Andrew Loveless is a former Ordnance Survey (OS) director and figurehead in the geospatial sector. He joined Gaist’s board earlier this year.

We caught up with him to chat trampolines, travel and the future of transport.

You started out in the Army – what took you down that route? Was it a formative experience for you?

Looking back, joining the Royal Signals seemed a natural extension of boarding school – bar some key differences such as the change in uniform colour to green.  I got paid to study electronic engineering. Free equipment and travel to lots of sports to represent the regiment and the army for canoeing, running and hockey. In fact, I recently found  an old tracksuit covered with badges. It was essentially grown up cubs!

Who have been your key personal influences?

My grandad was very influential as  I spent time growing up with him. This is where my passion for woodwork and house renovation comes from.

Did you enjoying studying maps/ exploring routes as a child?

Coming from the South Coast most of the Ordnance Survey maps had lots of sea on them. But I loved the Isle of Wight map – great memories of planning routes and camping. During my teens I used to do the Purbeck Plod – the 25 mile route round the Isle of Purbeck. The marines would run round. The route was out along the coast to Kimmeridge and back over Nine Barrow Down to Old Harry Rocks then back to Swanage.

How has the lockdown experience been for you and your family? What have your survival strategies been?

From a work perspective, I was lucky enough to have my own home office as I had previously worked from home a lot when not overseas. The challenge has been to close the office door and keep the kids out so the mouse, pens and microphone have not been borrowed overnight.

Along with others, I have boosted the share price of B&Q. I’ve built a dry stone wall, dug a giant hole for a 14-foot square-in-the-ground trampoline. I’ve also spent weekends volunteering at Covid injection centres – a very moving experience supporting the frail and elderly who were so grateful. What I truly admire about that segment of the population is that they have no sense of entitlement

The transition to digital and virtual ways of doing business has been fast-forwarded. Post Covid, I personally would not jump onto planes/trains or automobiles for meetings and will try to travel by exception.

Any time left for relaxing?

Dog walking on the beach every morning. It truly grounds me. In summer, I leave flip flops on the prom “Reggie Perrin” style and paddle in the sea.

I love renovation – my property current project is almost done and we are looking for the next.

Lock-down has also allowed me to hone my cooking.  Current obsessions include making sushi, Indian and Indonesian food. Nothing better than a day in the kitchen to immerse in something completely different.

What does the term leadership mean to you? What is your leadership style?

For me leadership is a privilege. In the business world, we are all obsessed about creating and delivering value to clients as effectively and efficiently as possible. We are all part of the same process, just performing different roles. The leadership piece is ensuring people have a voice. I encourage challenge, and a constant focus on where we can improve. Another important area is motivation – are people doing roles they like? All of this is balanced with accountability – ensuring the team delivers on what is expected . Leadership comes with a little stick too!

What has been the most important event in your working life?

Without a doubt my daughter successfully completing treatment for Leukaemia was one. Others would be being part of a senior team scaling and floating a technology business on the Nasdaq stock exchange. It was game changing on many levels. More generally, working around the world and seeing many different cultures and countries and ways of doing business has had a big impact. Always nice to land back at Heathrow, even when it’s grey and raining.

You spent three years as a main board director at Ordnance Survey –  A fascinating time to be there as it shifted from being a paper map-maker to a Big Data brand?

OS is a phenomenal global brand and operates across a number of markets – Government, E&I, International and Consumer which yes do make paper maps. In fact paper maps sales, which are c.5% of total revenue, have actually been increasing. This could potentially be for two reasons – first a well known comedian used a paper map to find his way out of the New Forest and tweeted about it. Secondly, a newspaper ran an article saying OS were stopping paper maps – not true but it prompted a large spike in sales!

What were the most valuable knowledge / skills you acquired from OS that will benefit Gaist?

As a board member my role was to package up the data and make it valuable for a wide range of global markets.

Data is globally critical for every industry but more important is the change in data, change intelligence. Second is the need to turn data into actionable insight. At Gaist, we are thinking about geo intelligence differently. It is clear location of assets is not enough and the market demands more.

Gaist is focused on four things: Location, attribution, condition and temporal and HD imagery. This combination supports many market segments with proactive asset management by provision of a rich change intelligence feed. Another area is the fusing of static and dynamic data and how this provides a step change in service delivery for CAV etc.

An important area is the rate of change and consolidation in the geo sector. I was lucky enough to attend the 250th anniversary of surveying and mapping of India.

Hard to think the Great Arc Survey was performed on foot. Today data is captured by so many methods.

What sort of organisations can most benefit from data about our roads –  now and in the future?

I don’t think there is a market segment that would not benefit as everything happens by or on a road. The road is the commercial arterial pipeline of every nation.

A national view of the condition of the road, supported by HD imagery, is a large focus of Gaist.

A national digital twin of the road network would save government millions of pounds in management of the public realm and significantly reduce the cost to a range of other segments such as insurance, telco, utilities and planners. Most importantly, it would significantly improve safety for all that use roads and footpaths.

How important a step for the use of location data was the establishment of the Government’s Geospatial Commission? What will it mean for service users/ citizens?

The GC fills an important role in creating an overarching direction for geospatial policy across government, drawing and pulling together the capability of the main creators of geospatial data. I see the main benefit for users and citizens as being a reduced cost of ownership for HMG and the provision of more open data in which start ups and business can explore and develop solutions.

The commission is well placed to address larger national issues such as thinking through the need for more roadscape data layers for HMG, geospatial industry and start ups.

Both Gaist and OS operate in the ‘smart cities’ space. The ‘smart cities’ vision has been hyped-up for many years (fridges that tell you when the milk is running out etc) Is it finally becoming a meaningful concept?

I don’t think smart cities is a useful term as it excludes citizens and communities that don’t live in cities. Yes we do need more digital real world representations but roads would be a better place to start as the backbone of every nation’s economy. Focusing here would enable all boats to rise.

Gaist is attracting global interest, with partnerships in five continents – what has marked out this small Yorkshire-based firm as the ‘go-to’ partner for roads data?

Our team are proud to supporting programmes around the world. The market tells us that our approach to the road and fence-to-fence roadscape intelligence and deterioration modelling is unique. Another consistent area of feedback is our collaborative and ethical style of working with partners.

You’ve spent your career promoting new technology and new ways of working – is it easy for you to imagine a day when private car ownership will be (in the words of Kara Swisher, The New York Times technology writer), “like owning a horse – a quaint hobby?”

Yes, I think car ownership will greatly reduce as new modes of transport sharing increase.  Here in Bournemouth, where I live, scooters and bicycles have been around for a while and make it easier for short journeys. Car sharing firms, especially in larger cities, have also been around a while. Many of my London friends have given up car ownership already.

During lockdown, the only time I used my car was to go shopping. So if I used a delivery service I could have survived without a car.

An interesting area is the future last-mile delivery companies and the form that they take – some of these are already in the form of drones.

Reminds me of the Talking Heads 1988 track [Nothing But] Flowers “The highways and cars were sacrificed for agriculture.. Once there were parking lots now it’s a peaceful oasis. You’ve got it, you’ve got it…”

For further information on Gaist and how we are helping organisations across the public and private sector to tackle their challenges by providing the most in-depth and fresh intelligence on the road and roadscape, please contact Paula.Claytonsmith@gaist.co.uk.