With the advent of 5G, IoT devices around major cities will be able to demonstrate their true potential. But governments and other organizations will have to deal with the extreme data generated.

The unique combination of greater connectivity and increased processing power from emerging technologies today will support smart transport infrastructure such as connected vehicles, smart lamp posts and efficient public transport routes, where a split-second delay could mean the difference between a congested or smooth flow of traffic, making cities and governments far more efficient.

But the discussion has shifted away from the number of devices connected, to the true value of software and services combining to enable the capture, interpretation and action on data produced by IoT endpoints.

GeoSpock, a leader in databases for handling extreme-scale data in real time, has mapped out clear routes to help businesses and governments thrive in the IoT-defined, smarter world using geospatial technology.

DigiconAsia speaks to Dr Steve Marsh, Founder and Chief Technology Officer of GeoSpock, for insights into the exciting future of smart cities and extreme geospatial data in the region.

How will smart cities evolve in the coming decade? What are the key technologies enabling this evolution?

Dr Marsh: Smart cities all over the world will both benefit and be challenged by emerging technologies. Globally, we are seeing rising population levels, with higher proportions of people living in urban environments. This is leading to increased demand on our physical infrastructure – which in turn is causing higher levels of congestion, pollution, and even public health issues.

However, there is a glimmer of hope…

With the rapid digitization of infrastructure in smart cities we now have the tools to measure and produce data about our urban environments. Once the data is gathered then becomes possible to create digital blueprints which can identify data-driven solutions to the societal problems we face.

When describing digital blueprints, the goal is to make sense of and produce contextual intelligence from the data generated by our digitized infrastructure.

For instance, by gathering the data from connected vehicles – geospatial technology has the capability to understand the traffic conditions of every city of on the planet – and help find the root cause of congestion and pollution problems. Through technology, we can now pinpoint high or low air quality levels at any specific location and understand environments that require our attention in order to improve lives of our urban citizens.

But connected devices, IoT sensors and digitized infrastructure create new data challenges that we have yet to overcome. These devices are predicted to create 77.5 exabytes of data per month worldwide by 2022, according to Statista, and this is just from mobile data traffic alone. That is more data than we have ever produced in the history of humankind. This number is only going to get larger, generated faster, and with increased demand to produce real-time contextual intelligence from it.

Unfortunately, we are being seriously hindered by the flaws in current database technology, which simply wasn’t designed for the scale of future data demands.

Solving this extreme-data processing issue is the key to unlocking the true value of smart cities and smart nations.

Which cities in Asia are most ready to utilize geospatial technology?

Dr Marsh: Geospatial data processing technologies have a key role to play when it comes to enabling smart cities in Asia Pacific. The application of geospatial technology in smart cities can take many forms, but essentially it means that data is gathered and analyzed from across the smart city’s different subsystems such as energy, water, transportation, public safety, citizen services, city governance, healthcare, and education, among others.

The ultimate aim is to not only improve the efficiency of the city’s physical infrastructure, but also enable collaboration during the planning, construction, monitoring and management of the city.

Asia has many of the leading smart city projects and this makes it an exciting region to watch in the coming years. Geospatial technology can be used to analyze and manage the data gathered from physical infrastructure. Singapore is a world-leader in the digitization of physical infrastructure as well as the utilization of geospatial technology to produce environmental contextual intelligence.

However, the region boasts advanced smart cities such as Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul, Busan, Taoyuan and Taipei. Many more are up and coming in the region, and are starting to make major headway in the adoption and deployment of geospatial data processing technology.

How far advanced are Asian governments in the use of geospatial data and/or technology towards the planning, design or management of smart cities?

Dr Marsh: Many cities around the world have traditional Geographic Information System (GIS) tools that they are using for terrain and geography planning. However, the use of live sensor data and spatial analytics is just emerging.

Taking the example of urban congestion in Singapore: the Singapore Land Transport Authority has been pioneering efforts with big data and advanced analytics to tackle growing urban issues such as road congestion, citizen demand and usage in the mass rapid transit (MRT) network, and impact analysis, both economically and on journey times, as a result of train faults.

With sensor data from street lamps, smart traffic lights and pollution monitors across the city, relevant government agencies can now intervene and optimize physical world outcomes as situations unfold.

The transport industry is just one example of how Asian governments use geospatial analytics to solve issues concerning city development and management. For instance, Singapore is strategically located at the convergence of key shipping routes around the world. As a global maritime transshipment hub, dynamic route planning powered by geospatial data is key to optimizing shipping operations and improving the trading economy.

Geospatial technology also enables governments to draw out a global map of the maritime industry, allowing for efficiency gains for the industry as well as environmental control and proper pollution management by the government.

What are the first industries that are benefiting from the power of geospatial technology?

Dr Marsh: A smart city like Singapore has digital technology embedded across all city functions. Geospatial technology can provide in-depth, real-time city monitoring and sensors that can help with overall urban planning, monitor traffic, pollution detection, and even manage anomalous events, such as MRT breakdowns, more efficiently. It provides the means for intelligent travel and acts as a data-driven foundation from which a smart city can grow.

In the telecommunications industry, 5G is a rising technology trend that everyone is talking about. The capabilities of 5G connected devices play a big role in the generation of contextual intelligence with the utilization of location technology.

Maritime and transport is another industry that is currently generating huge quantities of data from every aspect of the supply chain. This data remains siloed, leaving operators hungry for insight and visibility. Geospatial technology can help by tracking movement, speed and route efficiencies.

The retail industry is also leveraging geospatial technology to intricately understand consumer behavior, enabling them to optimize their business and accurately measure the impacts of their campaigns.

Consumer insights provided by geospatial technology is quickly becoming a necessary core competency that brick and mortar retailers much embrace in order to maintain relevant in a world where ecommerce has become the dominant retail channel.

For cities, this provides the means to optimize local economies and ensure the consumer sector is healthy and vibrant.