About Gail Millin-Chalabi

GIS and Remote Sensing Officer for School of Environment, Education and Development (SEED), The University of Manchester.

Geospatial Technology Offers Plenty to Get Excited About

Posted on behalf of Emma Kettle who is a writer specialising in science and technology, she began her career in IT, but when motherhood beckoned she turned to writing about her chosen career path and now she contributes to a number of websites that have special interest in tech matters.

Few people could have failed to recognise the sharp upward trend in the production, and usage, of affordable consumer electronics. These days the lives of most people in the western world, and a growing number in other places, are dominated by smart phones, clever tablets and intuitive computers. Modern lifestyles have become dependent on technology in a big way. As a result of this, the last few years has seen an increase in the adoption of Geospatial technology by both businesses and consumers.

The primary area of attribution for this heightened interest in the technology is a demand for ever more insightful mapping solutions. Mapping has evolved to much more than just a tool to help people find their way around unfamiliar lands, although that aspect in itself has indeed evolved a great deal. Nowadays the technology is woven into computer devices and their applications in such innovative ways that many people now wonder how they ever lived without this technology.

So just how is this technology infiltrating modern living? Here are the key areas where geo technology is having a profound impact on modern living:

  • Interactivity

Digital maps have been around for some time now, but for the most part these were either static or of specific locations displayed through imaging. Though maps have been evolving for some time, 2013 saw a huge leap in that evolution towards high quality, information-rich interactive maps.

Increased capabilities of Geospatial solutions has allowed brick and mortar companies to literally put themselves on the map. This means that a person now has the opportunity to use a map to locate a company, gather important information about that company and get directions all from one place.      

  • Mobility

According to a recent survey conducted by Sophos, the average technology user can now be found ladened with 2.9 devices as they go about their daily life. There are people walking around today with more technology in their pocket than was even conceived of just 50 years ago. These advancements have also lead to gadget repair, maintenance and insurance companies playing a more important role in modern life as people take steps to protect these valuable electronic devices. Sales of mobile devices surpassed that of PC’s for the first time in 2013, and as more people begin to embrace this so called “mobile revolution” the demand for reliable location based services has surged. This is reflected in the availability of hundreds of mobile applications that now utilise this technology to bring more convenience to everything from securing possessions to socialising.

Companies such as Avast, who are long-time specialists in PC software, have already made the shift towards focusing on mobile, and just like social applications like Foursquare and Uber, Avast relies on location based services to provide the best service.

Mobile users also have access to increasingly intricate online maps, some of which are comprehensive enough to even include details of the nearest public lavatory, should one be required. 

  • Integration

Forward thinking innovators and organisations understand that the best value is often achieved with integration. Geospatial solutions can be used to help companies make more informed decisions when integrated, for example, with CRM software. This integration can provide the company with a much deeper insight into the data it collects about its customers.

One of the most common integration options, amongst many, is one between the popular CRM software, Salesforce and Google Maps for Business. Salesforce provides a host of useful benefits for businesses on its own, but when combined with the powerful location based features that comes with GMB it can result in an innovative new way to gather and interpret data.

  • Availability

The main reason for the rising interest in geospatial technology is that it has become more accessible. It can be said that there is now a democratisation of geo technologies as the tools are no longer reserved for highly specialised engineers.

Individuals and organisations alike can easily get access to tools such as the Google Maps Engine platform and develop their own solutions. Such tools have been designed with usability in mind, meaning that the learning curve is short and specialist knowledge will not be perquisite.  

Looking forward

According to the Boston Consulting Group, the geospatial service industry is worth approximately $75 billion dollars, and it is on a steep growth trajectory that will see it exceed $1 Trillion dollars in the next few years. This prediction is mirrored by the United Nations Initiative on Global Geospatial Information Management, which confirms that the demand for geospatial information is set to accelerate over the next ten years.

There are many things to get excited about in this arena, with innovative mapping applications being just one of those. The technological advances in the geospatial industry is not only breaking down geo knowledge barriers, it is completely flattening them.


Breaking Down Barriers: Grand Finale

In a nutshell

The project aimed to complete the following two tasks:

Task 1: Open-up 8 courses in the Landmap Learning Zone through Creative Commons BY-NC-SA and redesign the Learning Zone area of the Landmap website, linking through to the ELOGeo repository at Jorum.

Task 2: Transfer the hosting of the ELOGeo repository to Jorum from University of Nottingham ensuring the sustainability of the ELOGeo Project outputs. Technical solutions will be sought in developing a specific community repository site within Jorum which will be transferable to other communities that may have a similar requirement in the future.

Project outputs:

  • (Task 1) The project has exceeded the delivery of providing 8 courses in the Learning Zone through Creative Commons BY-NC-SA by providing an additional course called ‘Image Processing for GRASS GIS’. GRASS is one of the most well know open source freely available GIS softwares in the geospatial community and will be a welcomed addition to the other 6 image processing courses now openly available.
  • (Task 1) The Learning Zone redesign is now complete incorporating links to new content for the Open Educational Resources; Spatial Science for Schools (open to all) and ELOGeo repository
  • (Task 2) The transfer of the ELOGeo repository to Mimas from the University of Nottingham has been achieved including applying the new theme to the repository (blue colour) from the old theme (orange colour). The next step is to add this new theme into the Jorum DSpace 1.8 architecture. The overall aim is to produce a DSpace sub-site within Jorum for the GeoKnowledge Community branded as ELOGeo. This part of the work has been very challenging due to Jorum never before providing community specific sites within its’ service, with a number of technical issues causing hold-ups. The ELOGeo community specific site within Jorum will go live not long after the new Jorum service (using DSpace 1.8) launches in mid November 2012. A sneak preview of the new ELOGeo interface can be seen in the short video post below.

Showcase of outputs so far…

Impact for the GeoKnowledge Community
The following project impacts are as follows:

  • The international geospatial community wanting to gain knowledge on how to use satellite, airborne and other spatial datasets in their research/work can now obtain these key skills through the new Open Educational Resources available through the Landmap Learning Zone.
  • Lecturers seeking e-learning content to support their lectures can now refer to the OER materials at Landmap.
  • UK industries/local councils seeking materials for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for new members of staff or staff who have not used spatial data before can now make use of the ‘open’ materials.
  • European and worldwide academic institutions seeking high quality courses on image processing for leading commercial software’s such as ENVI, ERDAS, Idrisi, Definiens and PCI now have access to the open ‘Image Processing Courses’, such courses can cost at least £1,000 per person to attend.
  • Promoting the importance of OER to the geospatial community at key events such as INSPIRE 2012, RSPSoc 2012 and the Geoforum 2012. Explaining how providing OER is a two way process, encouraging members of the audience to contribute content to the ELGeo repository and Learning Zone OER.
  • Providing the technical challenges of creating a sub site within DSpace 1.8 at Mimas for combining the ELOGeo repository with the Jorum repository through the project blog.

Project Recommendations

  • As JISC have also funded a project at the University of Nottingham to build on the work of the ELOGeo project at that location we would recommend additional funding is provided to set-up a mirroring infrastructure to keep automatically in sync the two ELOGeo repository instances (Jorum & Nottingham).
  • Usability testing of the ELOGeo interface within Jorum to obtain user feedback and establish areas of improvement.
  • Run a project to encourage further contributions to ELOGeo from the user community so that the facility is used regularly in the geospatial open data, open software and open standards arena.
  • Establish a  quality assurance system for ensuring materials are up-to-date and still relevant to the GeoKnowledge Community.

Launch of the enhanced Learning Zone

The 29th August 2012 marked the launched of the enhanced Landmap Learning Zone providing a hub of e-learning resources:

Enhanced Learning Zone

Highlights the four new sections of the Landmap Learning Zone.

Open Educational Resources: Provides courses on image processing, classification methods and the use of spatial data for a wide range of applications. These courses are authored by academics and the commercial sector and are provided free-of-charge to the global geospatial community. (Relicensed as CC BY-NC-SA as part of the JISC Rapid Innovations Project).

Protected Educational Resources: Provides courses on aerial photography, 3D modelling, LiDAR, landuse mapping and UKMap for registered users of Landmap (UK academic community only).

ELOGeo: Provides a repository for the global geospatial community for materials covering the themes of geospatial open data, open software and open standards. Students, researchers and lecturers are all welcome to contribute content to this repository to facilitate sharing of GeoKnowledge in the wider community. (The ELOGeo repository will be provided soon through Jorum).

Spatial Science for Schools: A range of tutorials aimed at 9 – 18 years to encourage the use of remote sensing in Geography, Biology, Mathematics, Geomatics and Physics. Tutorials were authored as part of the FIS Project (University of Bonn) and are funded by the DLR German Aerospace Centre and Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, Germany.

Spatial Science for Schools

See the world as you have never seen it before. Using exciting information from satellites and Google Earth.


This post is to introduce our new project member to the team. Will Standring has accepted the post of Landmap Software and Web Developer and will be taking forward technical aspects of embedding the ELOGeo DSpace repository into Jorum following on from Bharti Gupta’s excellent work. Will has repository expertise from one of his previous roles at the University of Manchester. The team are excited to have him on board. Welcome!


The INSPIRE 2012 Conference kicked off with a great two days of workshops. I especially enjoyed Debbie Wilson’s presentation ‘INSPIRE Essentials – Back to Basics’. This workshop had a few multiple choice questions to test the audiences knowledge on INSPIRE. One of the interesting points Debbie made was the fact that many geoportals have popped up on the scene but that there appears to be alot of redundancy and replication. This is one of the key problems INSPIRE is trying to address so that datasets are harmonised and knowledge can easily be shared between and within organisations.

INSPIRE 2012 Opening Plenary

Another workshop attended is M. Taner Aktas ‘Geospatial Knowledge Sharing and Transfer, Innovation & Future Trends in Geo-Information’. Taner explained  how the transfer of knowledge may not be the same as what is received but some modified version of it. This could be because of: lack of trust; different cultures, language, mental mode; lack of time and meeting places; status and rewards issues or lack of absorptive capacity.

Tomorrow I will be presenting a poster on ‘Breaking Down Barriers – Building a GeoKnowledge Community’ to help promote the work being achieved as part of this JISC funded Rapid Innovations Project.To see a PDF of the poster please view the link below.


Project Plan

Thought it was time for a project update by providing you with a plan for project outputs that have already been achieved over the past couple of months and the planned project outputs for the forthcoming months:


April 2012

  • Confirmed the re-licensing of 8 Learning Zone courses to Creative Commons
  • ELOGeo content migration successfully transferred from Nottingham to Mimas
  • Abstract submitted to the INSPIRE 2012 Conference
  • Submit abstract for RSPSoc Annual Conference 2012, University of Greenwich
  • Checked that graphic design requirements for the DSpace ELOGeo interface have been fulfilled with the DSpace developers

May 2012

  • Started consultation with Zumm (web consultancy) regarding the restructuring of the Learning Zone landing page for the Landmap website (incorporating the ELOGeo and OER)
  • Abstract accepted for INSPIRE 2012 Conference and asked to do a lightening talk at the Geoforum 2012
  • Development of an online survey to ask the geospatial community about the barriers of contributing OER and the benefits of providing OER

June 2012

  • Appoint a developer to replace Bharti Gupta for the DSpace development work within Jorum
  • Poster presentation at INSPIRE 2012 showcasing Landmap, Jorum and ELOGeo on iPad (23/06/12 – 27/06/12)
  • Lightening talk at Geoforum 2012 (20/06/12)
  • Provide Zumm with a wireframe for the Learning Zone landing page redesign incorporating the new OER, ELOGeo repository and Spatial Science for Schools

July 2012

  • Arrange with RSPSoc organisers to do a short usability study as part of the Landmap workshops at the event (to get user feedback about the Learning Zone and ELOGeo repository embedded in Jorum) confirm dates for this.
  • Appoint a developer to do the DSpace work for the project  – begin to build the ELOGeo interface within Jorum for the GeoKnowledge Community
  • Collate any feedback from the community from the June outreach events.

August 2012

  • Release the OER for the Learning Zone (8 courses) with new Learning Zone landing page
  • Release the new Landmap – Spatial Science for Schools OER to increase usage of the project outputs of the FIS Project (partnership project withthe University of Bonn and the German Space Agency DLR)
  • Testing of the ELOGeo repository in Jorum checking search functionality etc.

September 2012

  • Launch ELOGeo repository hosted by Jorum and link to Learning Zone landing page
  • Promote at RSPSoc Annual Conference (12/09/12 – 14/09/12) via conference stand and oral presentation (if abstract accepted)
  • Run usability study as part of Landmap workshop at the RSPSoc conference
  • Write a report to summarise project outputs and findings of the online survey/ usability study

Any new work will be posted on the blog including photos from the outreach events.

In a Nutshell – Breaking Down Barriers: Building a GeoKnowledge Community with OER

Building a GeoKnowledge Community at Mimas by utilising existing technologies (DSpace and services these being Landmap and Jorum. The project is in two parts:

1) Open-up 8 courses in the Landmap Learning Zone through Creative Commons BY-NC-SA and redesigning the Learning Zone area of the Landmap website, linking through to the ELOGeo repository at Jorum.

2) Transfer the hosting of the ELOGeo repository to Jorum from University of Nottingham ensuring the sustainability of the ELOGeo project outputs. Technical solutions will be sought in developing a specific community repository site within Jorum which will be transferable to other communities that may have a similar requirement in the future.

Landmap and JorumGo discover the services involved in the project at the following URLs:
Landmap: http://www.landmap.ac.uk
Jorum: http://www.jorum.ac.uk