“The issues that swirl around data, from openness to ethics, and innovation to automation, are vast and varied. We see many different attitudes towards it in the industries we serve.”

The second edition of our Unearthed Report is out now.
The second edition of our Unearthed Report is out now.

How will the smarter use of data transform the Civil Engineering and Environmental sectors in the next few years?

It’s an issue we’ve set out to explore in the latest edition of Unearthed, the technology and innovation report produced by the Seequent team behind Leapfrog Works – our 3D geological modelling software.

You can download the report with all the new features here.

Customers tell us data is one of the key topics on their minds, and with good reason. Everyone agrees that its growth in importance and power will transform our industries. But no one is entirely sure how.

As Richard Ertel, Seequent’s Chief Information Officer says, the issues that swirl around data, from openness to ethics, and innovation to automation, are vast and varied. We see many different attitudes towards it in the industries we serve.

Overwhelmed by information
One message we hear is that while our customers see many great opportunities within the burgeoning availability of data (stemming from technology advances and an increase in field automation) they sometimes feel swamped by its proliferation and can struggle to find useable insights within the sheer quantity of information.

On a direct line to Google
In an exclusive interview with Unearthed, Google’s UK Director of Strategy and Operations, Craig Fenton recognises that problem, and also discusses how Google’s work in machine learning is helping to get on top of ‘dirty’ data. “In the same way that you would refine a mineral or harvest a crop, data needs to be cleansed and prepared so it’s useable.” (It’s a wide-ranging interview in which Fenton touches on the dazzling rapidity of advances, why creativity is the new superpower, and where Google sees Intelligent Assistance going.)

Predictions for the next five years
Elsewhere, six experts from within and outside Seequent make predictions on how data will rewrite the way Civil Engineers work in the next five years. They include deeper immersion in 3D models, a new age of community and collaboration over shared problems, virtual site visits and fresh ways to bring legacy data to life.

Still fighting the format wars
But despite all the advances, familiar problems remain, and Seequent Product Manager Pat McLarin explores why data interoperability is still a thorn in the side of Civil Engineering.

“Engineering geology and geotechnical practices want to be able to handle whatever data is thrown ‘over the fence’ at them,” says McLarin. “As service- oriented departments or consultancies, they need to be able to say ‘no problem’. What they don’t want is to have to go back to a potential client and ask for the file in a different format. It just makes them look unprepared.”

McLarin takes a sounding on all the many formats of data the industry has to deal with, considers why we need them and what makes their integration so complex, then explains what Leapfrog is doing to remove those barriers to easy interoperability.

Data should contribute at every level of the industry
Meanwhile, as Chris Hibbert, Plant Design and Manufacturing Manager for Roger Bullivant points out, data is not just for the big players and the mighty projects. It has real application for more modest Civil Engineering endeavors – but some are waiting a long time for the progress to trickle down.

Naturally, at Seequent, we see 3D modelling solutions as one of the most exciting parts of the revolution smarter data will bring. The ability to bring to life, in 3D dimensions, the geological challenges that a project faces, has enormous potential to save time and costs, and direct design and construction in ways that every stakeholder can instantly grasp and understand. The Age of Data will enable us to do that even faster and more accurately for our customers.

Though sometimes it just doesn’t work…
However, data isn’t all about noughts and ones. Even such a high-tech subject has its human side too, and when humans interact with technology, there will always be something that doesn’t go quite right.

So for contrast, this issue wraps up with seven of the worst data mistakes ever made, from the textbook error that sent a $125 million dollar probe crashing into Mars, to a hard drive containing $7.5m dollars worth of Bitcoin, lost on a landfill site in Wales. Sometimes life – and data – can be cruel.

We hope you enjoy this issue. From all at Seequent.

Read the latest edition of Unearthed here.

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