Berlin / Karlsruhe, Germany. The INTERGEO Round Table is the annual mid-year event for experts to discuss the latest industry trends. The participants of this get-together, which was hosted virtually for the first time, are convinced that our world needs intensified digitalisation and networking to enable us to better overcome challenges. But things don’t end with the Round Table. “We want to showcase our topics live, too, and highlight their critical importance – at INTERGEO 2020 in Berlin!”
“INTERGEO 2020 is going ahead.” When INTERGEO organiser Christoph Hinte made his announcement at the start of the Round Table, smiling faces appeared on screen. The participants – experts from the worlds of business and science – welcomed the news with open arms. After all, businesses and institutions are eager to attend INTERGEO as the first live event of 2020 to showcase their innovations. “The hygiene and social distancing concept is currently being coordinated. In addition to the live event, this year is the first time we will also offer a virtual twin. Both the conference and the fair will be replicated.” Hinte is optimistic: “By hosting the fair in a virtual format, we expect to attract the same number of visitors as in previous years, if not more.”
The industry’s time to shine
“Where does the geo-IT sector stand in terms of digitalisation and networking?” asked presenter Christiane Salbach from the German Society for Geodesy, Geoinformation and Land Management (DVW) as she kick-started discussions. Professor Jörg Blankenbach, Head of the Geodetic Institute at RWTH Aachen university, has a clear opinion on this matter: “Major existing concepts such as GIS (geographic information systems) and BIM (building information modelling), which previously existed independently of one another, are now merging at an increasing pace. One specific result of this is that georeferencing has been integrated into the latest version of the open BIM standard IFC for the first time. In other words, structural and civil engineering models are finally being docked to their geographical coordinates.”
Industry representatives are saying the same thing. Although they actually come from different camps, Michael Mudra from digital solution provider Hexagon, Ralf Mosler from BIM and CAD specialist Autodesk and Janos Faust from the geospatial company Trimble all stress that reality must now shift to a shared database. For them, it’s about breaking out of silos and ensuring accessible communication across different software platforms, ecosystems and, last but not least, mentalities.
Oliver Milzarek from DB Systel, the IT service provider for Deutsche Bahn AG, takes an even more pragmatic view: “Projects at Deutsche Bahn now fully depend on simulation and visualisation – even for the tiniest railway arch! That’s why we need to step up to the plate. The conditions are right. Our time has come! Deutsche Bahn knows that BIM is the bedrock for sustainable planning, construction and operation. Digital twins are unbeatable when it comes to transparency, too. If we network the data properly, we will reap the benefits in all phases of construction – and still will be 80 years (a realistic lifetime for railway objects as well as for tunnels) down the line.”
Coronavirus is advancing digitalisation
Trimble representative Faust has noticed that attitudes towards digitalisation changed overnight after the breakout of the coronavirus pandemic. In his eyes, companies are taking the digital transformation much more seriously, with planning offices, for example, having seamlessly switched to working on their projects virtually. Moreover, Hexagon employee Mudra points out that anyone with round-the-clock access to automatically recorded, up-to-date and networked data that is evaluated using AI now has a clear advantage. Mosler from Autodesk confirms these trends and points out that in the current crisis, companies are rapidly moving away from traditional work models and turning to technologies that completely reconnect BIM and GIS workflows.
Green Deal – the societal importance of the geo-IT sector
The motto of this year’s INTERGEO is “Geoinformation for a smarter world”. The geo industry is a core element of the “Green Deal”, which is expected to bring about an ecological revolution in society. The coronavirus may well have briefly overshadowed the climate crisis and current lack of resources, but these are still alarming issues. The Round Table was in agreement that the geo-IT industry can make a significant contribution to dealing with these problems. Indeed, with regard to fleet management, up to 20 percent less fuel is being used. In Germany alone, precision farming methods are resulting in efficiency gains of 30 percent. Whether it’s greater energy efficiency, enhanced energy utilisation or even the simulation of different building methods, attendees agreed the industry is having a noticeable societal impact in both raw materials extraction and construction planning. Blankenbach emphasised the extreme complexity of processes when it comes to climate change. “Humans can no longer evaluate the constantly growing database alone. We need to have faith in the support provided by algorithms and artificial intelligence so we can make the right decisions.”
An appeal to politicians
As the INTERGEO Round Table 2020 drew to a close, participants unanimously called upon politicians to pay more attention to their cause. Whilst the world is relying heavily on geodata in the form of coronavirus dashboards to communicate and understand correlations, politicians are still thought to be doing little to support the industry’s development – despite the societal relevance of the industry now being virtually impossible to ignore.
INTERGEO – which, in 2020, is being held as a combination of live event and virtual twin – will seek to address this problem in a responsible manner. In the words of trade fair organiser Hinte: “We are a driving force for developments and markets and as such, we will continue to support the industry during this unusual time.”
DVW e.V. – German Society for Geodesy, Geoinformation and Land Management e.V. is the host of INTERGEO. HINTE Expo & Conference is responsible for the management of the EXPO.