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Thought Leadership
29 November 2021 By Rada Khadjinova and Mike Wernau

In today’s digital world, scientists and engineers enjoy ready access to a wide range of Geo-data for managing land and resources, building and maintaining infrastructure, and modelling and forecasting environmental change. But what about non-technical professionals? Can Geo-data be liberated beyond the confines of highly specialised skillsets to benefit the average citizen?

The answer, of course, is yes. Broadening access to Geo-data provides a foundation for self-service analytics among an extensive variety of users, which is vital to a sustainable future. Take coastal mapping: across the globe, government agencies collect and publish authoritative data depicting low-lying communities prone to sea-level rise and storms. Experts within these agencies use the data to perform various analyses, such as damage estimates, risk-level determinations and coastal resilience strategies. Easy access to this expert analysis would also benefit non-governmental users, helping individuals and business owners make informed decisions in support of a safe and liveable world.

Flood analysis using Fugro RAMMS coastal lidar data over Sint Maarten. The example models a continuous rise time series where the water level is raised by a certain amount every hour, over a period of 8 hours. The spatial analysis is accomplished within Fugro’s SIMmetry platform and can be used to understand impacts on the social, environmental and economic impacts of these events.

Field of dreams

Done well, expanding your Geo-data user base becomes a case of “if you build it, they will come.” That’s because Geo-data supports faster, more-informed decision-making by experts; associated GIS tools make this information more valuable by offering the general public greater transparency in the decision-making process and a deeper understanding of how the science impacts them directly. Fugro helps clients liberate their Geo-data for public consumption through a variety of platforms, from simple Esri StoryMaps that guide non-technical users through expert analysis, to immersive platforms that enable advanced queries and 4D visualisations.

“Technology is best when it brings people together.”
Matt Mullenweg, entrepreneur and Open Source expert

Best practices

Here are some start-to-finish tips for building a comprehensive Geo-data programme that also implements user-friendly tools for non-technical users:

  • Create a plan. The process of acquiring and serving Geo-data can be complex. Involve your stakeholders from the beginning; understand their needs so you can guide them toward a clear set of project specifications before any data is procured.
  • Educate users on accuracy. Detecting small changes and performing critical analysis requires mapping-grade accuracy. There is a big difference between relative accuracy and absolute accuracy; make sure your stakeholders understand the difference.
  • Elevate interoperability. When investing in enterprise software, look for solutions that utilise open standards. Geo-data must work across multiple platforms, so require it in your contracts! It’s why organisations like the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) were founded.
  • Get it off the shelf. Face it: geospatial data is cumbersome and hard to manage. Imagery, lidar point clouds, and 3D Geo-data, in general, can take up a lot of space on your network. Rather than storing it on an a hard drive or ailing server, consider streaming it from “the cloud.” Cloud providers such as AWS and Microsoft Azure have made massive strides in bringing down the costs to store, serve and protect data.
  • Make it accessible. Further to the last point, providing on-demand, easy access to Geo-data will allow your organization to improve outreach campaigns and develop communication channels with the public. Geo-data funded by the public sector are prime candidates for the “map once use many times” paradigm. Accessibility increases awareness, stimulates partnership and is imperative to delivering best value to the public.
  • Simplify the complex. Interpreting Geo-data can be complicated, and in many cases, requires a sophisticated supercomputer or distributed processing network. For instance, deriving a seamless coastal dataset, may rely on vessel-based sonar, drone-based lidar, and aerial imagery. Minimize that burden on the end-user by understanding their needs and creating GIS tools that allow quick manipulation, analysis and communication of these integrated Geo-data.

Fugro World_Geo-data Liberation_Graphic_02-sint maarten

GIS tools like Fugro SIMmetry, remove the guesswork for non-technical users. With a few clicks of a mouse, users can access slope analyses to demonstrate potential water flow direction on the island of Sint Maarten.

  • Pay attention to security. Even though you want your Geo-data to be as free and open as possible, restrictions will inevitably apply. Slap an ankle monitor on that data with robust user management, credentialing and encryption processes when your data must remain in the right hands.
Our natural and built environment continues to change rapidly. Proper Geo-data management and Geo-data liberation frameworks can enable self-service analytics by non-technical end-users looking to reduce uncertainty and risks in day-to-day work and life decision-making.

Did you know?

Fugro offers multiple GIS solutions to help technical teams manage, share and collaborate on Geo-data. Fugro’s SIMmetry platform helps clients take Geo-data outside the enterprise, making complex analyses accessible to everyday users.


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