GoGeomatics Canada at the 2019 Geospatial World Forum in Amsterdam
The Geospatial World Forum (GWF) is a premier global vendor-neutral event that takes place in Amsterdam each year. As part of my work on GeoIngite, Canada’s inaugural geospatial conference, I attended the Forum to learn from the best.
How big is the GWF event? I was lucky enough to join 1,200 companies, organisation and delegates that attended the conference in Amsterdam this year. The thing is, it was not just the business side of geospatial participating, but the policy makers and top level bureaucrats from around the world.
The theme of the event was “geospatial by default”. This conference really brings home the point that disruptive elements like AI, Big Data, and robotics is due to geospatial technology becoming so fundamental to innovation. Geospatial has become so entrenched in all the things we take for granted around us that it’s basically now the “default” in the lives of billions of people.
The GWF is the brain child of Sanjay Kumar. Sanjay wears many hats in the global geospatial community. He not only happens to be the CEO of the World Geospatial Industry Council and the owner of Geospatial Media, he’s also a geo-evangelist and social entrepreneur. We are very privileged this year at GeoIgnite to have Sanjay join us as one our key plenary speakers. It was through that connection that I was invited to attend the GWF in Amsterdam.
Sanjay and his amazing team run a tremendous event that I hope to go back to every year. Co-hosted by the Netherlands, the GWF opening was handled by Sanjay and Dorine Burmaje, the chair of executive board, for Netherlands Kadaster. Dorine is in a similar role as our own Prashant Shukle, Director General of the Canada Centre of Earth Observations (CCMEO) in Canada. I was impressed to see a national government really stepping up to support an event like this. The Keynote was Jack Dangermond, whom I would get to meet before the weekend was out (more on that later).
Lidar Point Cloud Program
A week before the event I was asked if I could help pitch in and moderate the Lidar point cloud program which turned out to be a 4-hour block of time on the second day of the conference. My time in Lidar goes back a few years, so I embraced this as an opportunity to get back up to speed on all things Point Cloud related by getting in touch with Tim Webster and Gene Roe.
The Point Cloud program was an intimate setting, but there was standing room only. There was a geo blockchain program in the next room I was forced to miss, but at least I was able to meet Andy Wilson, Region Director UK, Europe, Central Asia, Southern Africa and Americas at Ordnance Survey, the moderator of that session.
GWF Quality and Quantity of content
I’ve been to some big trade shows over my career, but I have never been to a conference that was as polished and engaging as the GWF. From the professional interactions with event staff to the quality amenities, the GWF was well done.
For the content of the event participants were spoiled for choice. What is your focus? There were excellent tracks on Smart cities, construction and engineering, IoT, Big Data, location analytics & business intelligence, Geo 4Enviromenent, Geo3SDG’s, and Lidar Point Cloud. I also took notice of the region-specific forums that could be attended. Delegates came from all over the world to participate and take part in the Arab states forum, African forum, Asia forum and Americas Forum. I myself was able to attend the Asia forum and the reception afterwards. I found myself having a great discussion with the chief engineer of Bangladesh for a quarter of an hour. Later a minister from Mexico joined us with a group from the government of Jamaica.
There were a number of private invite-only events with board meetings and round tables on specific issues like commercialization and democratization of Earth observation data. The Open Geospatial Consortium held board meetings.
The tracks of the conference had something for everyone who leverages location technology. Personally, I was challenged to decide if I wanted to focus on the smart cities or the big data and artificial intelligence tracks. Geoff Zeiss from Ottawa was at the event but was one of the few other Canadians I met. That gave me an idea: the Canadian geomatics community should be more engaged with international events, and this is one of the best.
Canada will return to GWF in 2020
Since I have returned I have been talking up the GWF and I would like to organize a group of us to go next year.
For the most part I focus on the Canadian geomatics community. So if do go to an event, it’s Canadian. My interest persists in the areas of what companies are up and comers, which education programs are doing interesting things and how government is working in regards to location tech in Canada. Over the past year I’ve begun to widen the interest of our publication in the realms of AI, Autonomous vehicles, Data mining BIM, sensor networks and smart cities. Why? Because that is the future of the geospatial sector.
A Canadian Perspective
My visit to the Geospatial World Forum gave me a glimpse into what someday I hope our Canadian geospatial event could emulate. Just like the GWF in Amsterdam, Canada needs a place where we can have a premier event that ministers and the most senior members of industry attend. What made the event so special was how it had a real focus on policy makers and C-level executives. That’s something we need in Canada; it’s something that I would like to create with GeoIgnite in Ottawa.
Networking with Global Leaders and Decision makers
As part of the international media contingent, GoGeomatics Canada was able to go to invite-only events with the President of Esri, Jack Dangermond, and the VP of Trimble, Ronald Bisio. I was able to participate in discussions on geospatial media globally with both the tech media and the main stream media with reporters from Forbes and the Times of India.
I had what I think was a tremendous opportunity to network with decision makers and public policy leaders. Below is a list of the VIPS I was able to chat with, one on one, during a networking reception was held on public policy and Q&A featuring:
- Stefan Schweinfest, Director, Statistics Division, United Nations
- Ede Jorge Ijjasz-Vasquez, Senior Director of Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice, The World Bank
- Malcolm Johnson, Deputy Secretary-General, International Telecommunication Union, Switzerland
- Virginia Burkett, Chief Scientist, Climate and Land Use Change, Geological Survey, USA
- William Priest, Chief Executive, Geospatial Commission, Cabinet Office, United Kingdom
Push me over with a stick. When was the last time you went to a Canadian geospatial event that had folks like that?
GeoIgnite 2019 in Ottawa
With GeoIgnite 2019 in Canada two months away, I had to leave on the last day of the GWF before the closing addresses. I left with a lot of ideas for GeoIgnite and a real enthusiasm.
I have one small personal anecdote: At the gala dinner, I was talking to our Keynote for GeoIgnite, Keith Masback, who the same night accepted a geospatial ambassador award. (If you don’t know Keith Masback, you should. Keith is one of the most influential geospatial leaders you will find anywhere globally. During a quiet word with keith I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was Jack Dangermonde, looking to say hi to Keith before he left (Jack had been Knighted by the Netherlands the same day) so I was able to meet Jack before he left. Forgive me, but as a GIS specialist at heart and someone who has met Roger Tomlinson, the father of GIS, it was a special moment to meet another of the great leaders of our industry.
Totally worth Attending GWF
For me, the expense of the trip was worth it, as I was able to meet many contacts face to face for the first time, like Gavin Shrock of xyHt magazine.
As well, six of our own GeoIgnite speakers and keynotes attended the world forum, (as you can see from the agenda) including Keith, Sanjay, Geoff, Will Cadell and myself, Jon Murphy.
The GWF is an event I would encourage any serious public policy or business-oriented person from the Canadian geomatics sector to attend. If you are thinking of going next year, please get in touch with me as I would like to put a group together for next year’s event. The Americas forum could use some Canadian content!