Spatial Transformations

I was back to Sydney again last week for the Co-operative Research Centre for Spatial Information (CRCSI) conference, with the theme of “Spatial Transformations”.  Once again I rekindled my love affair with Twitter, and you can see my tweets under my account or you can look at the hastag #crcsi16 for the full set from the conference (I did miss day one).

This time I also got to present, and this time my topic was the Atlas of Environmental Health (which we’ve blogged about before – see here for details).  I provided an overview of where we have gotten to for this project, and have also embedded my slides below.

The CRCSI have been our partners in the first couple of stages of the Atlas and will continue to be into the future.  With some new additional areas coming on board with the Atlas in the near future (more on that later), we are also looking at the broader CRCSI Health program to see what else may fit into the Atlas, or at the very least we can learn from.

I only got to go to a day of the CRCSI conference – but I came away with mixed feelings about the state of the spatial industry.

I would be one of the first people to suggest that research is important.  I’m a scientist by my original training and I see the need to look at hypotheses and test them.  However, it’s the generation of the hypotheses that sometimes misses the mark.  At the CRCSI conference I did see a few solutions that were looking for problems – a bad sign.  When you hear “but we’ve got these awesome shiny things, why don’t people want them”, it’s time to re-evaluate what you are doing – you’re actually not solving people’s problems.  And that, in a nutshell, is how you deliver value.


 I’m really only using Twitter these days to cover events… 

The spatial industry has often fallen into this habit.  We have a few different ways of describing the spatial industry – using the Dennison Triangle, explaining it as an ecosystem, and a few other ways.  However, I can see continue to see parallels to the typing pool analogy that we use a fair bit – and typing pools no longer exist as we all do our own typing these days.  Spatial is – to some degree – heading that way as well.

A while ago I was heavily involved in the spatial industry, in professional bodies, conferences and the like.  We decided as a company that this didn’t deliver value to us – we were often leading in terms of technologies, and our clients weren’t at these events.  So, instead, we have focussed on talking to our clients, learning about their problems and then delivering them solutions to those problems.  Spatial is something we deliver in this mix of problem solving solutions, but it’s not how we lead into an area – we are, to some degree, spatial guerrillas.

Back to the CRCSI conference – the best part of the conference for me was the Solvathon I ran into at the the start of the day I was there – this was very much tuned towards solving problems.  This was where a bunch of students and mentors attacked a range of different problems using blockchains, including dealing with road congestion, identifying medical facilies, cadastral updates, and red meat supply chains.  It was a highlight for me because it really did deal with problem solving and doing so in an innovative way – demonstrating that the industry can deliver value!

I think what I took away from the conference is best summed up in the take-home slide from the final keynote at the CRCSI conference, from Peter Biggs (from Assignment Group, NZ):


Peter Biggs’ take home messages were particularly pertinent to the spatial industry

So we’ll be continuing to help our clients make more stories, and spatial will be a part of that – but you probably won’t hear us say the word “spatial” when we’re making or telling those stories.  I think a transformation is long overdue – and perhaps the first part is to get rid of the word “spatial” altogether.


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