What is Geospatial?


Put simply, geospatial data is any data with a locational element.

This can be anything from the address of a café you want to visit, tracing the flight path of a family members plane, or establishing the boundaries of a city. Nevertheless, there’s much more to it: in what follows, we’ll explore what exactly it is, how it can be used, and its significance in regards to other burgeoning technologies.  

Understanding Geospatial Data 

The broadest definition of geospatial data encapsulates a 3D-view of our world, covering locations from beneath the earth’s crust to the outer edges of the atmosphere. This data, often collected over time, adds a fourth dimension to data – time itself.  

Geospatial data represents anything that has a location and can be assigned an identifier. People, vehicles, buildings, geographic features, pipelines, transmitters and more can all be represented by geospatial data. Defined, geospatial data pertains to the size, shape, and location of physical objects on earth. 

Sources and Applications of Geospatial Data 

Geospatial data can be derived from multiple sources, including but not limited to satellite imaging, GPS tracking, and geotagging on social media: I.e. Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI).  

The applications of geospatial data are as varied as its sources. It plays a crucial role in sectors like transportation and mobility, security, disaster management, marketing, healthcare, and environmental studies. Traditional cartography has evolved into an industry composed of several technology segments, including Geographic Information Systems (GIS), spatial analytics, satellite positioning, and earth observation.  

The Power of Analysis 

One of the most compelling aspects of geospatial data lies in its ability to analyse temporal and spatial changes. Whilst the end-user commonly receives locational information in map form, geospatial data serves as the raw material, typically stored as coordinates. This raw data’s analysis can yield valuable insights into patterns, trends, and correlations that impact our world in profound ways. 

Geospatial Data: The New Dimension of Big Data 

In the era of big data, geospatial adds a unique dimension. It enhances the complexity of big data management by adding elements such as geotagging, changing velocities, and locational images. This influx of data contributes to an overwhelming volume, leading to a significant amount of data that isn’t well understood, making it challenging to realise its full potential.  

Geospatial data generation occurs constantly, from moving sources like smartphones and drones to static sensors monitoring the environment or machinery. This data collection can be purposeful, aimed at a specific goal, or opportunistic, by combining data from various sources.  

Geospatial in practice 

The application of geospatial innovation is far-reaching and impactful. Here are some ways geospatial services can prove their worth:  

  • Spatial understanding and context: By analysing and visualising spatial relationships, patterns, and trends, decision-makers can better understand and manage the environment, resources, and infrastructure, leading to more sustainable and resilient practices.  
  • Disaster management and emergency response: Real-time monitoring, early warning systems, and situational awareness enable timely and targeted response efforts, facilitate evacuation planning, assist in damage assessment, and support post-disaster recovery.  
  • Environmental monitoring and conservation: geospatial data analysis helps monitor ecosystems, track biodiversity and deforestation, measure land cover changes, and assess the impact of climate change.  
  • Location-based services and navigation: geospatial technologies have transformed industries such as transportation, logistics, tourism, and retail. From GPS-enabled devices to mapping applications, location-based services enable easy navigation, location finding, and access to location-specific information. This enhances customer experiences and opens-up new business opportunities. 
  • Data-driven decision-making: integrating geospatial data with other resources enables a comprehensive understanding of complex systems and facilitates evidence-based decision-making. This helps identify patterns, trends, and correlations, supporting predictive modelling, risk assessment, and scenario planning. This empowers businesses to make informed choices and mitigate potential risks. 


As we navigate through the era of data-driven decision-making, geospatial data is a goldmine waiting to be fully discovered. Its applications, whilst already diverse and impactful, are expanding as technology evolves. By understanding and leveraging geospatial data fully, we can gain unique insights, solve complex problems, and make more informed decisions. 

Bryn Medd-Sygrove
Innovation Researcher