Geography: Defining the Boundaries of Global Challenges


Photo by cocoparisienne

Google maps is great tool, it provides us with access to a large amount of data for planning any journey by any means of transport. It helps us find the best place to have a meal or stock up on stationery. Google maps presents a load of data referenced to a geographical system. There are plenty of different data maps available; the Environment Agency Maps present the different areas at risk of floods, air pollution and many more different environmental data. What if this could be combined in the same way as the travel data on google maps to present a smarter way of solving problems.

This is the idea of Geographical Information Systems (GIS), it uses data, referenced to geographical coordinates in order to have a greater insight into the geographical aspects of different challenges. GIS has revolutionised the way we see and solve problems. GIS enables us to consider a wider range of parameters and understand the connection in between these parameters. This enables us to solve problems through a more informed process. GIS Missions, offers a great insight into how GIS can help solve practical problems in the planning stage of both small and major projects. It can help identify the impact of flooding in an area, the effectiveness of of renewable energy systems or on a personal note create Property Heat Maps identifying where you can afford to live. GIS is a powerful tool to visualise and understand complex challenges.

The quality of GIS analysis is only as powerful as the data input. This leads to limitation, the data required is often closed down and in varied formats. In order to effectively use GIS to solve global challenges and create smarter communities, smarter cities; we need big data solution. Data needs to be made open licensed, easy to access and in an open format. Open Street Map and Quantum GIS are both initiatives which bring the power of GIS into an open environment.  Open street maps is a map created openly by the community; it gathers local data and knowledge which is shared openly and under open licence. Quantum GIS is an open GIS platform, it enables the design of custom user generated functions to better analyse geographical data. We need these open solution in order to understand and overcome the global challenges society faces.

Engineering to the Future

Series 2/3: Space Time Continuum – This series reflects on the then and the now, the old and the new, on how we connect with an ever evolving urban landscape.


Photo by Ramunas Geciauskas

As an engineer I am passionate about innovation, innovation in technology, materials, process, ect. Innovation allows us to meet new challenges, build to new heights and work better together. I get excited about the newest and latest and how it can revolutionise our industry. The use of drones to inspect bridges, the use of tablets and integrated software on site; these technologies allow us to work to higher standard and increase health and safety on site. Which innovation in the engineering industry are are helping us to meet the challenge of engineering design for social innovation?

  • BIM (Building Information Modelling) has taken the construction industry by storm. Its system enables a 3D rendering of large, varied and complex data. This has led to a revolution in the way we communicate allowing different disciplines to access the information they require. This has the potential to improve partnership in between industry allowing different disciplines to work in a cohesive manner. The possibilities with new technology such as 3D printing are limitless.
  • GRP (Glass Reinforced Plastic) is a light weight and strong materiel. It is being used in property level flood defence. The materiel is perfectly suited for flood defence and can easily be lifted in and out of place. This has the capacity to replace the archaic sand bag and provide a cost effective solution for properties at risk. New materials and a different use of old materials are constantly challenging and improving the way engineers design.

How do we differentiate innovation and social innovation? The two examples above present a range of innovative ideas with a positive impact on society. However small or ground breaking an idea is the important factor is how it is used and for what purpose. Engineers will always innovate and meet new challenges, how we meet these challenges and move forward with these innovative ideas will define us. It will define us as great designers, social innovators and leaders.

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