Richard Baker, CEO of GeoSpock talks to AZoBuild about their unique location intelligence platform and what this means for the future of Smart Cities.
Could you tell us about GeoSpock and the service you provide?
The business is five years old, founded by Dr. Steven Marsh. He did his undergraduate in Manchester, and then came to Cambridge University to do his PhD in computer science.
Steve took on a project looking at how you would emulate one second of human brain function in super computer architecture/software. He went head-to-head with IBM and their super computer during that work and what was taking them two weeks in terms of computation and emulating one second of human brain function, Steve figured out how to do that indeed in one second.
And really the origin of that is the crossover of neural science with modern day super computing and software architecting, now what we call data science.
That became the genesis of GeoSpock. He got backed by some angels, private investors, and ultimately five years on we're a team of 40 people and a specialist in dealing with extreme data sets. As the world gets bigger and we all produce so much more data, traditional databases can't really keep up and they're not designed for a lot of the use cases the planet is throwing at databases these days.
However, our particular specialism is in location intelligence or geospatial indexing. It’s with the advent of GPS in our pockets through the use of the mobile phone that actually location has become very, very important as a meta-data tech.
And so, Steve really, probably, late one night when he was thinking about the way the world was changing, figured out that when all devices have some kind of location sensor, actually you need to be able to visualize the planet and analyze data in a very different way.
So, GeoSpock really spends all its time thinking about objects in space and time, and how do we get objects and space and time in a database, how do we visualize the data and the attributes, and ultimately how do you help people analyze their data and take action with it?
Which industries would primarily benefit from GeoSpock?
So, lots and that's one of our challenges. Generally, around the world, we see a lot of big enterprises have really woken up to the importance of location data in the way that they're running their companies.
And that manifests itself in all kinds of ways. It can be very much about logistics and asset management. So if I'm British Gas, let's say, and I've got lots of vehicles out on the road, actually I really want know where all those cars are because it's really important, I can schedule jobs and I can allocate resources efficiently and in the right place. So, location analytics for logistics companies has become a very big topic.
And that's really all about kind of finding supply chain efficiency, and so you can take that supply chain principal to the shipping industry and look at container movement and we can take it over into the auto industry and we look at the rise of driverless cars or autonomous cars.
That is one of our particular specialist areas, which is as we start to think about a million self-driving vehicles trying to operate in a city, independently, actually how will that happen? Obviously, we see lots of debate, in the newspapers today, about Uber and various technologies that are working on driver-less cars. However, that industry, really, is trying to solve how do we get to a position where we can leave vehicles navigate the streets by themselves?
Then it's telecoms and mobile operators, it's the rise of Internet of Things, service providers and all the way through to the advertising technology industry. Today, we all create ads, so when you're reading the newspaper on your mobile phone or the Economist, those adverts that get inserted mid-publication come from ad-tech platforms. The only reason that ad-tech there is, is because it's contextually aware of maybe my location, what I'm reading, what I searched for before I was reading and therefore you can place that ad there, very specifically for that user.
One thing that I would like to highlight is, we've certainly seen, over the last six months or so, the rise of commercial property owners or asset managers contacting us, where they own large properties around the world.
Those asset management companies become increasingly important, they come to us and say, “What's going on in our buildings and outside our buildings?”
We’re seeing commercial and retail owners really getting very interested in location analytics, trying to understand well, where did people come from and where did they go?
So as people arrive to a shopping mall, for example, do they go straight to a coffee shop or do they go straight to the shop that they needed to go to and then to a coffee shop? And location analytics of looking at movement of people but also looking at movement of taxi drop-offs or bus services to shopping malls, for example, is increasingly important.
I think if you saw the unfortunate article in the news about House of Fraser having to shut down 30 stores in the UK. If you go deep on that article, you go back to their asset management company, which is a Hong Kong based asset manager, and the reason that they cited that they're having to shut 30 House of Fraser stores, is because the center of gravity for those stores in those towns has changed.
The cities and towns have evolved and ultimately populations have moved to newer parts of the town and where House of Fraser stores are based, the populations aren't there anymore.
And so you can see why building owners and asset managers are getting interested in, how are demographics and how is location influencing either the utilization of our buildings and ultimately the retail or the commercial users of those buildings.
Would you say there are any environmental benefits from using GeoSpock?
One of our core focuses is the rise of smart nations and smart cities, as a theme. And we think about those universally, we'll see multiple smart city projects, here in the UK, but ultimately that's all leading towards a bigger ambition, can the United Kingdom, can GB be a smart nation?
It means that cities today are starting to think about their legacy infrastructure, whether that's bus scheduling or whether it's the train systems or what taxi services they've licensed or what their planning rules are like for new buildings.
Additionally, location intelligence and using data to start to plan what a smart city needs to look like, has become increasingly important.
Manchester's got a smart city project, as has Oxford, Milton Keynes, Birmingham, Cambridge, Liverpool, to name but a few, there are about 15 to 20 smart city projects in the UK at the moment.
Environmental factors feature very highly in those smart city programs, particularly CO2 emissions. How do you design the next generation infrastructure and how do you plan forward, what are you going to commit to be in your city, when you're looking through the lens of making sure you can hit a clean air environment milestone.
If you have a key performance indicator for the city that says we must keep low CO2 emissions and you've got the data to help you start managing that, then that might mean, well, we'll start to mandate that taxi license companies in the future must be electric and they won't have diesel engines or petrol engines.
It might be that you start to set up particular geo-fences around city centers or around certain key hot-spots. So that you limit traffic and ultimately that geo-fence might start to nudge citizen behavior to say you must jump on public transport to get into this area.
The use of location intelligence, as a very dynamic system, is very much at the heart of some of the thinking around hitting environmental milestones.
In the way that smart cities are being architected now.
How do you see your sector progressing over the next ten years?
Ten years is a great time horizon. Firstly, I think the industry that we're in is poised for just dramatic growth. The industry being the big data industry coupled with the rise of location intelligence, as a service.
So big data, because ultimately, the world is in the last three years, 90% of the data that is originating around the world is now coming from the last two to three years and a lot of that data is coming from machines and machine communication. So the rise of Internet of Things or Internet of Everything devices, the data that's coming from that environment is growing exponentially.
So over ten years, as we start to see more and more sensors, more and more intelligent devices, intelligent systems going into the world. That data is just getting bigger and bigger and bigger.
When we look through the lens of big data, we’re very excited about what's ahead in the next ten years. When we look through the lens of location intelligence, equally that's becoming increasingly important. The forecast for that market, at the moment, is in the order of six and a half to seven trillion dollars globally.
That’s really because of the anticipated rise of autonomous vehicles, self-driving cars around the world. It's the rise of smart cities and helping citizens get better use of local services, and cities operating efficiently whether that's from tagging energy networks to monitor consumption and supply and demand issues all the way through to better efficient use of public services. All of those efficiency gains will come through location analytics and being able to plan a model systems and how they work together. So, enormous growth.
How will GeoSpock be part of the development of Internet of Thing's capabilities, in the future?
Effectively we're building the operating system for the physical world. If I related that to a computer architecture, the design and build of a PC, ultimately the world as an operating system in a computer is to abstract away the physical hardware capabilities, so that you can make use of those physical functions.
And that's really the role that GeoSpock has, we sit above the physical infrastructures we’re the logical layer that translates what is available in the physical underlying world and how do you make it available to service and applications above?
Our role in IOT networks is ultimately they are static sensors in the main and they're tracking vehicles or bicycles or people walking by and they're getting more sophisticated, monitoring weather and CO2 emissions, but ultimately, we want to be able to utilize that IOT sensor.
By making it available to lots of different services and applications and maybe just to see the thoughts, what we're really seeing here is the whole concept is the city as a platform. We put our operating system in, ultimately, to help cities become system operators where they can open up access to the underlying physical network.
So if you want to plan a one-stop payment service, that I want to jump on and off any transport but I want to have one single payment gateway, you really need to be able to access the underlying network and communicate efficiently with all service providers. So that's our role, we are the operating system on top of the IOT physical network.
Where can people find out more information about GeoSpock?
So the best port of call is our website and specifically, we have a product showcase on our website that is a production environment of our system and has a lot of living data sets in there so it shows off Cambridge as a smart city, it shows off the UK in terms of we have the national streetlights and all of the police incident reports so you can run a bit of analytics on your own town and say, "Okay, how many police incident reports align to lights out in my area?" Therefore you can see that correlation.
Our showcase is a great place to go and learn a little bit about what's coming in terms of the location services that are being built today. It shows off the platform in a very nice, contextual way.
Find out more at https://geospock.com/.