It’s a common mistake to think that spatial information is only about maps. Of course, there’s a lot of spatial information on maps, but there’s much more to it.
The CRCSI projects already show how broad spatial information is used. Global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), the focus of our Program 1, require a lot of research to provide you with the exact position where you are. We try to get as much detail as possible, so we can figure out to the centimetre where objects are. Why? Well, the more accurate we know where objects are, the more detailed automation we can perform. For example, we can create automatic farming machines that increase the output of farms.
Anything spatial relates to location, and you are always somewhere. However, the influence of a location is often omitted, such as the traditional health diagnosis and treatment practice. Of course, linking health and location is very important, as it will allow for better detection and forecasting of illness and wellbeing. This is the focus of our Program 4.4. And, when we know these locations, modifications there can improve the population’s welfare.
Although you can display locations on a map, you cannot just map everything to get the right information. There are often tremendous amounts of spatial data, and only the clever combination gets you the correct result. But how do you find this clever combination? And how do we get these combinations without waiting for days or even months, when we need to respond to a disaster right now? Program 2 will focus on how we can use data and clever analytics to make the right decision.
Simply dealing with the amount of information is already a challenge: how do you manage and display this? How do you find the right piece of data? That’s our focus of Program 3. Similar as the many different files you have on your computer, each to be opened with a separate program, spatial data has many different ways of being represented and stored. Working with standards, artificial intelligence and creating information instead of even more data, we work towards effective management and decision support systems.
A large amount of companies, organisations and governments use spatial information. Just looking at the projects we performed for our partners, you can see the wide range of applications.
One of the most involved projects of the CRCSI is the NRM Spatial Hub (project 4.19), in which land managers are provided with a decision support system to manage their property. 30 years of satellite imagery and planning knowledge is used in the system, and this historical knowledge combined with knowledge of other similar land uses elsewhere allow owners to make the right decision how to use their land to improve outcome.
Similarly, the Biomass Business project (project 4.18) is developing a tool that measures the amount of biomass that exists in pasture. This will allow livestock producers to exactly know how many animals can be supported by their land, again increasing their production.
Of course, when disaster strikes a lot of data is needed to provide immediate aid, but also assist recovery. The Vanuatu Google Globe was developed to map the areas at risk from sea level rise and flood impact, and the Vanuatu government decided to make much of the spatial data open source. After cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu in March 2015, the open source platform was used to map damage and assist in the delivery of aid to the highest affected areas. The training the CRCSI provided to the Vanuatu users similarly assisted them in their recovery.
Have you ever played one of games in the famous Sim City series? Developing a city in reality is not as simple as playing the game, but software tools help us to make decisions for actual development. In our Greening the Greyfields project (project 4.55) we combine a very large range of urban development data into the ENVISION tool. It’s the closest we get to Sim City for the real world.
You most certainly do! Even if you think you don’t. The simplest example of course is the map, to find the address you’ve never been to before. But, even if you drive your daily drive, the road signs telling you how far you still have to go or what exit you pass by, contain spatial information. If you use public transport, much more spatial information is necessary. You’re not dealing with it yourself, but the scheduling of the trains and buses requires a lot of information so that everything runs smoothly.
Of course, you think, that’s all eventually related to maps. There’s more though. The daily weather report shows tomorrow’s weather on a nice map, but to create it requires satellites making photos of the earth, sensors measuring the environment at several locations on the ground, and computers with algorithms to make the prediction.
A more complex system that uses spatial information is also something we take for granted. Suppose you are in a bus or train, and you’re making a phone call to someone else who happens to be also moving. Your voice is digitized in your phone, sent to the cell tower, which transmits it further, until it arrives at the other side, instantaneously. How does it know where you are, and where it needs to go? And you’re moving as well, so what happens when you’re out of the cell tower’s range? And, the same happens on the other side. This requires the system to know where both of you are, the range of towers that are in both your reach, and the path the data has to take from you to the other side.
Spatial information does not need to be global, or related to any flat surface that can be projected onto maps. Suppose you’re visiting a state-of-the-art skyscraper for a meeting. After entering the foyer, an arrow and text points you to a computer screen. After searching for the person you need to meet, the machine shows you the level, room number, and provides you with an access card. Following the arrows to the correct lift, you hold the card in front of the reader, and as the lift arrives it’s pre-programmed to bring you to the correct floor. What kind of spatial information did you use? Well, the arrows and texts are specifically designed for you to go in the right direction, but hidden is a complete information system that remembered which level you need to go to. And, with about 5000 people working in this building, spread over many floors and able to take a range of lifts, there’s a lot of spatial information used!
The words we use are important regardless of where we work and live, who we talk to and the industry we surround ourselves.
It is a journey of words that will take the spatial industry beyond the boundaries of our ‘known’ spatial world.
The first step in this journey is the Spatial ‘Rosetta’ Stone.
Making sense of Ontologies and Vocabularies
A controlled vocabulary is a way to insert an interpretive layer of semantics between the term entered by the user and the underlying database to better represent the original intention of the terms of the user. Ontologies are the study of what kinds of things exist or can exist in relation to other things.
In context of Program 3, it’s our ability to search the internet using common words or phrases to bring up results that only relate to our particular search.
Simply put, if I’m searching for coffee in Carlton, I only want to see results for coffee Carlton (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) as it’s relevant to my location and my search.
By developing a controlled vocabulary we can insert an interpretation (or a layer) between my internet search [coffee in Carlton] and the database [google.com] it draws upon.
The Semantic Web
The semantic web is an extension of the existing world wide web. It provides a standardised way of expressing the relationships between web pages. Its machine readable information that has a common format and a common language for recording how data relates to real world objects
Geocoded addressing – the converting of physical addresses to GPS coordinates – has becomes a vital tool for emergency response units, social services, insurance companies, telecommunications infrastructure, daily personal and business navigation and many more applications and uses.
Modernising Australia's Disruptive Datums
Datums are used in GPS systems to indicate a position on maps to its real position on earth. It is the reference point used to locate a place.
Australia's current geocentric datum will not be able to support the requirements of Australians in a spatially connected world.
Remotely examines the surface of the earth. Lidar data is the information captured. The information can be used to make high resolution maps such as globes.
A register (such as a map or survey) that shows property ownership (real estate) and boundaries in a district covering freehold and crown land parcels. Data includes spatial information such as spatial coordinates for land boundaries, area or size, road and street names, names of waterways, codes for local government.
The property boundaries and related property description of all land parcels are usually held by State Governments in Australia.
Local Government tends to use cadastral registers to keep track of:
- Registered plans of subdivision and amalgamation
- Government gazettes and administrative notifications
- Strata, easements and boundaries of administrative areas.
Bathymetry is the study of underwater depth in lakes or ocean floors. So its really the underwater version of topography.
We use bathymetry to study seafloor terrain, contour lines, and depth to provide navigational information. At the CRCSI we use bathymetry in our work with the Pacific Island communities.
The starting place for the results of the work of the CRCSI is the Intellectual Property Registry. This is the host of 15 current commercialisation and investment opportunities from across the research portfolio of the CRCSI.