The IMIA’s Mapping Leaders Forum

Last January in 2019, a few members of Xentity had the privilege of participating in the International Map Industry Association’s (IMIA) annual Mapping Leaders Forum in Washington DC. Xentity is a proud sponsor of the IMIA, which is a global organization that brings together leaders from across the spectrum of mapping and location-oriented businesses to connect, share and learn.

This year’s forum had a wide variety of topics from talks on government mapping initiatives occuring in various agencies, including an entire session on the current status of the National Digital Trails Project. Here, we observed several key takeaways from the event that could very well end up industry trends in the coming years: data growth, new legislations, and data aggregation and conflation.

Data Growth

To kick off the event, we got to experience a presentation from the Open Geospatial Consortium from Dr. Alameh, the CEO. She iterated that data is constantly increasing in amount to an almost overwhelming point, and not just for traditional sources but also IoT devices as well. This brings about new business opportunities, and of course advances in technology. However, with all these new opportunities, there also comes the challenge of new skills and training being required.

What we did find interesting, was that this increase in the amount of data was also leading to some emerging tech trends. Namely, we are seeing new standards for interoperability to deal with complex problems, along with innovation and agility to create value and impact in industries. At Xentity, we believe in focusing on the data or “information” in IT. With data increasing in amount and new standards and innovations being examined, we are very excited to see the industry moving to a system that focuses on value and impact, which actually ties into our “valued output” philosophy.

New Legislation

The next event was a presentation from the Federal Geographic data Committee (FGDC) on the committee’s recent experiences with government legislation. Presented by Executive Director Ivan Deloatch, it was explained that the government has passed legislation to recognize the importance of geospatial technology (the 2018 Geospatial Data Act, and the 2019 OPEN Government Data Act). They have also seen the establishment of the National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC) and the reinforcing of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI). With the importance of geospatial technology being recognized through legislation, we can not only expect industries to focus on geospatial innovation in technology and data, but perhaps more government programs and efforts in coordination with the FGDC.

Geospatial Data Act of 2018 – Standards to Promote Interoperability and Innovation

Source: FGDC Executive Director Ivan Deloatch

Data Aggregation and Conflation

The next presentation was from Deputy GIO Amy Nelson of the US Department of Transportation (DOT). One thing that stuck out to us was how the DOT wishes to act more as “data aggregators” and not “data developers”. If data continues to grow at the rate it has, then it is likely that more organizations will act in a similar manner in the coming years. All of that accumulating data does need to be compiled for processing, otherwise it just exists. 

What data aggregation means is that we are seeing more programs, websites, and organizations connecting to other organization’s data streams, then proceeding to utilize it rather than simply developing it from scratch. This represents a high level of data maturity, such that agencies working across jurisdiction collaborate to make their publicly available data integrate with data from other agencies like them.  More specifically, data aggregation focuses on compiling information from databases with the intent to prepare these datasets for the data processing required in collecting and manipulating data in order to produce meaningful information.

This ties into the well-known FAIR Data Principles from 2016. These are a set of principles meant to make data Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable. If organizations were to focus on aggregating rather than developing data, understanding and applying the FAIR Data Principles would be a good first step in this process.

Other Presentations

Other presentations included one from the United States Forest Service (USFS), which discussed a revamp of the USFS Trails System. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) wants to place its focus on the ease of data access and transportability to continue to act as a fact-based data driven agency. And we also got an update on the National Digital Trails Project, namely support for the tool known TRAILS, on the GeoPlatform. A full day of new industry trends and innovations moving forward into the decade.

What We Should Be Taking Away From This

As we’ve mentioned throughout this piece, there is a major takeaway that we should be focusing on. Data is growing at an enormous rate. Some organizations expect we could have collected as much as 175 zettabytes of data by 2025 worldwide. And if that is the first time you have ever heard the word ‘zettabyte’, do not worry, there will be talk of Yottabytes before you know it. And as this data volume and velocity grows, organizations must begin to strive to act as data aggregators to utilize this data. And with governments like our own passing acts recognizing the importance of data, organizations everywhere have a prime opportunity to move their industries into fact-based, data driven agencies of open data.

Based on these experiences and presentations from the IMIA, we can expect a greater emphasis to be placed on data stewardship to better manage the data assets of the organization. Simultaneously, a focus on innovation to develop “valued output” within the industry, along with a possible new interest in data aggregation to better compile and process all of this data that is growing and being managed by organizations.

Our View

Of course, this is all just speculation. But, at Xentity, we love data. A lot. And we certainly love Geospatial and Open Data as well (GOBI). So the possibility that these two types of data could very well become more popular in the future due to the sheer amount of data that is being created nowadays is definitely very exciting to us. Of course, we could be completely wrong and other aspects of data could trend instead. Either way though, this is still a very exciting time. Data is growing, and organizations are preparing for it. And it’s a growth we certainly welcome.