October 22 - 25, 2024, Fremantle, Perth, Australia

Barbara J. Ryan

From Digital Twins to the Metaverse
Digital twins have long been used in manufacturing to visualize, model, and predict vehicle performance in both time and space. As digital twins are moving from the factories to the streets, we have an opportunity to leverage these developments as a forcing function to create a truly integrated global system of systems. Under development are digital twins of cities, states, nations, regions, the atmosphere, oceans, and as Europe has envisioned, the Earth itself, with their DestinE program. Academia, government organizations, private-sector entities, and others are building these digital representations of some part of the Earth System. Envision each of these digital twins, regardless of their source, being integrated in order to visualize, model, and predict changes occurring in, on, and around the Earth. This digital representation of the universe would, indeed, ultimately deliver on the true definition of the Metaverse – ‘something about’ (meta) the universe in which we live.

Under Barbara Ryan’s leadership, millions of satellite images and other Earth observation data have been made available publicly at no charge, allowing scientists, planners, and policy makers to make better-informed decisions on problems that transcend political boundaries. Her work addresses critical issues in agriculture, biodiversity, climate change, disaster planning, energy, health, and water.
Barbara career began in 1974 when she joined the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the nation’s largest natural resource science and civilian mapping agency. She advanced steadily in the USGS, earning master’s degrees in geography from the University of Denver and in civil engineering from Stanford University. As associate director for geography at the USGS, she was responsible for the agency’s remote sensing, geography and civilian mapping programmes, including the Landsat satellites. From 2008 to 2012, she was Director of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Space Programme, and from 2012 to 2018, Ryan was the Secretariat Director of the intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO) in Geneva, Switzerland. In January of 2021, Barbara became the second Executive Director of the World Geospatial Industry Council (WGIC), a not-for-profit trade association of private-sector companies working in the geospatial and Earth observation ecosystem – a position from which she just recently (October 2023) retired.
Ryan has served as chair of the international Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS); awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree from her alma mater, the State University of New York at Cortland; named an Honorary Fellow of the American Geographical Society, and in 2017 she was one of 10 global Leaders to be named to the Geospatial World Forum’s Hall of Fame.

Karen Joyce 

A biographer for Mother Earth, using satellites and drones as my scientific illustrators. I share my experiences drawn from 25 years as a geospatial scientist in academia, military, industry, and small business to help people discover science beyond lab coats and test tubes. But I have an ulterior motive. I am passionate about how we can use drones and geospatial technology to watch over our environment and its changes. So the more people I can inspire to join me, the faster we can put plans in place to help keep our environment healthy into the future.

Qihao Weng

How Will AI Transform Urban Observing, Sensing, Imaging and Mapping?
Observing, sensing, imaging, and mapping urban environments are essential for effectively understanding and administering cities. Advances in computing and information technologies have led to a new paradigm based on artificial intelligence (AI) and Earth observation (EO) data from various platforms, such as satellite, aerial, and ground-based sensors, enabling more detailed and extensive sensing of urban environments. Street-level and nighttime light imagery as well as geotagged data capture urban forms and environments more directly from a human perspective and provide rich information from physical entities, socio-economic characteristics, and human perception. By leveraging multi-modal data, urban sensing, imaging, and mapping capabilities can be expanded, and previously obscure information (including landscape fabric, socio-economic activities, and human behaviours) can be rendered visible. This newfound efficacy enables human beings to undertake tasks previously deemed inconceivable. This paper provides an assessment and commentary on how AI reshapes the research paradigm of EO and how the EO and AI technologies integrate to offer advancements in many aspects of urban studies and applications. We conclude that AI will provide a deeper and more comprehensible interpretation of the fundamental principles underlying urban issues, a powerful tool for autonomous identification and solving of urban issues, and the creation of customized urban designs, which can align more closely with the goals of sustainable urban development established by governments and the United Nations. Nevertheless, open issues in GeoAI, especially integrating diverse geospatial big data, data security, and developing a general data processing and analysis framework, warrant further exploration.

Qihao Weng, a Foreign Member of The Academy of Europe (Academia Europaea), and a Fellow of IEEE, AAAS, AAG, ASPRS and AAIA, is currently a Chair Professor at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and worked as the Director of the Center for Urban and Environmental Change and a Professor of Geography at Indiana State University, 2001-2021, and a Senior Fellow at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration from 2008 to 2009. He received his Ph.D. degree in geography from the University of Georgia in 1999. Weng is the Lead of GEO Global Urban Observation and Information Initiative, 2012-2022, and an Editor-in-Chief of ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. Additionally, he serves as the Series Editor of Taylor & Francis Series in Remote Sensing Applications, and Taylor & Francis Series in Imaging Science. Weng has been the Organizer and Program Committee Chair of the biennial IEEE/ISPRS/GEO sponsored International Workshop on Earth Observation and Remote Sensing Applications conference series since 2008, a National Director of American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing from 2007 to 2010, and a panellist of U.S. DOE’s Cool Roofs Roadmap and Strategy in 2010.

Renee Bartolo

Curious Creatures, Ghost Nets, Weeds, and Environmental Monitoring – Drones and AI and in remote Australia.
The remoteness of much of Australia presents many challenges for environmental management and protection, with 9.5% of Australia’s population distributed in the region classified as very remote. This presentation will provide an overview of the use of drones and AI to generate data to inform the conservation of threatened species, management of threats and in the support of environmental monitoring. Use cases with a focus on partnering and capability building with First Nations rangers, Edge AI and the value of real-time streaming of data will be featured.

Dr Renee Bartolo currently leads drone operations and associated data analytics across the Australian Government’s Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water with her team in the Office of the Chief Remote Pilot. The drone operations span from Antarctica to Christmas Island National Park and everywhere in between across a diverse range of applications. Renee and the team collaborate with many diverse groups in the Department to deliver operational science solutions and in developing capability to undertake cross-cutting science and innovation. She started the environment department’s drone operations in 2014 and has a background in remote sensing and landscape ecology and has worked in northern Australia for over 20 years. With the team’s current work in Parks Australia, they have been partnering with First Nations rangers to build capability in the use of drones on Country and culturally appropriate design of analytics tools, including AI.

Renee was a Fulbright Scholar in 2019, Graduate of the Australian Rural Leadership Program (2023) and is a Board Director for the Australian Association for Uncrewed Systems (AAUS). She is the Chair of the AAUS Diversity & Inclusion Working Group and is an advocate for inclusivity in the drone industry and in how people access data and analytics tools.

Hidenori Fujimura

UN Smart Maps: An Open Initiative for Data Fusion
What if we can limitlessly import geospatial data on the web without having a web server, and in addition make them portable to anywhere? Or what if there are natural language interface to the web map resources so that we can combine different geospatial data in a nicely styled way? The United Nations Smart Maps Group is a participatory initiative to test new technologies like Interplanetary File System (IPFS) or Large Language Models (LLMs) for future geospatial data operations with a vision to keep web maps open for a better world. We present the status of our community of practice.

Hidenori is the Lead of the United Nations Smart Maps Group, the 7th Domain Working Group of the United Nations Open GIS Initiative, a partnership initiative for technology in peacekeeping of the United Nations Department of Operational Support. After receiving a Master’s degree in Mathematical Engineering and Information Physics from the University of Tokyo, Hidenori joined Geospatial Information Authority of Japan (GSI) in 2002. He participated several geospatial information development and application projects including Global Mapping, topographic map data quality control, address data development, and GSI Maps, the web map service of the authority. He introduced the Open Source methodology in his projects, and his Information Access Division has been awarded the Japan OSS Encouragement Award in 2015. He studied semi-automatic vector data verification in the Institute of Photogrammetry and Geoinformation at Leibniz University Hannover for one year in 2007. Hidenori served in the United Nations Geospatial Information Section for two years since 2017. He is passionate about promoting partnership through geospatial information. He started the United Nations Smart Maps Group with his colleagues and friends, with the vision to keep web maps open for a better world, a community to share practices and software for geospatial data sharing and interoperability. His current technical focus is on optimized and efficient geospatial data sharing especially in resource-limited environments making use of Interplanetary File System (IPFS) and cloud-native data formats like PMTiles. He is currently serving as a Senior Advisor for Geospatial Information, Urban and Regional Development Group, Infrastructure Management Department, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). 

Ahi Saipaia

From paddock to polygon: co-development of open-source geospatial applications and workflows for mapping diverse cropping systems in the Pacific.
In Pacific Island Countries, the environmental resources that support agricultural livelihoods are distributed across landscapes with complex cropping systems. As such, capturing the spatial detail of these landscape is critical for informing appropriate management solutions and ensuring the sustainability of agricultural resources set against a backdrop of increasing environmental change.
Guided by the information and communication technologies for development (ICT4D) framework and using a participatory and agile software development process, a system was developed comprising open-source geospatial applications to facilitate the mapping and monitoring of agricultural landscapes across Tonga. The system, called Maplandscape, uses QField for mobile data collection, QFieldCloud and QGIS for data management, and bespoke web mapping and dashboard tools for analysis. This system was developed through close collaboration between university researchers and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Forests and Fisheries (MAFFF) with support from ACIAR funding. It provides an end-to-end solution for large scale spatial and non-spatial data collection enabling landscape-scale monitoring initiatives.
Currently, this system has become an integral part of MAFFF’s operations, facilitating the Kingdom’s annual crop inventory with over tens of thousands of fields digitally mapped and attributed with detailed crop arrangement, treatment and production information. The system has also been used for a range of bespoke mapping and monitoring programs including a condition assessment of Tonga’s vanilla plantations, identification of under-utilised farmland to inform national fuel subsidies during COVID and near-real time damage assessment following the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption and tsunami.
Here, the story of this journey is retold by the team that modernised a paper-based data collection process into a national-scale digital data collection and analysis framework, streamlining MAFFF’s agricultural decision-making processes. Through deployment of an extensive 'learn by doing' training program, the project has not only enhanced the geospatial capabilities of the organisation and its staff, but also ensured the sustainability the Maplandscape system in a sector that sees many technological solutions fall short of expectations.

Bio: Ms Saipaia is the lead Technical Officer for the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Forests and Fisheries (MAFFF), Tonga and a graduate of the Tupou Tertiary Institute. After completing her studies in Information Technology, she accepted a position as local technical expert on an Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) funded project Livelihoods and Landscapes led by The Universities of Western Australia and Sydney. Ms Saipaia was instrumental in the co-development of a stack of open-source geospatial applications and workflows for mapping and monitoring Tonga’s diverse agricultural landscapes. Since the project’s end, she has assumed a lead technical role with MAFFF overseeing multiple Kingdom wide crop surveys, resulting in one of the South Pacific’s most detailed and temporally consistent agricultural datasets.