Speaker Spotlight: ‘Using R with Geospatial Data’ with Sean Burton

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Sean Burton is a Geospatial Data Consultant at Azura Earth who joined us at Brighton R to give an overview of how he integrated an interest in maps with a career in Data to become a GIS/Geospatial Data freelancer using R. From the fun and frustration of working with different map projections, all the way to 3D animated built environment data visualisations using Shiny.

Check out our conversation with him following the event…

Can you tell us a bit about you and the work that you do?

I am a Geospatial Data Consultant. Essentially I help companies that need to solve problems with spatial data; for example, where the next residential development could take place in London, or how people use an office space and how many meeting rooms do you really need. I’ve always been a database geek, but more recently have immersed myself in data visualisation, and good use of 3D and animation. I love the technology (SQL, R, GIS etc), but importantly I love working alongside businesses to really understand what their needs are.

What was the inspiration for your recent talk?

I’m a data consultant, but I also have had a keen interest in maps and atlases! A few years ago I looked into seeing whether there was any crossover. It turned out there is, and it’s called GIS! So I redirected my career and have, over the past few years, been doing some really enjoyable spatial data analytics. That’s lead to a deeper dive into all things geospatial.

Any key highlights / takeaways for anyone who missed it?

It’s amazing what you can do now with R and Shiny. I’m a data guy, yet the R ecosystem has made it both enjoyable and straightforward to fully explore 3d and animated data visualisations, even to the point of giving my clients’ interactive apps. The technology toolset that we have now has blurred the boundaries between database, back-end and front-end development.

Did you come up through a “traditional” techie route or has your career taken twists and turns along the way?

I started as a Microsoft software developer but quickly found I enjoyed the database (SQL) side of things more. I’ve been in many roles (Consultant, Product Management, Sales Engineer etc), and there’s certainly been lots of twists and turns, but data tech has always been the thing I love doing.

Is there a moment that helped define your career?

Just 2 years into my career as a software developer, I was asked to join a start-up. It was just me and the two directors at the time. Since then I have always wanted to work for small dynamic companies as my role is always extremely varied. That’s lead me to where I am now, with my own company, working for all sorts of different companies.

What piece of advice would you give your younger self?

Start freelancing earlier, and don’t be afraid to innovate! People love hearing ideas and the more you talk things aloud the more ideas take hold.

What’s your big tech prediction for 2023?

Well of course AI and GPT are in the headlines, but I just want to see more innovation – i.e. what real world problems can we solve with the current rate of technological development. How can we make data more insightful and engaging; how can data scientists work with designers and artists to achieve this.

Silicon Brighton wouldn’t be here without people like you giving back to the community so… what does the word community mean to you?

The community allows you to vocalise your ideas, your questions, your answers and generally make your thought processes more efficient and innovative!

Anything else you would like to share?

My company Azura Earth is very interested in working with local businesses that want to get value out of their data, especially if it has the geographical element to it. From PropTech to Office Space management to Wellbeing, and everything in between.


Missed Sean’s talk or want to watch it again? Check it out here…

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