy. Despite the widespread use of geospatial technologies in various industries, such as transportation, urban planning, and disaster management, the industry’s branding and messaging to the mainstream economic sectors remain a significant limitation in exploiting its full potential. 

The roundtable endeavored to present a holistic view of the geospatial industry and its valuable contributions to the world economy. To this end, the discussion focused on four key topics: defining and branding the geospatial industry ecosystem, its relationship with IT and engineering, its value proposition for sustainability, and public policy. It was attended by various stakeholders, including marketing experts, WGIC members (such as Esri and Trimble), and the government sector.  

WGIC and Overture Maps Foundation Collaboration 

WGIC members Bentley Systems and Esri spoke about their collaboration with the Overture Maps Foundation during the “Connected Constructions: Advancing Sustainable Infrastructure” panel discussion. Overture Maps Foundation, a recent collaborative initiative by tech giants, aims to create reliable, easy-to-use, and interoperable open map data to power current and next-generation map products. WGIC had already expressed interest in joining as a participating organization and is currently discussing its role in the project. Additionally, the event provided WGIC with another opportunity to meet with various companies, including some that had only been communicated with virtually in the past.  

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