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Unrooting the Power of GIS in Transforming the World for Better

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Saurabh Rai, CEO, Arahas

Saurabh Rai brings over 22 years of experience in GIS, analytics and artificial intelligence. Based in Delhi NCR, he is a thought leader in GIS (geospatial technology) data science, AI, and more. Saurabh is known for his entrepreneurial spirit, leading large-scale geospatial projects globally, some of which have received prestigious awards. He is deeply passionate about leveraging AI and ML to streamline complex digital workflows and drive efficiency.

In an exclusive interview with CIO Insider Magazine, Saurabh walks us through the opportunities and challenges in the field of GIS:


What is the role of GIS in transportation planning and traffic management? How does it optimize transportation networks and improve traffic flow?
Recently, India launched CORS network through some great work by SOI and Department of Science and Technology. It's a continuous location reporting GPS technology. This will be a game changer in all transportation navigation and tracking applications. Mapping applications on our phones rely on Geographic Information Systems (GIS), which offer advanced mapping capabilities. GIS provides crucial spatial data for urban planning and traffic management, aiding in route planning and traffic analysis. For example, it can track traffic congestion, allowing authorities to make informed decisions about routes, diversions, and infrastructure improvements. In regions like the National Capital Region, with diverse topography, GIS is essential for addressing congestion and infrastructure challenges. It also optimizes metro and bus routes based on traffic flow and population density. In leading countries like the US, GIS is crucial for the successful implementation of automation and autonomous vehicles. Furthermore, accurate, real-time data is vital for vehicles to adapt to dynamic traffic conditions. Also, access to precise data and advanced AI technology is crucial for accurately predicting travel times, highlighting the importance of GIS.

What role does GIS play in environmental management and conservation efforts? How does it aid in monitoring and preserving natural resources?
Spatial technologies, whether derived from satellites, LiDAR, or field surveys, forms an essential foundation for acquiring precise, climate-centric, and environmentally focused data. This data is crucial for making informed decisions and undertaking strategic planning in the realm of sustainability. It encompasses diverse perspectives, spanning climate, forests, water, and various carbon metrics, which are reliant on Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Even within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), GIS is recognized as a pivotal technology alongside other key enablers. Specifically, SDG 11,

dedicated to Urban Sustainability, underscores the significant contribution of GIS. Likewise, in the context of climate-related endeavors, GIS emerges as a critical tool. Furthermore, its capacity to provide a clear and comprehensive snapshot of habitat shifts and conservation efforts renders it an indispensable asset in contemporary times.

Moreover, in the sphere of biodiversity conservation, GIS aids in visualizing landscapes and serves as a cornerstone for disaster preparedness. Through its data-driven panoramic perspective, it empowers stakeholders to make ecologically informed decisions, offering strategic planning insights, conservation blueprints, and actionable intelligence for operational efficiency.

What are the common challenges of implementing GIS solutions in different sectors and how can these challenges be effectively addressed?
Since Year 2000, my GIS / Mapping project have evolved, benefiting from technological advancements. I've implemented projects in 30+ countries, from limited to developed infrastructure. Everywhere data quality is a primary concern, encompassing collection, relevance, and update frequency. Failing here can derail outcomes. Data refreshment is crucial. For example, accurate traffic data today is vital, but without reliable data for yesterday and tomorrow, the system may lead astray, especially with recent infrastructure changes. Up-to-date data is paramount. On-the-ground validation is critical. Technology may lack absolute accuracy, posing challenges in distinguishing similar features. Physical verification is necessary. Workforce expertise is crucial. This requires investments, dedicated data update efforts, building a competent talent pool, and establishing partnerships. Also, data security is a valid concern. The geospatial policy can address this by incorporating safeguards for our nation's interests, outlining criteria for data export and usage with checks and balances. These factors, while not necessarily problems, present challenges in GIS project implementation that must be effectively navigated.

GIS technologies are increasingly woven into the fabric of our lives, proving to be true life-savers and game-changers.

Describe the latest trends and innovations in GIS technology and their potential impact on future applications in different sectors.
GIS technology is seamlessly integrated with various other advancements, from space-based applications to drones and underground surveys. It blurs the lines between IT technologies and is evolving with artificial intelligence. The future holds promise in 3D visualization, especially in industrial contexts like 4D and digital twinning for emergency preparedness. In agriculture, GIS offers yield assessment and crop failure prediction, transforming farming practices. Tourism and education can benefit from GIS applications, especially in virtual reality experiences. The concept of the Metaverse further extends GIS potential across industries. Its applications in industry, education, security, and defense are vast, offering innovative solutions and insights that will shape our interaction with the environment and data.

Explain how GIS aids in real-time monitoring and coordination during disaster response and recovery.
Disasters, be they natural or man-made, demand swift and coordinated action. In these critical situations, GIS emerges as an unsung hero. Consider a scenario where a disaster strikes, necessitating evacuation and resource allocation. Without GIS, it would be challenging to locate assets and plan effectively. Real-time data from satellites and social platforms provides a vivid picture for first responders, aiding in multi-agency collaborations. Command and control systems, both nationally and globally, integrate medical facilities, road access, and post-disaster relief distribution. 30 years ago, relief efforts were often misdirected, but now, thanks to GIS, targeted aid can be delivered based on real-time assessments. GIS also plays a crucial role in building resilience against future disasters, aligning with governmental policies and planning initiatives. Imagine a sensor and GIS-based system providing a one-minute warning before an earthquake. This feasible technology could save lives and protect critical infrastructure. GIS technologies are increasingly woven into the fabric of our lives, proving to be true life-savers and game-changers.

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