Today’s technologies have given organisations a new level of understanding: almost all data now has an element of geography.
The power of mobile devices and sensors, advances in data sharing, and the availability of more complex analytics and cloud computing have all played a role. Detailed and up-to-date location data has been democratised, with advantages for individuals, businesses and society.
Geospatial analytics combines a range of geographic information with diverse datasets. For instance, satellite images, postcodes, latitudes and longitudes can all be combined with operational datasets, financial data, or demographic surveys.
This can reveal patterns in a vast pool of information that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. Instead of being held in databases separated by numerical values, these insights are unlocked with geographical context. We can now store, access, move and manipulate vast amounts of data almost instantaneously.
Geospatial analysis is also helping organisations to go beyond real-time. By understanding how location relates to historical achievements or failures, future events can be identified before they happen – and before they affect success. Individuals, all the way through to private and public sector organisations, are benefiting from geospatial analytics.
As we look to the future, there are several key market forces that will continue to increase the need for geospatial analytics:
- The future of mobility – The ways that consumers and products are moving are growing more and more complex – driven by new technologies such as unmanned aerial vehicles, autonomous vehicles, and ridesharing. Each of these technologies is supported by location intelligence that allows for on-demand delivery, the connection of suppliers with nearby consumers, and complex interconnected supply chains. This not only gets individuals to work on time, but it is saving logistics companies time and money and helping emergency services to save lives.
- Location-based services – The traditional brick-and-mortar retail store or government facility are becoming a thing of the past. Digital consumer touchpoints and mobile services are augmenting these traditional facilities to improve consumer convenience and drive down costs. With a growing number of options for organisations to change their footprints, location technologies can help determine the best configuration strategies.
- Increased risk and need for comprehensive risk assessments – Risk and opportunity in any venture are not distributed evenly, and an array of local circumstances could heavily affect the success of a programme or product. Geospatial analysis makes the process of addressing risk easier. It can also help find new opportunities for efficiency and provide a major competitive edge. Geospatial analysis can help industries calculate the risk and potential costs of events such as wildfires or floods on physical assets. With this information, businesses can move people and resources proactively, saving funds as well as ensuring the safety of staff.
These demands and market forces are being supported by a number of emerging technologies that are making these solutions a reality:
- Integrating with enterprise analytics – Only 10 years ago, providing an answer to ‘where?’ could only have been achieved with the help of several analytical professionals and layers of geographical information systems (GIS). However, roughly 80% of enterprises already have access to a form of location data. Addresses and postcodes are the most common but are often augmented with newer data sources that give better information on customers, partners, and assets. Additionally, advanced analytics such as machine learning and optimisation techniques are being used to understand geographic phenomena. Organisations need to apply enterprise analytic governance and technologies to effectively use and share these data and software.
- Capturing the mobile digital ‘exhaust’ – With the proliferation of mobile devices, location information is driving decision-making for individuals and organisation on-the-go. Information about these individuals – their locations, and travel patterns, and location-based behaviours – leave a digital trail that can be combined with other data to better understand these populations and their movements. Knowing who is travelling where over the course of a day can improve transportation, optimise the locations of facilities or location-based marketing campaigns, and improve disaster planning.
- Integrating with a connected and digital ecosystem – With more and more smart devices being deployed within communities, organisations, and individual homes, these devices are being integrated into networks to help with location-based sensing. These networks can be used to monitor real-time conditions, such as emissions, or consumer product intake. When combined with location intelligence and analytics, organisations can better understand trends over space and use these to make quicker decisions and produce better forecasts.
New technologies mean new frontiers for geospatial analytics. These are rapidly emerging opportunities to develop solutions for ‘where?’ questions in both the private and public sector. Organisations that deal with geospatial data have extensive experience with large datasets, and there are huge potential benefits from exploiting this knowledge. The possibility of achieving specific organisational goals, both economic or social, can be enhanced by the context of location.