The Advent of Digital Maps

digital maps and geospatial digitization

Digital maps and modern geographic mapping

Like everything else in our lives, maps have been evolving too. Maps now carry an enormous amount of information in the form of multiple layers which are built through the use of GIS technologies. They are developed and rendered digitally through a geographic mapping process that comprises of compilation and formatting of a collection of data into a virtual image. This process is called digital mapping or digital cartography. And this highly evolved format with embedded data is known as digital maps. 

The primary function of maps once was just the visualization of geospatial objects, but now we can produce digital maps which give accurate representations of a particular area and objects contained in it along with multifaceted information about them including but not limited to dimensional data, statistical measurements, relative distances, and feature evaluations. Visualizations have also improved at large through the development of software that can showcase 2D, 3D, spectral, clutter and other types of informational analysis. 

digitization of geospatial maps
Analog imagery in raster form is converted into a digital map using feature extraction through GIS software.

Behind the advent of digital maps, a major role has been played by the combined technology of remote sensing and digitization. While through remote sensing, high-quality imagery is captured, it is through the multiple GIS tools and techniques of digitization that the high-resolution imagery is converted into digital format. This digital data is then integrated with countless applications across a wide variety of industries. The spread of digital maps in recent times throughout multiple industry verticals has been almost evangelical due to its sheer speed, accuracy and usefulness.

When you have the information to understand your environment holistically, you are exponentially better equipped to make decisions.

Jack Dangermond, CEO, ESRI

Why you should digitize geographic maps?

There are numerous benefits of digital maps and geographic mapping digitization and the major amongst these are as follows:

1. Ability to analyze data

Behind the success of mapping technology is a major role played by the technology of capturing data in digital form. Data forms the backbone of the GIS industry. Spatial data is available mostly in analog form i.e. in the form of maps, imagery, aerial photographs, etc. and it cannot be readily analyzed unless it is converted into a digital format. 

Instance: With digital maps, better risk assessments can be done for P&C Insurance companies. Digitization helps in ingesting attributes like ground elevation, building footprint, tree-cover proximity, locational constraints and other parameters which are then used to develop a full-fledged  proper risk assessment without the need of any on-site survey

Digital map geographic mapping for Insurance
Digital maps can be used to perform easy underwriting, claim settlements and risk assessment in insurance.

2. Saving operational time

With the help of digitization, the time to access valuable information has been reduced greatly. As a result, the efficiencies of teams improve and the time to market reduces. The availability of data on your beck and call has a transforming effect on businesses. Digitization of maps has probably saved hundreds of years worth of time for organizations which would have otherwise been spent on manual ground surveys. Moreover, digital format allows easy sharing, collaboration, exchange and access of documents. Productivity peaks and revenue grows. 

Instance: In the Landscape industry, developing site plans is a time-consuming process as one often needs to visit the site for a physical inspection, However, this can be reduced considerably through digital maps. With the help of aerial imagery and feature extraction technology, 3D site plans can be developed easily within the comfort of one’s office without any need for a field trip. 

Digital map geographic mapping for Landscape
Digital Maps can be used to perform property inspection, vegetation survey, etc. that require site visit

3. Accuracy

The accuracy of information in digital maps is very high. With the development of highly efficient and accurate feature extraction tools, inscrutable QC steps, digital maps are very accurate. Moreover, digitization has helped in the elimination of manual errors. The availability of accurate geospatial data helps organizational leads to make confident and informed business decisions. 

Instance: The advent of automated vehicles demands extremely accurate maps with almost zero tolerance for errors to foster safe navigation. Digital maps have risen to this need of the hour. 

Digital map geographic mapping for navigation
Navigation maps provide a very accurate road features and geometry for a number of applications

4. Easy and secure accessibility: 

With cloud technology and map sharing software,  ease of access to digital maps has vastly increased leading to acceleration of project timelines and faster decision making. Moreover, the distribution of digital maps and geospatial data can be tracked. Permissions can be shared with only required users, thus preventing any unauthorized data access.

Instance: A decade back, numerous government agencies stored geospatial data in files and physical folders which were misplaced, stolen or lost during unforeseen disasters. However, digitization of these geospatial data has eliminated all these issues completely. 

Digital maps and storage
Paper files can be destroyed or misplaced, while cloud storage remains intact. Left image credit: Getty Images

What if you do not digitize?

Even though geospatial digitization digital geographic mapping has huge benefits, many organizations are on their backfoot when it comes to it.  Numerous myths, misconceptions, and preconceived notions influence their attitude towards digitization. In this section, we would like to dispel these myths and misconceptions and try to help you understand why digitization is inevitable and you should embrace it as soon as you can.

raster to digital maps

Raster data does no good until digitized

Your imagery is in raster form. It comprises a matrix of cells (or pixels) organized into rows and columns (or a grid) where each cell contains a value representing information. Now, this raster information isn’t much useful. It cannot be used for analysis, planning or used further for the development of location-based products. However, if this imagery is digitized, the information contained in the raster grids are extracted and processed into a usable format. Now, this can be used to design cities, understand risks, build products and navigate fluently amongst many other benefits. So, until you digitize your imagery, the potential information it contains is wasting away.

geospatial digitization competition

You may not digitize, but your competition will

The wave of digitization in geospatial science and location-based data is massive. Every industry that uses geospatial data is switching to digital maps. This means they are becoming faster, more accurate and better at what they do by digitizing their maps.  What it actually means for you is that they are starting to serve customers faster, better and with multiple counts of value addition on the way. They are slowly owning the customer base, your customer base, and strengthening their market share. Soon these organizations with data will come on top in the market with flying colors. You don’t want to stand and watch. 

geospatial products digital

Your products and services need digitization

Your products and offerings have an evolutionary life cycle of their own. The potential of your products becomes huge when they are integrated with a digital geospatial data system. Your products will become more apt, more resourceful and more object-driven than they are now. It’s like running on an internal combustion engine than driven by a pair of oxen. You can probably see the amount of potential evolution your product can scale up to. Let it evolve: with digital maps. 

digital maps for geographic mapping

Your existing customers need digital maps

Your client base sooner or later will realize the value of digital maps. What then? How do you fight the speed and accuracy of a geospatial data set gathered in a few days with your traditional cartography results? How do you face the humongous benefits of digital maps with raster information bits? You can’t afford to lose your loyal customers. You have to prepare for the inevitable. Or else…  we don’t want to go there!

geographic mapping and digital maps

Geography is now digital

As ESRI CEO Jack Daggermond rightly said during an interview, “If you think about it abstractly, there isn’t an area that isn’t touched by location, be that farming, disaster response, national security.” GIS has been pervading every human activity today and this is only because of the rapid digital transformations that the engineering of geography has embraced. Raster imagery isn’t sufficient anymore. Geographic mapping has now moved to a new container, altogether.  And that container is digital. 

Thus, the potential of a digital geospatial platform is limitless. And no one should miss it.

From predicting cyclones by meteorological departments to finding the perfect spot for a coffee shop by Starbucks: the range of geospatial data potential is huge. B2B segments like governments and infrastructure companies,  heavily depend on it. While B2C segments, like navigation and real estate, also use the indispensable features of digital maps to serve their clientele. In fact, digital map has been changing all industry verticals for the better for the past couple of decades. It’s like a flowing stream of sunshine. And you shouldn’t miss making hay. 

Problems you might face while digitizing your geographic maps

Now, digitization even though very essential and inevitable, is hard to carry out. The major problems with geospatial digitization are as follows:

The traditional comfort zone: 

A major roadblock is the prevalent comfort of using traditional geographic mapping methods. The nature of digitization and the requirement of change of modus operandi may seem like venturing into a strange territory. As a result, management of various companies, do not go digital, until it’s too late. 

A lack of know-how of geospatial digitization: 

The sheer lack of awareness of the upgrade that geography and applied geospatial science has made in the last few years is a major deterrent for digitization.  The benefits of the emergence of technology that can digitize raster data easily is not understood fully. Decision-makers are ignorant of how digital maps are changing their very own industries and the global economy on the whole. However, in this case, ignorance cannot be bliss but is rather shrouded with future penalties. 

The bottleneck of feature extraction:

The geospatial digitization process starts with converting the analog geospatial imagery into digital maps. This process requires feature extraction.  However, the conversion of this analog imagery into a digital data format is one of the biggest bottlenecks in the industry. It requires intense labor and time due to its inherent nature. As a result, this bottleneck conflagrates into a full-blown roadblock on the path of digitization. 

So, how do you digitize your raster imagery easily?

A natural question at this stage that you might ask is- so how do you go about it? How do you start the process of digitization? How does one vanquish the roadblocks, the deterrents on this path?

Well, by trying to understand the nuances of geospatial digitization, the curse of non-digitization and the myths and the trickery of the process, you have already begun. You are already on your way to understanding and implementing digitization. 

Start researching on the latest development of geospatial techniques and geographic mapping relevant to your industry. Read the pronouncements of industry leaders and influencers. Understand the basic geospatial necessity that your customers or products have. After this, try to place your use-case and product application in the right section of the geospatial domain. Step by step you will start building your organization’s geospatial framework.

Or, simply contact us at Attentive AI. Our team of digital cartographers and industry experts will understand your business case and develop a geospatial strategy to help your products and services evolve and your customer base grow. We will develop digital maps unique to your application. Also, we will help you embrace this wave of digitization with ease and comfort. 

Remember, the feature extraction bottleneck we talked about in the earlier section? Well, we will take care of that too. We have developed an AI-based feature extraction engine called MapX, that remarkably reduces the turnaround time and helps you to get your digital maps on demand and in time. 

Contact us to know more about geographic mapping digitization and digital maps. Meanwhile, all the best to you, in this ever-changing digital world. 

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3 Responses

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