How innovation is extending the reach of geospatial intelligence

The need for geospatial intelligence has never been so great. Today’s global challenges are reinforcing a growing requirement for precise location information and situational awareness insight about assets, resources, vehicles and people. This is for economic reasons as well as environmental and societal.

The importance of the sector is also reflected in the UK’s Geospatial Strategy, “Unlocking the power of location” as recently launched by the Geospatial Commission.

Underpinning technology advances

The convergence of some core technology developments, including many associated with industry 4.0, is driving advances in geospatial solutions and the opportunity for further innovation.

With the emerging digital era and developments in sensors both on the ground and above, data quality and volume is increasing. At the same time, advancing techniques in the application of artificial intelligence (AI) are unlocking data potential. Developments in connectivity also help enable faster data transmission, pervasive computing, the internet of things (IoT), ongoing improvements in positioning systems and autonomy.

Due to increasing capability, affordability and global reach, satellite technology is becoming more relevant. The Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) is an established source of location information and advancing Earth Observation (EO) technologies provide scalable, repeatable imagery with various levels of resolution and as video. With reducing costs and latency, satellite communication and hybrid receivers are also enabling ubiquitous connectivity.

Importance of interoperability

The growing power and commercial viability of solutions is often in the integration of systems and data types whether this is for connectivity, positioning or situational awareness. As a result, the need for interoperability is increasing.

Economic opportunity

Innovative solutions invariably offer domestic productivity gains and significantly, new products and services, export sales and UK business growth.

As referenced in the Geospatial Strategy, the UK can help enable this growth by addressing strategic challenges such as data access and processing costs.

Application range

The following types of applications and examples of business-led innovation, funded through Innovate UK, illustrate the growing reach of geospatial intelligence.


Ongoing developments enable insights about crop and pasture health and growth as well as animal tracking, virtual fencing and soon, autonomous tractors. These help enable higher yields, reductions in waste and chemical inputs and greater global food production.

Hummingbird Technologies has developed remote sensing imagery analytics with sophisticated AI to detect crop issues at an individual plant level, helping farmers to map problems such as disease. This enables targeted early-stage application of pesticide, yield prediction, and verification of carbon sequestration impact from sustainable farming.

Construction and Infrastructure

Geospatial intelligence is increasingly important for cost savings, productivity gains, infrastructure resilience, and safety improvement. Developments involving digital twins, IoT, and augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) are also set to transform many construction processes.

Earth-i led the development of a proactive risk monitoring solution, “Spectrum”, for construction and critical supply chain assets such as roads, rail, ports, and pipelines. AI driven analytics using data from remote sensing, including video, and terrestrial sources provide change detection and risk alerts to help prevent or reduce costs from construction delays and asset failure.


The need for precise and cost effective train positioning is stimulating a number of positioning system developments in the rail sector.

Reliable Data Systems International led the development of a virtual transponder for trains in a front-facing windscreen mounted camera. This aims to provide a precise, lower cost approach to train positioning and reduce the need for expensive physical infrastructure.

Connected Autonomous Vehicles     

Positioning and connectivity advances are fundamental to the development of connected autonomous vehicles (CAV).

Ubipos led the research for a new CAV platform empowered to switch between different location solutions. This applies technologies such as GNSS, inertial data, and embedded communications modules for the provision of a ubiquitous solution.

Smart Cities    

Developments in integrated sensors, connectivity and analytics are helping enable smart cities.

Secure Sensor Innovative Design (SSID) has applied their “Safehouse” secure network data concentrator and cloud repository, to develop sensor-driven IoT via a low power, long-range (LoRa) network for improved local service provision.


The digital revolution is starting to enable a cleaner, more efficient, agile and better regulated maritime industry and geospatial data is integral to this.

SiriusInsight.AI led the development of real-time maritime situational awareness intelligence through AI and EO data. Applications include managing risk of vessels breaching sanctions, visualising and quantifying insurance risk, and automating monitoring of vessel safety and security.

Response to Covid-19

“Fast start” developments that address the impact of Covid-19 include: location data and AI driven analytics for staff tracking, enhanced Global Positioning System (GPS) information to improve the location accuracy of mobile devices, remote monitoring of floods, remote sensing for mapping local supply chains to health and social care needs and networked gate sensors to identify areas of concentrated footfall.

As the potential for geospatial solutions increases so does the opportunity for innovation.

UK Research and Innovation

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is also supporting the development of the geospatial sector through:

The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN)

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)

Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC)

Satellite Applications Catapult 


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seen at 18:31, 1 August in Innovate UK.
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