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Government geospatial data competition announces winning projects

The 10 projects will be completed by March 2020, and will explore how geospatial data can be unlocked for the benefit of public services

Ten projects have secured government funding to find new, innovative ways of using location-based data to improve public services.

The funding for the £1.5m project will be provided by the Geospatial Commission which, in partnership with Innovate UK, launched a government competition in November 2018 to test the crowdsourcing of geospatial data for use in public services.

Now, each of the 10 schemes will be given a share of the £1.5mn, which they will invest in finding innovative, new uses for location data by March 2020. The organisations involved include startups, academics, public sector groups and established businesses, which are being encouraged to work collaboratively.

The projects, however, have not all received an equal share of the prize money, although the Cabinet Office has declined to disclose a breakdown.

Examples of the projects being undertaken range from StreetFocus, which aims to help communities automatically identify infrastructural issues, to Ride, a London-based initiative to help cyclists find the safest routes through busy cities.

Also receiving funding are projects to create a database of all the UK’s trees, an indoor mapping system for public buildings, such as universities and hospitals, and a platform to increase the public’s understanding of the built environment by engaging them in planning processes.

When the competition was originally announced, Ian Campbell, interim executive chair of Innovate UK, said: “Working in partnership with the Geospatial Commission, this competition seeks to harness the power of crowdsourcing, so that location data and geospatial technology can help transform services in the UK.

“This will bring together the public sector, SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] and research organisations, to fully exploit datasets, creating new economic and societal benefits.”

In August 2018, a Cabinet Office analysis of the economic opportunities presented by geospatial data looked at a number of private sector use cases, predicting that the government could unlock between £6bn and £11bn per year in economic value.

The analysis added: “Better use of geospatial data in the public sector (for example, through better routing of emergency services) will create additional economic and social value, although this has not yet been sized.”

Minister of implementation, Oliver Dowden, said: “We are investing in location-based data technology to improve public services and the way people experience them.

“I’m delighted to see such innovative ideas come forward, which will help people in their everyday lives and keep the UK at the forefront of this exciting new technology.”

Dowden, however, previously voted against growing a productive economy focused on science, technology and green jobs in November 2015, according to The Public Whip website.

The Geospatial Commission, launched in April 2018 to drive the productive use of location-linked data, will be supported by £80m of new funding over the next two years.

Its current projects will expand the government’s wider SmartGov campaign, which seeks to drive innovation, create savings and improve public services.

This is already being done through initiatives such as the GovTech Catalyst Fund, which helps SME’s develop solutions to public sector problems through leveraging emerging technologies.

Government is increasingly turning to small businesses and startups with funding to spur new innovations which could help to improve public services through technology.

Other examples include the NHS Test Beds Programme, which funds technology trials in clinical settings, and a £7.5m digital innovation fund for local councils to help them invest in and drive digital projects.

The 10 projects awarded funding:

  1. Communitree – Forest Research, Open University and Treework Services Limited will work together on this project to develop a map of trees in the UK, with an aim for it to be used for research purposes.
  2. Your.Vu.City – Vu.City, Pipers Projects and UCL seek to engage the public with planning processes so that they can develop a better understanding of the built environment.
  3. Crowd Blackspot Intelligence for 5G Rollout – The Univesrsity of Warwick has partnered with Ranplan Wireless Network Design to crowdsource service complaints, which will then help guide the roll-out of 5G across the UK.
  4. Precision Indoor Positioning Information system (Pinpoint) – Cartographix are working on this project alone, using existing Wi-Fi networks and smartphone sensors to help people navigate public buildings.
  5. StreetFocus – By automatically identifying areas that need infrastructural improvement, communities will be better placed to maintain their streets.
  6. Coreo – Natural Aptitude are developing the Coreo platform, which will enable anyone to build and run geospatial science projects and improve the collection and management of geospatial data.
  7. Crowdsourcing for a Digital Geospatial Joint Strategic Needs Assessment – The City Science Corporation and the University of Exeter are bringing together relevant databses so that members of the public can take an active role in health outcomes through their engagement with the crowdsourced data.
  8. Routing Innovation through Data Engineering (Ride) – This route optimisation technology being developed by Beeline is focused on increasing cyclist safety and uptake.
  9. Generating crowdsourcing geospatial data – This research project will look at how data can be collected and used to improve accessibility to transportation for disabled people.
  10. The Neighbourhood Safety Index – Synced Ltd is working on creating the first integrated live score of how safe a neighbourhood is.

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