An Interview with Martin Gregory - Principal Consultant for Business Aspectís Geospatial Practice

Martin Gregory is a senior geospatial professional who has worked in the industry for more than 25 years. In this interview Martin shares some of his more memorable experiences gained over that career and offers some advice for those organisations looking to embark on a geospatial project.

Tell us about your latest work for Business Aspect clients? 

I have been involved in an interesting spatial enablement project at a national government agency.  Primarily a statistical organisation, they are just starting to mature their spatial knowledge and understand the benefits it can bring for creating data linkages, performing spatial analysis and for presenting complex information in a readily understandable format. It’s not often these days that you come across a ‘spatial green field’ organisation who are passionate about their data and enthusiastic to enhance what they do through spatial enablement. 

In 25+ years of working in the geospatial industry, what have been your most interesting/memorable experiences?

I’ve put a lot of pins on the travel map over my career – 43 countries to date. Whilst spatial evangelising in those destinations, some have been more memorable than others:

  • Presenting on the benefits of Topological data integrity, sentence by sentence, via an interpreter to a packed, 35-degree room of mapping specialists in Vietnam – probably the longest two hours of my life!
  • Being invited by a Saudi Arabian client to ‘chop square’ on a Friday afternoon. Something I politely managed to turn down.
  • Presenting on spatial data management best practice on the very same stage John F Kennedy delivered his 1963 “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech. It was a different time and clearly a very different topic, but I found it a very poignant experience.  This was JFK’s last European speech before he was assassinated.

In your opinion what megatrends (Smart Cities, Big Data, Open Data, IoT, Spatial Analytics etc) pose the biggest challenge/opportunity for organisations?

All of these trends provide huge potential opportunities for organisations to deliver better services to citizens, clients, and stakeholders, whilst offering time and cost saving efficiencies and/or a higher return on investment. However, these trends also come with their own inherent challenges for organisations that scramble to quickly try and seize on the perceived opportunities and benefits that they can bring. 

A common theme persists for the successful adoption of any of these trends and that is to ensure that there is a fit-for-purpose Information Architecture in place to be able to support the flow and derivation of useful information from near real-time / real-time data being collected and ingested in ever increasing volumes. Within the Information Architecture there are issues of security to consider as large networks of systems all start to come on line. There’s a need for the architecture to be adaptive and scalable so that new software and functionality can be readily integrated within the overall solution. 

Organisations often underestimate how quickly a big data project can grow and evolve and are not agile enough to respond to this; often leading to a stalled or failed project. Lastly,there is a recognised data talent shortage in the market, particularly when it comes to spatial data. Not only is there a shortage of data scientists, to successfully implement these types of projects requires a sophisticated team of architects, analysts, data scientists and developers who also have a sufficient amount of domain knowledge to be able to gain insights and extract value from the available data.

Do you have any advice for organisations looking to embark on a geospatial project?

Firstly ensure that they are well versed in all the latest industry trends and technologies available because it is a fast moving space and there are many innovative products, data sources and technologies becoming available. e.g. What3Words for communicating location, The National Map as a rich source of 100’s of free spatial datasets from government agencies, and Open Source technologies such as GeoNode and PostGIS.

Once armed with all of this information, define a clear vision for where you want to ultimately get to and implement steps and methods for measuring progress against achieving those goals.

Lastly engage not only with existing geospatial suppliers to help provide valuable inputs and insights into these activities but also with independent, technology and vendor agnostic organisations like Business Aspect to receive unbiased views and contributions.

Fun Fact about you

You may have already unwittingly stared at my work for hour after hour as I engineered the mapping data that went into the Inflight Maps system for British Airways!

Martin is presenting at Locate17 in April - more information and registration

For more information on any of the topics discussed in Martin’s interview please contact the Business Aspect Head Office online or call us on +61 7 3831 7600.