Mapping the Future with the British Library

Paul Barnard February 20, 2017 Mapping, GIS, Conference

Home News Mapping the Future with the British Library

Paul Barnard, one of our GIS Developers, gives us an insight into the one-day learning event at the British Library entitled ‘Mapping the Future’ which himself and Samuel Griffiths, from our Systems, Software and Data (SSD) teams, attended on Saturday 11 February.

Past, present and future

Coinciding with the library’s latest public project, a five-month long exhibition titled “Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line”, the event focused on mapping over the last century and the prospects for mapping in the future by taking advantage of modern technology.

The day itself comprised of four themes taking the audience on a journey through the development of maps through the 20th Century, the digital age and in the future. Topics covered included:

  • Genealogy
  • Map libraries
  • Maps in the Library of Congress
  • Maps used in conflict
  • Maps used in humanitarian efforts
  • Augmented reality & maps used in gaming.

Some of the most interesting talks were about the challenge and innovation which has allowed antiquarian maps to be archived in a digital format, and how software development and open data are playing an integral part in this.

Helping when most needed

Mapping for humanitarian purposes has become critical for situations like the Ebola outbreak in 2015. With a large number of volunteers worldwide digitising maps in areas that are sparsely mapped, this has helped ground teams prepare and respond to the outbreak more efficiently.

Looking towards the future, there were presentations about how current research, software development and mapping are aiding the understanding of our behaviour. For example, GPS tracking being used to predict traffic flow in London.

Learning from the past

As the day drew to its conclusion, the thought processes shifted towards looking at how maps are increasingly becoming more and more personal to the user; technology companies are delivering tailor-made maps to the user based on their preferences. An example of this is Google Maps displaying places you visit regularly on the app.

We found it interesting listening to the perspectives of the speakers, who are leaders in the mapping industry. Some thought provoking questions were posed, including the role of libraries in archiving the large amount of digital data that we are all creating on a daily basis for future use. The issue of ethics was also raised concerning the way devices are used to collect spatial data.

It became clear that to look towards the future of mapping, we need to use resources from the past combined with the technological developments of the present.

For information on the on the event, contact Paul Barnard or Sam Griffiths on 01756 699500.