Christchurch’s Interpret rides geospatial wave

Steve Abley says GIS (geographic information systems) has taken off in New Zealand to the point where he has set up a new Christchurch-based business to meet growing demand for GIS analysis. The new company was launched at this week’s New Zealand Esri User Conference in Auckland.

Abley’s Interpret Geospatial Solutions was originally a division of Abley Transportation Consultants, but is now a stand-alone brand. He said the new business will focus on revealing the facts lying behind geospatial data.

GIS is a digital mapping technology that gives users insight into information by linking it to maps. It has been widely used by organisations such as local councils, central government and utility companies for many years.

More recently other industries have woken up to the potential of geospatial information combined with big data for planning purposes. Abley intends to target these opportunities.

Interpret managing director Abley says the company’s name reflects the kind of work it will be doing. It will turn complex sets of data into meaningful information than can be acted on. “This often means finding patterns that are not immediately obvious”, he says.

As an illustration he points to the company’s role helping the NZTA compile its 100 worst intersections list. He says historically road funding was distributed on the basis of the number of crashes at an intersection, an approach he describes as “putting the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff”.

Interpret’s GIS analysis helped by highlighting potential risks, forecasting events and telling the NZTA where to look for potential dangers. The analysis also takes into account the kind of crash – some being more dangerous than others.

Abley says New Zealand is now recognised internationally as something of a world leader doing groundbreaking work on road safety. Underlining this is a recent project which has seen the Christchurch-based company work with the Mexican government to produce a web-based tool to display road safety information.