Issue 8: January 2014

GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION FOR SMART WORKING

By Abigail Page, GIS & Data Manager, Central Scotland Green Network

Look across the landscape of Central Scotland and the issues we face today are strongly connected to the geographies of the past. A legacy of a post-industrial landscape is still evident in many parts of the Central Belt, not just physically visible on the surface but through the social impact on our communities. Overlay a map of ex-collieries with a map of Scotland's Index of Multiple Deprivation today and the connection is all too obvious.

In the current climate of limited resources across the public sector, it is important to use every tool we can for maximum impact. Where limited funds are available the use of location intelligence to co-ordinate spending is an essential.

Geography is key to understanding the impact of policies of the past, present and future. For example, the Central Scotland Green Network, the largest greenspace regeneration project of its kind in Europe, will make a step change in environmental quality by 2050. The analysis and understanding of geographic data is core to ensuring that the right opportunities and pressures are considered and identified to make a lasting impact.


Stretching Limited Resources


In the current climate of limited resources across the public sector, it is important to use every tool we can for maximum impact. Where limited funds are available the use of location intelligence to co-ordinate spending is an essential.

River Basin Management Planning is an excellent example of using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to develop a co-ordinated approach to meet legislative requirements at the same time as creating opportunities for environmental change. In 2011, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), working with a range of partners, commissioned consultancy JBA to undertake spatial analysis on the Forth River Catchment. This study identified key locations where work required under the Water Framework Directive (WFD) coincided with opportunities or pressures to strengthen or create habitat networks.

The results allowed a clear indication of where spend could be prioritised to meet the maximum number of objectives and solve multiple issues at once. This work has now led to a number of projects to make physical changes on the ground, including natural flood management, removal of invasive species and adaptation to climate change.

Data in our Towns & Cities

As cities grow and become a focus for many of us (80% of the UK population is currently living in urban centres), there is an increased emphasis on how to develop places that will deliver the services and standards of living to which we will aspire. Spatial planning and analysing location is central to this. It is no big surprise that one of the early developments in the Glasgow Future Cities Project is the development of an online Map Portal. This publicly accessible resource allows the download and viewing of many Glasgow City datasets.

An emerging source of this geographical information in our cities is coming from the development of data collecting sensors around us. We all carry mobile phones, which are now continually collecting and reporting data. However, sensors are now increasingly being embedded in the everyday objects around us, in what has been termed as “the internet of things”.

there are plans to go one step further than this and investigate sensors in street lights that will use anonymised mobile phone activity to track individual journeys around the city. In time, this will build up a repository of big data that will be hugely valuable.

At the end of 2013, Glasgow City Council announced their work to install new street lighting, with sensors that will automatically dim or brighten the lights according to requirements. However, there are plans to go one step further than this and investigate sensors in street lights that will use anonymised mobile phone activity to track individual journeys around the city. In time, this will build up a repository of big data that will be hugely valuable. This can be used for mapping and geographically analysing citizen demand and start to allow for smart and effective journey modelling based on real data. It provides a significant opportunity to inform a wide range of applications to improve transport infrastructure and active travel.

The Glasgow Clyde Valley Green Network Partnership is currently using city heat mapping to look at opportunities for green infrastructure improvements (such as street trees and green roofs) in the city. This geographically targeted approach, with the ability to model future scenarios, will ensure that key areas can be targeted for intervention. Opportunities identified can be considered by city planners as part of an integrated approach to climate change mitigation.

Engaging the Citizen

As more data is collected and visible in decision making, the increasing transparency agenda is creating a demand for this data to be open and available. The opening up of data and the range of open source software and tools are creating new and exciting opportunities for communities and individuals to undertake their own analysis and visualisations where previously this would have been the preserve of professionals.

There are an increasing number of projects specifically designed to encourage this citizen engagement, improve the technology skills base and produce valuable outputs. At the same time, these initiatives demonstrate to data owners and policy makers the value of making their data available.

For example, the Edinburgh Apps competition, held in 2013, saw a range of winning ideas with a strong geographical focus, from apps locating recycling facilities to visualisations of city data.  The Future Cities Glasgow team is hosting a number of 48 hour “Hackathon” events during 2013 to engage on a number of key themes including public safety and transport.

The Industry

Of course, use of geographic information is nothing new. Established 25 years ago to promote the benefits of geographic information, the Association for Geographic Information (AGI) is now seeing an unprecedented interest in the industry. In the UK, the industry was estimated to be worth around £1.23bn in 2011. Between 8,000 and 10,000 full time staff are employed in the supply of products and services and a further 30,000 to 40,000 in the use of these products and services (The UK Location Market Study 2012, ConsultingWhere Ltd).

The areas in which Geographic Information is having an impact will continue to grow. The increasing emphasis on Future Cities, Big Data, Collaborative Information Management, Open / Transparency and Location Policy will all be major issues in 2014.  This year is a key opportunity to showcase the work underway in Scotland, develop the Geographic Information Industry and continue to ensure that we make best use of locational data for smart working.


Abigail Page is GIS & Data Manager for the Central Scotland Green Network (www.centralscotlandgreennetwork.org) and a Director of the Association for Geographic Information (www.agi.org.uk).

In 2014, the AGI are staging “Geo: The Big 5” (www.geobig5.co.uk), a UK wide series of events focussed on issues where the industry is making an impact. The first in the event series, “Future Cities”, will be hosted by AGI Scotland on 18 March in Glasgow.

 









By Abigail Page, GIS & Data Manager, Central Scotland Green Network

Issue 8: January 2014

Issue 8: January 2014

SMART CITIES: SMART SERVICES: SMART WORKING

Smart Cities: Smart Services: Smart Working Editorial

In focusing on 'Smart Cities' let's start with a few teaser questions (answers at the foot of this column)...

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