The sun literally shone on this conference - it was the first day of true springtime weather in the Greater Toronto Area. The Communications, Culture and Technology building of the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus, was an ideal venue for the day with its massive windows that let in lots of light and its easily accessible outdoor spaces. Appropriately for a meeting of spatial specialists, the interior layout of the building could be a fun challenge to one’s wayfinding skills.
President Catherine Fitzgerald led a brisk Annual General Meeting with an overview of URISA and its achievements during the past year, and a look ahead to its goals. President Fitzgerald also announced that URISA will be re-branded to BeSpatial with the launch of a new communications campaign. All committees will offer opportunities for members to participate in this new direction.
The conference had four themes:
- Data Driven Decision Making and Data Management
- GIS Strategy and Projects
- Open Data and Imagery
- Solutions Development
There were 23 sessions in all and with each lasting 30 minutes, it was possible to attend a good mix of sessions according to one’s interests, with a lot of networking in between sessions. Another option was to check out the exhibitions by Esri Canada, Teranet, Consortech, The Association of Land Surveyors, Cansel and First Base Solutions.
BeSpatial ‘18 wrapped up with awards and door prizes and transitioned to BeSocial ’18 at the UTM campus pub.
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Mark your calendar for BeSpatial ’19 in May 2019!
Tracey P. Lauriault of Carleton University presented the keynote “Towards an Open Smart City”. A concept related to the Internet of Things, Smart Cities have large numbers of electronic data collection sensors throughout an urban area in order to better manage assets and resources.
This engaging talk covered the many complex issues emerging from the development of Smart Cities, particularly transparency, privacy and data residency. Currently, city governments do not control their city’s smart grids. Most of the technologies are developed and owned by private foreign corporations, who collect different data and have different data structures. While Smart Cities present vast opportunities for better understanding and managing urban processes – everything from traffic flows to crime and safety – care must be taken to ensure that the data collected is stored and shared in appropriate ways. Who governs the Smart City? is a question that has yet to be answered.
Professor Lauriault pointed out that all technology exists in a social, political and economic context, but is not necessarily suited to addressing social, political or economic problems. Additionally there are concerns about public resources being diverted from social programs towards investments in Smart City technology. Public-Private Partnerships may be an option for financing smart grids.
Calling for greater participation among geospatial professionals towards the development of Smart Cities, Professor Lauriault said they are by training ideal partners for the project. Data management and spatial analysis are our mainstays, and so we will have insights into the best ways to leverage the new streams of data from smart grids.