(Not) Lost in Space

The location industry has come a long way from the days when it merely meant maps printed in street directories. The upsurge in technology, especially in the last two decades, has meant that location intelligence has become an inextricable and fundamental part of our daily lives.

At a closed-door panel discussion at Here Technologies, industry and market intelligence experts were gathered to explore the future of location technology. The Location Platform company, once a Nokia maps division, is one of the very few players in the world that has 200 countries mapped and equipped to provide location services.

5G Enabler

The most significant trend identified in location intelligence was the advent of 5G technology, seen as the single biggest enabler ushering in the age of autonomy. The delivery of autonomous services will play a big role in smart cities. Autonomous driving,  autonomous resources, and autonomous healthcare services are among a host of other services.

Vivek Vaidya, senior vice president of Intelligent Mobility APAC at Frost & Sullivan, described the impact 5G will have: “The moment the phone got connected to the internet, the power of the device in our hands increased multifold. That’s exactly what’s going to happen to a car. Or a bike or any connected object. No longer standalone, the moment a car gets connected to you, to me, to infrastructure (sic), it will unleash the power of transportation.”

Location services will be crucial in a smart city where autonomous service delivery will be an expected norm.

“With the advancement of technology, we see location as the second most important stamp to any code created,” said Stanimira Koleva, senior vice president and general manager at HERE Technologies APAC. “After time stamps, we believe location stamps will play a major role [especially with] all the IoT proliferation and use cases that we service in this space.”

Readying Infrastructure

Delivering location services requires a massive capability to deal with big data. Then, you apply technologies such as AI and machine learning daily to give precise, accurate location information.

Vaidya pointed out that while the various technologies were important, they might not take off without the basic infrastructure in place, referring to the physical mapping of geographic locations. In this aspect, companies such as HERE or Google have been frontrunners.

They have led the industry from turn by turn locations that are either installed in your car or mobile phones. Amit Choudhury, former technology editor and senior correspondent of Business Times, described it as “the cusp of an entirely new paradigm, a new sector coming up entirely based on location intelligence.”

Data Privacy

While the possibilities are limitless what you can do with location-based intelligence coupled with 5G mobile technology, the issue of data privacy will become increasingly important.

Regulatory frameworks where data is sufficiently anonymized but where services can be used to its full potential would be ideal.

However, Ate Poorthuis, Associate Professor of Humanities and Social Sciences (Geography), at Singapore University of Technology and Design, contended "that [an] optimal solution usually doesn't exist with smart cities...because the nature of these problems is continuously changing, a result of a landscape of evolving technologies and situations... By the time you think you have a solution, the whole problem has evolved. We haven't really figured out how to generate insights from these location data to directly translate to policy intervention that can be tested to see if it works or not."

From an individual point of view, a person becoming more aware of the consequences of sharing data could be a good thing. From an academic or smart city point of view, Poorthuis pointed out that this "provided a potential hurdle because ultimately when we need an analogy of how a city works, we actually need that nitty gritty data. Not to mention that we would need to collect that data from so many different providers, another inherent source of tension."

Data Sharing

The panel agreed that the ongoing conversation to find frameworks to share data between individual and industry or government, industry, and government as well as between different organizations and industries will dominate at least for the next few years.

Stanimira suggested technical advancements that enable consent management, such as those implemented at scale on the HERE intelligence platform.

“There is a need to be aware of data ownership as well as data privacy arrangement with the choice to opt-out,” she added. “As a GDPR-compliant company, HERE’s policy is security and privacy by design while evolving with regulations and best practices to deploy an open horizontal ecosystem approach, where we enable all participants in that ecosystem to protect their data and to retain ownership of their data.”

Citing the impending launch of ERP2, Terence Tan, lead consultant at Gov Tech Singapore, pointed out that the Singapore government and citizens are generally pragmatic “with an equitable exchange of data when there is a practical use.”

The new distance-based billings will need information intelligence since not every road is priced equally. But Tan noted that people are more accepting when they understand that the ERP data is collected for variable taxation - a practical use case for data sharing.

Would people still be as accepting if the data collected for planning road systems are used in a retail analysis for a commercial company?

Ivan Shornikov, chief executive officer at Raxel Telematics, believed that incentives and rewards might be the answer. “If people were aware that they could get 50% off insurance for sharing certain data, it might actually prove attractive enough to give up certain information.”

Indeed, various models have already begun to emerge in the marketplace for data providers and data lending and selling.