Geo Week News

October 7, 2014

Geospatial Data on Demand with Trimble's Data Marketplace


Data doesn’t have the same excitement factor as new technologies, so we often forget that managing it intelligently is just as important as developing better gadgets. Lucky for us, a number of companies have paid attention and started strengthening their data management offerings. One such company is Trimble, which recently announced the addition of the Data Marketplace to its InSphere cloud storage platform. 

The Data Marketplace is exactly what it sounds like — a marketplace on the InSphere platform where you can purchase geospatial data. Why is this release a big one? Norwood Keel, InSphere’s marketing director tells me we’ll have to go back to InSphere’s beginnings to understand.

“InSphere is Trimble’s cloud-based platform of software, data, and services that we built for geospatial enterprises,” he says. “The goal of InSphere is to help our customers streamline their geospatial production workflows. By that, we mean help them to manage the data, equipment, and people involved in a particular project.” 

This is where the Data Marketplace comes in. Before, InSphere helped you to manage the data that you had already collected yourself and offered a narrow selection of other data. With the introduction of the Data Marketplace, you can use the platform to access data collected by third parties and store it right alongside yours. 

Say a surveyor is about to begin a job, Keel says. “One of the first things they need to do is have access to many types of data in order to plan that survey project that they recently won. They need access to previous surveys and government data, they need access to web maps, and other kinds of data services in order to provide context around the site that they’re going to be visiting and collecting data on. And having that data readily discoverable and accessible is valuable for them.”

So, you can use the Data Marketplace to quickly find and buy official, vetted government data, saving you time. But will there be an opportunity for users to sell their own data on the marketplace? This would offer another income stream for users of the service, not to mention increasing the amount of data available for purchase. 

“First of all,” Keel says, “enabling our customers to discover other data, to buy that data and use it, is important. But on the flip side of that, we also believe that the highly accurate and  feature-rich data that our customers collect can be very valuable for other purposes. So yes, we will offer the ability for our customers to leverage that data as they feel it’s appropriate for their business.”

Of course, there are safeguards put in place: “We are able to identify the data as suitable to its purposes and of course, that we have the business rules in place to make sure that the data is used according to the seller’s needs or desires. There are restrictions that come with the selling or using of data, and obviously we’ll honor that.”

The amount of data on the marketplace right now seems to reflect a strategy on the part of Trimble as much as it does the newness of the offering. While the data on the marketplace right now represents only a small subset of the data that was available on the WeoGeo market recently acquired by Trimble, it represents the data that will be most helpful to Trimble’s customers within the survey, engineering, and GIS fields. More third-party data will be added in the future, specifically data for those core customers.

As they’re acquiring more useful data for their core customers, Keel says, they have also begun the task of arranging the data in a way that makes it even easier for those customers to find what they need. “We think about what data they need and we pre-arrange that data in a way to make it available for them. We call that “curation,” and the curation of those data sets, to have them available to meet very specific workflows, is paramount to the value that we provide our customers.”

With the new additions, it makes sense to ask, What is the guiding philosophy of InSphere? “We see InSphere as a platform for more applications and services that will interoperate to meet some unique challenges,” Keel said. Like acting a platform that allows for easier collaboration between those in the field and those in the office, as well as simpler, more painless workflows.

Looking at InSphere now and imagining what it might be in the future, it’s easy to see how the next big leap in our industry could very well come from finding smart new ways to manage our data. Making our applications talk to each other could have huge effects on the bottom line. Think about the possibilities: data fusion, hybrid processing, 3D models you can interrogate right on the cloud. In the near future, data might actually seem pretty cool.

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