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Last week, 102 of the brightest minds in geospatial technologies met for the 3rd annual NORTH51 conference in Banff. The 2020 theme, “Off the Map,” represented the continuous evolution of geospatial technology and highlighted the incongruous rise in the reliance on location-aware systems, as well as the decline in public understanding of the role such systems play in our lives. Geospatial technology remains critical to the human future, whether by helping us understand climate change, build safe self-navigating systems, or optimize agricultural workflows.


"Prepare to relearn what you think you know.”


This was on the second-last slide of the last speaker, Joshua Johnston, at NORTH51, but it could easily have been an alternative motto for the entire conference.

Here are just a few of the things we (re)learned:

  • The combination of social and tech ecosystems can create a competitive advantage for Alberta (and Canada).
  • We must couple our sophisticated geospatial technologies with renewed interest in human-centered design and psychology.
  • Satellite technology can help us fight wildfires and global warming, and get a head start in remote disaster management, and exciting work is in progress to transform their product from time-delayed imagery into highly actionable information.
  • Across the industry, to create meaningful insights from the avalanche of data now available to us, our data collection strategies have to transform raw data into useful information.
  • Geospatial really is everywhere: it’s no longer a standalone industry but is layered beneath other technologies.
  • The new generation of geomatics professionals will require cross-training in business, the arts, economics, etc.
  • Look for ubiquitous computing to transform the way we move through physical space into a series of small location-triggered interactions with sensors.


Photos from NORTH51 are graciously provided by Aydin Odyakmaz Photography.