In the last couple of decades, many cities around the world have adopted new innovative technologies to help them address some of the most fundamental challenges of the 21st century. More and more cities are becoming what is often referred to as ‘smarter’, by utilizing a wide range of emerging technologies that collect, analyse, monitor and communicate information to enable the efficient delivery of essential services, improve people’s quality of life, and allow a more effective city governance.
Recognizing the potential of integrated technologies to improve governance efficiency, social and human capital and people’s well-being, nations are now also aiming to become ‘smarter’. In 2014, Singapore announced that it will become the first smart nation that connects “everything and everybody everywhere all the time” in order to “support better living, create more opportunities, and support stronger communities for people to live, work and play in…”. Nations are increasingly understanding the potential of integrated and disruptive technologies to support economic growth, efficiency and productivity and to improve their citizen`s quality of life.
Geospatial data and spatially aware technologies are key for a smart nation. Almost every aspect of a nation has a spatial component, from transportation networks, utility lines and critical infrastructure, to cadastral records, land cover and land use, and exposure to risks and hazards. Monitoring and understanding our ever-changing natural and human landscapes require continual collection, storage, processing, integration, synthesis and dissemination of big (geo) data. This is effectively already being done. Ground and remote sensors constantly measure and collect climatological and environmental data, such as the quality of the water, air and soil; mobile phones and GPS devices collect data on movement of people; cameras constantly monitor the functionality of critical infrastructure; sensors on board satellites, airborne and UAVs capture almost every location in a nation, monitoring economic activity and agriculture land productivity; stream gauges help track the impacts of floods on vulnerable populations; while Volunteered Geographic Information is constantly collected and contributed by volunteers, complementing (or replacing) traditional data sources. Leveraging this constant flow of disparate data while ensuring all aspects related to privacy and security, transparency and information accessibility presents technical challenges, but shows great promise to help make nations more sustainable, competitive and efficient with intelligent exchanges of information that eventually improve the livelihood of people.