Published on 27.6.2024

Free consultation on GIS – yes please! Examples of LIH consultations done so far

We are part of a major geospatial digitisation project in Europe called Location innovation Hub (LIH). It is one of four Finnish EDIH projects and aims to provide help in GIS-related issues for 200 organisations EU/EFTA wide. There are 8 partners diligently working on providing all sorts of geospatial services for free for their customers. Gispo had originally a goal of 28 clients to serve but we were a bit eager and set the bar slightly higher and now the goal is 43. 

Every new LIH client gets a free consultation session and the amount will be decided separately. At Gispo the usual consultation has been from 2-3 hours to 2 days tops (so around 500€-2000€/client). The costs are paid by the EU and Business Finland and the partners, so for the client the consultation is totally free. 

Why free?

The idea is to boost public sector, entrepreneurs and startups to gain new insight on geospatial information and tools. In my opinion we are entering the golden era of a full blown GIS usage: we have the data, we have the tools, we have the knowledge – now it is time to start using and creating new innovations and thus changing the world.

There is no catch – or of course there is – we are hoping these free consultations will start a longer client journey with us in the near future and hopefully spread the word on open source geospatial tools.

And this is what we are seeing:

Advising the client for just a couple of hours can be a huge marketing asset for the new businesses and can significantly affect the organisation’s way of doing things.They might not know about the possibilities of GIS, what data there is or how to use it. 

The client’s personnel can be from totally different fields and GIS stuff is not usually very familiar to them. The clients’ backgrounds have been varying thus far from tourism to nature conservation or from renewable energy to application development. So just a little nudge from GIS specialists can have a tremendous impact.

We have been consulting now around 15 different LIH-clients  and many more are lining up for the free (I would say outstanding) consultations. No client need has been the same so the consultations have also been very challenging for us – in a good way. 

Some happy customers

Many of Gispo’s LIH-clients have wanted a small QGIS workshop just to get some ideas on what you can do with QGIS and GIS in general. The “LIH-card” can be used also in our regular open courses – it is up to the client to select what is the best way to use this benefit. 

Location is everything

Here is a simple example of what location (and information about location) means to the world not used to GIS. We created a simple QGIS project with basic information like roads, aerial images, buildings, services from OpenStreetMap etc. and the client almost cried of delight when she saw her operation area for the first time on a map. For us this was a really simple task, but for her it provided a possibility to view information geographically and finally create decisions based on maps. 

location innovation hub (lih)

QGIS project with essential geospatial information collected together for the LIH-customer.

Another location-is-everything-type of consulting was done for a real estate company that was interested in comparing several locations based on their accessibility to public transport. Through a consultation with LIH, we were able to determine the travel distances and times from various points in Espoo using public transport. The attached maps illustrate the accessibility of the Ainoa Commercial Center in Tapiola. As you can see, the recent extension of the subway (Metro) towards Espoo has significantly improved the region’s accessibility. 

location innovation hub (lih)

Public transport accessibility to Ainoa (Tapiola, Espoo) by travel time zones (under 20, 20–25, 25–35 min). Data: University of Helsinki (2023). 

Consulting startups to grow their business

Geospatial data is nowadays an integral part of many services and it is utilised often in very innovative ways by startup companies. The startups might have a solution already available and they have been solving many GIS-related problems along the way. But as being “outsiders” to the geospatial industry these companies are usually very interested to hear about the different standard tools and methods available to enhance their solutions. LIH-consultation might help them understand how things could be made more efficient and how to scale up and future-proof their technological and architectural decisions.

UpCharge is a cool power bank sharing tech company and they wanted to learn more about utilising and incorporating spatial data into planning where power banks are needed. Being able to visualise the collected data about when, where and how long a power bank has been used is extremely useful when planning new locations for the stations. With Kepler.gl we were able to create an insightful interactive map with multiple useful layers such as heat maps describing where pickups and drop offs were most frequent and animations of the movement of the power banks based on the start and end location. Pauli Mankinen, one of the co-founders was happy about the results: “We have gained valuable insights into the use of geospatial data in our customer segment, which has helped our sales efforts”.

Workshops to gain more insight on open source GIS

Some of the LIH-customers have requested training instead of data-analysis or consultation. We usually have longer training sessions available for QGIS, PostGIS or GeoServer to gain more understanding about a certain tool, but these smaller workshops are also useful if you want to learn new things fast and gain a glimpse on what you can do with a certain tool.

Some of the employees of the City of Turku have been using commercial MapInfo software software and are now looking to replace it with QGIS. They were interested in learning what possibilities open source tool QGIS (that we at Gispo love) has to offer. As a LIH consultation we organised a 3 hour workshop where we introduced QGIS with its basic functionalities to the participants, who had varying experience in GIS and QGIS. They described what they needed to do with GIS software and our trainer showed them different tools and workflows. In the end of the workshop they discovered that everything that they had been doing with MapInfo could be done in QGIS. Of course the logic of certain operations might vary from one tool to another, for example how to create thematic maps or join two databases. 

Elisa Mikkilä, the GIS coordinator at the City of Turku: “The workshop was very helpful in introducing QGIS to our MapInfo users, and everybody participated in the exercises enthusiastically.”

A one person nature surveying company reached out to us and we organised a 6 hour online workshop as a LIH consultation. The workshop was split into QGIS and QField sessions, both of which were 3 hours long. The content was highly customised based on the client’s materials and the processes. The main focus was on what kind of data the nature surveyors typically work with and how to efficiently utilise both QField and QGIS in the workflow. These kinds of workshops are very rewarding for both the client and us, because we are all the time working with real-world problems and learning from each other.

The Finnish Association for Nature Conservation (FANC) was interested in how they can benefit from spatial data, solve problems with it and utilise different GIS softwares like QGIS. With this goal in mind, two webinars were hosted with three speakers in total, one of which was from Gispo. The first webinar focused on the basics of spatial data while the second webinar included information about the data available via NLS and the basics of QGIS, which was our part. We went through the benefits of using QGIS instead of a web browser based map service and shared some useful links and instructions for starting to work with QGIS. Nature conservation has a high potential for benefiting the understanding and use of spatial data, and we were very pleased to have been part of this process.

Profiilikuva

Sanna Jokela

Sanna Jokela is the CEO at Gispo Finland. She has a MSc in geography. She is interested especially in open source and open data networks and co-operation, map making and projects connected to the collective usage of GIS data. Free time interests include interior design and gardening.