Exciting Discussion on the Future of GIS with Altamira, LLC

Here’s our discussion with Altamira LLC to help you understand the market potential & future of GIS. Altamira, LLC is a service provider using both GIS and cloud expertise to make school planning easier for both school planners as well as families. The company is well-known for building an advanced system, ARIA (Advanced Regional Integrated Analytics). It delivers student growth forecasts, helps inform five-year plans, conducts boundary changes, analyzes student demographics, and highlights equity issues on a map at the touch of a button.



Inkwood: Do ongoing smart city projects open up new vistas for geospatial firms and practitioners?

Gustavo Zarrate-Cardenas: They do indeed.

The availability of resources within reach has always played an important role. Think about questions such as: Where to get water; find a job; take my kid to school? All these questions gravitate around a location. Furthermore, we expect 70% of the world population to be living in cities by 2050, making smart city projects more relevant.

Recent satellite and airborne technology developments have diminished the cost of acquiring geospatial data. As a result, the use of geospatial data is a new reality, accelerating smart city projects that can discover improvements to the well-being of citizens.

For geospatial professionals, this has opened exciting opportunities to create new location-centered apps to enhance community engagement, support effective data-driven decision-making, and increase social equity.

Can you name & explain some of the unique cases of ARIA (Advanced Regional Integrated Analytics)?

Gustavo Zarrate-Cardenas: ARIA focuses on redistricting, student enrollment balancing, and education equity assessment.

School districts are required to do more with less to optimize the use of school facilities, student enrollment, transportation, and social equity. ARIA offers district leaders capabilities to do this via an interactive mapping interface where they can see their student demographics and school data and instantaneously obtain answers to questions related to potential school openings, expansions, or closures; school boundary planning; student assignment; enrollment saturation; local trends, and a long pool of analytical variables.

Geospatial analytics tools are now leveraging the strengths of AI & machine learning models. For instance, ESRI collaborated with Nvidia to use deep learning and automate the manually intensive process of creating complex 3D building models from aerial LiDAR data for Miami-Dade County. Can you share your view on the “emergence & future of geospatial artificial intelligence (geoAI)”?

Gustavo Zarrate-Cardenas: Although LiDAR point-cloud processing algorithms are computationally demanding and costly, they offer good results on imagery sets. Building volumes and Digital Elevation Models (DEM) are among the products generated with higher accuracy, weather and light independence, and, up to a certain point, minimum human dependence.

GeoAI is an active research topic in Geospatial Analytics for knowledge inception, particularly in highly accurate building façade extraction. Results support that geoAI methods, including Deep Neural Network algorithms, provide geographic feature extraction products more accurately and continuously, with potential applications to 3D building modeling. Current products such as ERDAS and ESRI platforms deliver AI-powered capabilities to streamline LiDAR workflows at reasonable price tags with the option to integrate with existing solutions.

Altamira is investing in ML and GeoAI as the benefits for our customers can be tremendous. GeoAI will get more traction as the accessibility of ready-to-use libraries grows to address challenges around geographic feature extraction, including high computational processing power and constraints related to data sources that affect spatial and temporal resolution.

The adoption rate of the geospatial analytics solutions is hindered by high costs and operational concerns, such as the limited presence of open standards and interoperability mechanisms and integration issues between ERM and GIS systems. What steps must be taken to tackle such challenges?

Gustavo Zarrate-Cardenas: Geospatial data fuels powerful analytical tools that enable every area of society, where the environment plays a pivotal role in monitoring climate change and erratic weather patterns, to model the impact of human behavior on natural resources.

Environmental Resources Management (ERM) and GIS systems should be seamlessly integrated based on a clear and shared problem statement definition, followed by analysis to determine its feasibility, sizing of relevant components, and build only those that are needed, when needed. This approach will bring agility to overcome unforeseen challenges. Automation should be applied to as many processes as possible to reduce human intervention and inform administrators when something fails. Finally, the team should expose the integration environment to as many scenarios as the team can envision. We believe that using these basic steps enables any organization to adapt, customize, and overcome integration challenges efficiently and practically.

The adoption of geospatial analytics for precision agriculture & environment monitoring is gaining more traction nowadays. According to you, which other industries can prove lucrative investment destinations in the coming years and why?

Gustavo Zarrate-Cardenas: With the worldwide population approaching 10 billion, societies are challenged with providing food security and guarantee agricultural production; also, climate change causes depletion of water resources and erosion.

A geospatial analytics vision leverages Big Data with GIS to create a more sustainable food production market by forecasting crop yield, predicting markets, and increasing agricultural efficiency.

Our team believe that the geospatial analytics infrastructure built for precision and environmental monitoring offers promising alternatives in the Public Health arena as a comprehensive solution for detection and control of diseases, as well as protection and improvement of the health of community members. Its active role as a solution can potentially transition Public Health from partial site-specific management to global management focus.

: The increased usage of GIS and associated geospatial technologies has raised public concern over privacy. In light of this, Google had announced privacy-centered updates for Google Maps, in the form of a new Incognito Mode for Maps, which will prevent certain types of data and removes personalization touches from its Maps app. What’s your take on this?

Gustavo Zarrate-Cardenas: Geospatial technologies register, store, process, share and visualize locations and their corresponding attributes to power applications for people, businesses, and governments. Equally, a question has been around since the inclusion of mobile location and the dissemination of satellite imagery: who owns that data about my location, my trips, and the front and roof of my place?

Worldwide, people are used to having a certain level of privacy and choose whether to share their location with their communication providers. Yet, technology is once again outpacing the legal framework. Due to these tensions, parties are trying in court to solve this legal vacuum. The greatest challenge is to protect geospatial data and its uniqueness. Today’s dynamics require collecting, processing, and storing location data by cell phone providers and mobile applications. Still, this information cannot be truncated as it comes with financial information about credit cards, bank accounts, and other products.

Currently, the Geospatial Virtual Data Enclave (GVDE) has been evaluating the implementation of the masking and encrypting capabilities for geospatial data but explicitly focused on geospatial research data and its confidentiality. Nevertheless, the expertise developed by this community will give a unique level of understanding to mentor and guide future practices to protect geospatial-centered products in a secure and efficient environment.

We at Altamira anticipate that there is more legislation and court rulings to come about the protection of geospatial data appropriately and outline the framework to be developed and followed by geospatial firms and practitioners.