Our teams at Velosys have a long history of working with geographic data for the Department of Defense and in the private sector with natural gas pipeline clients. We know first-hand how the rapid development of GIS data brings both opportunities and challenges. One of the key challenges is preserving the privacy and integrity of geographic information in data sharing management. Blockchain technology is designed at its core to be decentralized, trust-free, transparent, tamper-free, consensus-based, and secure, and is well-suited to facilitate geographic data sharing and management. Let’s look at how Blockchain can be applied to GIS and data management.
In recent years, there has been a growing need for the efficient sharing of reliable and validated spatial information. Velosys has experienced exponential growth of GIS data in DoD organizations where it has crossed over traditional use-cases such as land management into operational departments such as 911 and emergency management.
The opportunities presented by providing and maintaining GIS data are numerous: they can be used to improve decision-making processes, optimize resource allocation, and enhance situational awareness. GIS can also be used to identify patterns and trends that would otherwise be difficult to detect, such as the spread of disease or the movement of populations. Additionally, GIS data can create more accurate maps and models of the world around us.
However, the challenges associated with GIS data are equally significant:
- One of the biggest challenges is the sheer volume of data that is generated. This makes it difficult to store, process, and analyze the data in a timely manner.
- Another challenge is ensuring that the data is accurate and reliable. This requires careful validation and quality control processes.
- Finally, there is the challenge of ensuring that the data is accessible to those who need it. This requires effective sharing mechanisms that are both secure and easy to use.
Blockchain technology has emerged as a potential solution to some of these challenges. As a distributed ledger technology that provides a secure and transparent way to store and share information, it has several characteristics that make it a good solution for GIS applications. For example, blockchain provides a tamper-proof way to store data, which can help ensure its accuracy and reliability. Blockchain also provides a decentralized way to share data, which helps ensure that it is accessible to those who need it and have permission.
Geographic Information System (GIS) is a technology that relies on location data, utilizing a coordinate system and timestamps to pinpoint assets. It can gather and scrutinize any data with a geographical aspect, ranging from tracking a company’s vehicles and drivers, studying the spending habits of individuals in a specific area, to monitoring the impact of weather patterns across a region. This technology empowers individuals to visualize, analyze, and comprehend patterns and relationships linked to specific locations with greater ease.
With the rapid development of global navigation satellite system (GNSS), information and communication technology (ICT), and sensor technology, enormous amounts of geographic data are generated. Because of this large volume, it is difficult to store, process, and analyze data in a timely manner. Another challenge is ensuring that the data is accurate and reliable; this requires careful validation and quality control processes. Finally, there is the challenge of ensuring that the data is accessible to those who need it. This requires effective sharing mechanisms that are both secure and easy to use.
While there are several tools and standards available for collecting, using, and disseminating geographic information, governance across organizations is difficult to enforce with the myriad of potential users of the data. Further, access to and monetization of features remains a bespoke process, unique to the feature owner(s).
Blockchain is a form of Digital Ledger Technology that logs new and modified data events in a distributed and unalterable structure. It achieves decentralization and security by incorporating technologies such as distributed data storage, consensus mechanisms, asymmetric cryptographic algorithms, and smart contracts, among others. This technology provides a foundation for addressing privacy and validation concerns related to geographic data.
- Distributed data storage is achieved using cryptographic processes that ensure all network participants receive the same data.
- Distributed data provides additional security and protection against attacks like ransomware.
- Smart contracts ensure that standards and validation occur at every submission.
- Immutable ledger events provide a record of changes and updates for all network participants.
- Consensus mechanisms enforce policies and standards as agreed upon by the network participants.
Blockchain in GIS
Blockchain possesses a set of beneficial attributes for event management, making it a perfect match for GIS. These Blockchain features address the governance and policies surrounding datasets, facilitate data sharing and management, and aid in tracking events related to digitized locations. This allows for limitless attribution of locations and their contextual analysis.
Maps are commonly used to display location data, and when event data is overlaid on the map, it narrates a completely new story (for instance, the progression of weather patterns over time). Event data might not always have a direct location association; however, it invariably has a connection to an asset that does. In this sense, one could argue that Blockchain needs GIS more than the other way around. However, the Blockchain infrastructure enables participants to share and govern not only the geo-objects but also any event or attribute that might follow. This enhances the security of GIS assets, facilitates their sharing, and even opens possibilities for direct purchasing or monetization models of data and features.
While geographic data presents many opportunities for innovation and discovery, it also poses significant challenges that must be addressed. Blockchain technology has emerged as a potential solution to some of these challenges by providing a secure and transparent way to store and share information.