Using geospatial data to make a 3D render of the entire Australian continent

How one company is using geospatial data to make a 3D render of the entire Australian continent

Data is all around us. From calculating our steps to scanning the solar system, data is being created quite literally, in and out of this world.

Governments use data in the majority of their decisions. From national security, to where the next bus stop should go, it’s their definitive guide.

Data comes in so many different forms - machine captured to general feedback from a survey - it all plays a part. Often it’s exciting data that we all remember like the satellite images that showed North Korea’s nuclear program. Or even the climate change data shown in Leonardo DiCaprio’s latest film Before the Flood.

In the fuss, we often forget how this data is actually captured. Geospatial data, or the mapping data of a country, may not appear to be as exciting as the spy intelligence in the latest James Bond film. But, it is incredibly important.

What is PSMA?

PSMA is quite a unique company. It’s an unlisted for-profit publiPSMA Australiac company owned by Australia's federal, state and territory governments. Its mission is to enable the digital economy through the provision of sustainable and high-quality location data for both business and government. PSMA started out as a government consortium, formed in 1993 to create an integrated national digital base-map for the 1996 National Census. Until PSMA came along, Australia had no national digital map.

Probably PSMA’s most well known product is the Geocoded National Address File (G-NAF). It’s Australia’s most trusted and comprehensive geocoded address dataset that distills and enriches over 30 million addresses from 10 authoritative sources into 13.5 million principal addresses. G-NAF is used by both businesses and government agencies to enable service delivery, logistics, navigation, ecommerce, planning, market analysis, demographic modelling and all manner of other business activities. PSMA’s other key products include national roads and transportation data, land parcels and administrative boundaries. It also provides PSMA Cloud, an application programming interface (API) that enables transactional access to PSMA data, and address verification and geocoding services.

It’s through a large number of relationships with data contributors that PSMA acquires data covering all of Australia. Originally, it was through federal, state and territory government agencies, but as time progresses and technology advances the company is increasingly forming relationships with private companies. One of those businesses is DigitalGlobe - a leading provider of commercial high-resolution earth observation and advanced geospatial solutions that help decision makers better understand our changing planet. Together they’ve created Geoscape.

What is Geoscape?

At CeBIT 2016 PSMA showcased the results of early field testing for Geoscape. In 2017 the company will present the commercially available production dataset. Geoscape captures Australia’s built environment at scale and links it to a reliable geospatial base, providing an enhanced understanding of what exists at every address across Australia. It provides building outlines (footprints), surface cover information, tree heights, roof material and roof heights for over 20 million structures across Australia’s vast 7.6 million square kilometers. It will also identify properties that have solar panels and swimming pools. The resulting dataset will provide easily queryable and extractable information to empower government institutions and corporate entities such as insurance and telecommunication providers with sophisticated planning and analytical resources. This is a world-first for the whole of continent data collection of this quality and scope.

To deliver Geoscape, PSMA has partnered with DigitalGlobe to leverage leading edge technologies and techniques such as high resolution multi-spectral satellite imagery, satellite derived digital surface and terrain models, high performance cloud computing, collaborative crowdsourcing, machine learning and automated feature extraction.

Following pilot studies to test the underlying technology and processing methodology, the national rollout of Geoscape began in July 2016. In December 2016 the first commercial release was delivered covering Adelaide, Canberra and rural South Australia. Throughout the next year and a half the dataset will be progressively extended to cover all of Australia, with Sydney set to be included in the first release of 2017.

Mr Rose says something like this has never been done before. 'To date 3D models have been quite expensive to produce, capture and maintain, because they largely relied on aerial photography and costly data processing. You can only do this in small areas. At PSMA we’re raising the bar on what’s available at a national scale and we’re opening up opportunities for innovation that people have never had before.'

How will this data be used?

The data will be a great asset to many private companies, not just governments. It will be applied broadly in sectors such as insurance, urban planning and service delivery, emergency planning and management, business intelligence, policy development, and many research activities. For example, insurers will have a much clearer understanding of risk factors such as slope, trees, elevation and other risks associated with properties, without having to leave their office. Similarly, emergency services will know the exact location of buildings on properties, access points and how these relate to surrounding areas. This will be incredibly useful in terms of both emergency preparedness and emergency response, for instance in relation to fire, floods and other threats.

The data will also be used to help deliver on the promise of smart cities. 'Governments want to have detailed information to make cities sustainable and optimise every aspect of service delivery. A good foundation of data describing the built environment will enable better planning for transportation and urban mobility, energy and utilities, livability and more,' says Mr Rose.

What did exhibiting at CeBIT do for PSMA in 2016 and why are you coming back as a sponsor in 2017?

As a major sponsor of CeBIT, PSMA’s main aim is to showcase Geoscape as a business intelligence tool and drive broad awareness of the value of this kind of rich geospatial data across all sectors of the economy. Telecoms, insurance companies, governments, utilities and start-ups will have access to an incredibly valuable dataset that will open up new ways of doing business.

'There’s so much untapped potential here. We’re ready to be surprised with what people and businesses come up with,' says Mr Rose.

At CeBIT 2016 PSMA exhibited Geospace. It was an early showcase and Mr Rose says they made incredible contacts who were interested in the emerging technology.

Again, Geospace will be front and centre at CeBIT 2017 for PSMA. They will have an interactive booth where you can see how the data works for yourself. Don’t miss checking them out! To learn more about sponsoring CeBIT and how to secure the ROI you need when at your booth, download our ebook!

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