Timberland is not just a term to describe trees. It’s also an alternative form of investment involving putting money into trees, either within managed tree plantations or natural forests.
Investors bank on the predictable biological growth of the trees to increase in value so that they can be sold at a future date in the wood and lumber market. Additionally, timberland investments provide an opportunity for investors to diversify their investment portfolios.
In fact, trees increase in volume by an average of 5 percent each year, depending on the tree species, climate, age and other environmental factors. The tangible growth provides an alternative investment opportunity for investors looking to put their money in safer asset classes that are not affected by the ever-unpredictable economic climate.
So, how can managers gain better insight into their inventory of assets? The solution is spatial data integration.
What Is Spatial Data Integration?
First, let’s get down to the basics. Spatial data is “any data with a direct or indirect reference to a specific location or geographical area.”
The two primary spatial data types are geometric and geographic data.
- Geometric data is mapped on a two-dimensional flat surface. One example is the geometric data in floor plans. Another example is Google Maps, which uses geometric data to give users accurate directions to specific locations.
- Geographic data can be mapped to a sphere, like the Earth. Geographic data often refers to longitude and latitude related to the location of an object on Earth.
Spatial data integration is “the process of combining multiple spatial data types and providing applications for its storage, retrieval, analysis and display.”
Automated procedures to support data integration take into account factors such as spatial data characteristics, software features and hardware capabilities.
What Tools Are Used to Create Spatial Data Integration?
The main tool that’s used to create spatial data integration is geographic information system (GIS) technology. GIS-based systems create, manage, analyze and map all types of data. GIS connects external data to maps and can integrate location data with all types of descriptive information. This provides a foundation for mapping and analysis that is used in science and across almost every major industry.
GIS helps users understand patterns, relationships and geographic context. The benefits include improved communication and efficiency as well as better management and decision-making.
Why Is Spatial Data Integration Relevant to the Timberland Industry?
Spatial data integration can influence asset management decisions. It allows for better tracking of all your assets by providing more precise detail.
Second, spatial data integration can help reveal changes in timberland ownership. Approximately 41 percent of the over 800 million acres of forest land in the United States is under private ownership. The remaining 59 percent is under various types of public ownership, including federal and state governments. Private timberlands provide most of the forest products in the U.S. to meet national and global market demands and contribute approximately $81.3 billion annually to the U.S gross domestic product.
Cloud vs. Onsite Data Management
Both public and private timberland owners should continuously assess their assets. Part of this process includes land transaction due diligence, assisted by GIS technology. Upon completion, the data related to the transaction should be kept in safe keeping. Traditionally, file storage has been housed locally — known as desktop or onsite systems. . With the integration of more sophisticated spatial data, more landowners are choosing cloud-based storage solutions.
By today’s standards, the previous method can be difficult and expensive to maintain and limits the accessibility of the information. While it’s still in use today, the inability to share information conveniently and safely with larger groups is causing this to become more of a legacy technology.
In contrast, cloud-based solutions continue to evolve as the preferred method to manage and store data. And it’s easy to see why. With 24/7 access to documents spatial data, real-time updates and minimal administration requirements, cloud-based solutions are now the industry standard.
How Does Spatial Data Integration Benefit Timberland Investors?
Spatial data integration enhances investment value. Here are some benefits:
1. Storage of Spatial Analytics
As covered in the previous section, data stored on the cloud makes accessing information more convenient. With the right service platforms, data can be accessed from virtually anywhere, at any time, from the user’s account.
2. Mapping & Visualization of Data
Integrating spatial data into business operation strategies allows the data to be visualized. Investors and landowners can see where their properties are and tap into insights that lead to better analysis and decision-making.
3. Secure Account Access
Storing data, including land transaction deeds, spatial analysis and legal documents securely and digitally in a cloud platform, allows for extra levels of security. For example, multi-level authentication, password protection measures and other user verification methods can be installed. Additionally, because documents live in the cloud, they can always be recovered if instances of technical outages or mishaps arise.
4. Real-Time Document Updates
Spatial data integration via cloud storage means updates to documents on the cloud are instantaneously available to all authorized users. This facilitates collaboration and ensures key stakeholders are working with the most recent information. Changes, edits and additions made by individual users are updated and accessible to others in real-time.
5. Expert Interpretation of Licensing Framework
Different cloud-based platforms and services can sometimes be complex in terms of usage rules, functionality and how they can best be leveraged for the users’ needs. But the process of understanding and integrating customized spatial data solutions doesn’t have to be intimidating. Luckily, there are experts in the field that can help guide and consult on best practices for seamless migration into cloud-based services. Once a general framework is established, most cloud-based platforms are built to be turnkey, meaning little to no IT maintenance is required.
How Can a GIS Consultant Help with Spatial Data Integration?
GIS-based technology produces information formatted as spatial data. So, once you have the data, what do you do with it? How do you apply the results to your investment or land management strategy?
This is where an experienced GIS consultant can come in handy. Consultants can provide in-depth analysis and audits of current investment and land management practices. From there, recommendations can be made for customized solutions on how to best integrate and leverage spatial data in overall business strategies.
A spatial data integration strategy is important for timberland investors. Some benefits include allowing for the storage of spatial analytics, mapping and visualizing data, secure account access, providing real-time document updates, the interpretation of licensing frameworks and overall technology consultation.
Cloud migration and GIS consultants specializing in spatial data can identify and help solve the hidden factors that can complicate asset management decisions. The right tools and guidance can help ensure maximum investment health, stability and profitability.