Your position has never been more important

13 April 2016

This article was published to coincide with the Locate 16 Conference, the national conference of the spatial and surveying industries of Australia and New Zealand.

Australia faces critical challenges to our economy and our lifestyle - finding and extracting natural resources to maintain our economy, securing our water resources, keeping our communities safe from natural disasters, and protecting our marine jurisdictions. Geoscience Australia provides the fundamental geographic information essential to addressing these key challenges.

Location information is essential to our everyday lives. Where we are, what the land looks like, and the infrastructure around us provide the backdrop for all the events in our lives. Knowing more about our location and our landscape through information that is more accurate, more detailed, or more up to date allows us to make better decisions.

Geoscience Australia has a key role to play providing fundamental geographic information. From mapping the height and shape of our continent, to the national infrastructure that allows us to use modern global positioning technologies, to monitoring our landscape using satellites, Geoscience Australia applies its mapping and monitoring capabilities to ensure Australia's future.

Location - making better decisions

From home addresses, to transport systems that allow us to travel, to determining electoral boundaries, accurate location information is fundamental for everyday life. Emergency managers, government services and businesses all rely on location information.

Icons representing the ten foundation spatial data themes of the Foundation Spatial Data Framework

The ten foundation spatial data
themes of the Foundation Spatial
Data Framework

Accurate location information is the foundation of better decision making. There are many spatial data consumers across the government and private sectors, some of who are also contributors; highlighting the necessity for accurate and consistent location information.

This is why Geoscience Australia is collaborating in the Foundation Spatial Data Framework (FSDF). Introduced in 2013, the FSDF is an ANZLIC-led initiative that will govern how public and private organisations collect and maintain location and other essential spatial information. As the national custodian of significant spatial datasets, Geoscience Australia contributes to eight of the ten FSDF data themes, and provides leadership across government in developing standards to enable the successful implementation of this national spatial data framework.

By providing reliable and accurate location information through the FSDF, Geoscience Australia is supporting improved community safety, economic growth, and urban transport.

Location - where we are and where we are going

Before modern navigation systems, people used the sun, moon and stars to understand where they were and to navigate where they wanted to go. Advances over the centuries have led to development of coordinate systems and, more recently, global positioning technologies that we use every day for navigate and position ourselves. These technologies have the potential to generate between $73 billion and $134 billion net present value in Australia by 20301 .

Improvement in the accuracy of positioning in Australia from 1966 to 2017: 200 metres to 3 centimetres

To ensure these benefits are achieved, Australia needs to enhance the precision and accuracy of its positioning systems.

Key to meeting Australia's future positioning needs are the modernisation of Australia's geodetic datum: the coordinate system and set of reference points used to represent specific locations on the Earth's surface, and investment in the network of ground stations that form the backbone of our national positioning infrastructure. Geoscience Australia is working with the state and territory governments to pursue these advancements.

Most Australians will directly experience the benefits of increased positioning accuracy through technologies such as smart phones and vehicle navigation. Putting precision into people's pocket will change the way we live, creating new business opportunities and innovations. Explore an interactive map that demonstrates how precision navigation will enable innovation and efficiency across three scenarios: precision agriculture, emergency services and in an everyday urban setting.

Location - monitoring our landscape through time and space

It is only in the last 50 years that we have been able to view our planet from space. Images take from satellites orbiting the Earth are now an important tool for monitoring our landscape. When collected and analysed over time, satellite imagery can show us the effects of events such as drought, flood and urban development on the environment.

While this technology is a powerful tool to monitor environmental change, accessing and analysing large volumes of satellite imagery presents challenges. It is difficult to compare data from different satellites, from different days, across different atmospheric conditions, and difficult to ensure the data is aligned with the same location on the ground. Doing so over thousands of images taken over many years is an even bigger challenge. The Australian Geoscience Data Cube uses high performance computing to overcome these barriers, unlocking our ability to use Geoscience Australia's extensive archive of satellite imagery.

A schematic diagram indicating the various potential applications of the Australian Geoscience Data Cube.

The Australian Geoscience Data Cube
has a wide variety of community safety,
environmental and agricultural applications.

A collaboration between Geoscience Australia, CSIRO, and the Australian National University - National Computational Infrastructure, the Data Cube is an innovative new way of consolidating and accessing satellite imagery. It consistently calibrates and compares satellite imagery over time, allowing the consistent identification of features on a satellite image with a location on the ground. This will lead to greater efficiencies in accessing and harnessing satellite imagery, resulting in better decision making in important fields such as agriculture, resource management and community safety.

Reliable and accurate location information is increasingly important in many facets of everyday life. Geoscience Australia is working across government to ensure that this location information is available to the community now and into the future, for the benefit of all Australians.

Further information

  • Story Map: The future of positioning
  • Value to the Nation: Providing Fundamental Geographic Information
  • Value to the Nation: Maintaining Geoscience Knowledge and Capability

  • 1. Allen Consulting Group, 2008, Report on the Economic Benefits of High Resolution Positioning Services. Accessed 24 August 2015.