The British government has published a strategy to unleash the power and economic potential of location data.

The new document, Unlocking the Power of Location: the UK’s Geospatial Strategy 2020-25 was launched by the Cabinet Office and the Geospatial Commission.

It unveils plans to create a national location framework by 2025, to “boost economic, social and environmental value” from location data, which is used across a broad range of sectors and allows content and services to be linked to the user’s precise whereabouts.

The strategy says, “Valuable data that currently sits locked in silos will be easy to access and combine securely to create new insights, new services, and new businesses that are almost unimaginable today. Innovation across the economy made possible by better location data, skills and tools will help drive economic stability and national productivity.”

The UK will need a coordinated approach to deliver this transformative vision, it says. The Geospatial Commission’s work to date has identified key challenges that the UK must overcome – challenges that have resulted in a “complex and fractured policy landscape surrounding the UK’s geospatial data assets”.

The government has set four strategic missions to address these challenges and deliver what it calls a “coherent national location data framework”:

  • Promote and safeguard the use of location data
  • Improve access to better location data
  • Enhance capabilities, skills and awareness, and
  • Enable innovation.

Among the many initiatives set out in the strategy, it outlines plans for full rollout of the National Underground Asset Programme (NUAR), which is digitally mapping underground cables and pipes; proposals to improve access to geospatial data in the building sector; and ideas for using location data to support new mobility and transport networks.

It also explores how to identify ways to access better location data for environmental outcomes and rationalise the public sector’s procurement of Earth Observation (EO) data and services.

Also in the document are guidance on the ethical use of location data and technologies, including sensors, and news of a pilot for an International Geospatial Service next year. The latter is intended to showcase and help export UK geospatial expertise.

Launching the document, Cabinet Office Minister Lord True said, “Rapid technological advances over the last 15 years have put satnavs in cars, maps on our phones, wearable sensors around our wrists and smart devices in our homes – all of which are integral to millions of lives.

“The application of location data is critical for navigating our new digital world, and for making the UK a better place for everyone. As well as making everyday lives easier, location data has the potential to unite and level up the country – by connecting people, organisations, and services.”

Dr Andrew Dilnot, Chair of the Geospatial Commission, which was established in 2018, added,

“Location data already has a significant impact on our lives. “Better location data will help us to make more informed decisions on everything from where to build new schools and hospitals, to how to manage precious resources such as land and energy, creating economic, social, and environmental value.

“It will guide development of future technologies, such as autonomous vehicles and advanced digital representations that will support improved UK competitiveness and quality of life.”