Location intelligence: Why it matters for businesses and gov’t (I)

I recently attended a Geospatial user conference, where I joined the utilities technical session to gain first-hand understanding of the application of Location Intelligence in the sector.

I had spent the first couple of days at the conference catching up on tips and trends of geospatial technology and advanced analytics for business and service applications.

I was extremely excited to break away a while from my comfort zone to learn more from other disciplines.

The presenter was an engineer from a utility company based in the Middle East.

He did an outstanding job demonstrating how his company, faced with challenges of increasing power demands, aging infrastructure and reduced budget, implemented Location Intelligence in their company.

The implementation was to improve operational efficiencies, deliver superior customer experience and ultimately increase revenue.

This company had strategically matured from core utility mapping, asset management and basic analytics, to an all-inclusive and interactive use of Business Intelligence (BI) and Geospatial Technology (GT) for decision making.

They had every component of the utility supply chain well covered – from power generation, transmission, expansion and distribution down to the delivery of customer experience. It was Location Intelligence well demonstrated.

After the session, I had a brief conversation with a gentleman also from Ghana “JS”. He was pessimistic about the prospects of Location Intelligence and questioned how those advanced tools and systems could be applied to benefit both the company he represented and the customers they served.

Clearly the presentation still seemed high level to JS. His company had invested in geospatial technology, and as far as he was concerned, he was using the system to perfectly manage the database of assets at his desk while his Middle East counterpart seemed to be doing five times more with the same technology. He asked two simple questions:

  • “Why was the utility company able to do five times more?”
    • “What exactly are the full benefits of having a Location Intelligence?”

His questions  caused me to think:

  • Are there others like JS trying to understand Location Intelligence?
    • Are there organisations that are not fully leveraging the power of Location Intelligence due to system or data silos?
    • How do organisations perceive the application of advanced analytics, location-based data and related technologies as we evolve in a connected devices ecosystem?

Reflecting on these questions, I decided to write this article. It is necessary to begin by defining the components of Location Intelligence and this is by no means a straightforward task.

Rooted in science, Location Intelligence utilises analytical tools and systematic processes to derive meaningful and actionable insights from location-based data. From these insights, data is enriched to enable businesses to draw conclusions on issues to make informed decisions or improve processes.

Location Intelligence perfectly fits into the hybrid category of Business Intelligence (BI) and Geospatial Technologies. Dresner Advisory (2017 Location Intelligence Market Study) simply defines Location Intelligence as a form of Business Intelligence where location or geography is the dominant dimension used for analysis. Advances in geospatial technologies, analytical tools, Internet of Things (IoT) and the explosion of data have collectively aided the evolution of Location Intelligence.

Characteristically, BI provides a two-dimensional view of the business, combining the customer data (this includes demographics, behaviours, address) and the transactional data (business generated). Location or spatial data, however, adds a third dimension; an external perspective of the business and the customer. The external perspective spans social, economic, political and environmental.

The external factors are also strong determinants of the customer behaviour, giving a three-sixty view of the customer. This enables a well-informed business decision making. The third dimension may seem complex but when mastered unearths spatial differentiation and adds immense value.

Data is constantly generated from our daily activities. People now wear watches to track their running routes and health, drive with navigational devices, use smartphones to locate nearby facilities and even perform financial transactions.

Largely, these data-generating activities occur somewhere giving data a location component. Location is now like currency; it adds context to the data, giving it more value.

Data has become the latest resource, commonly referred to as the 21st century oil; to others gold. International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that the Global Datasphere (sum of the world’s data) will grow from 33 zetabytes in 2018 to 175 zetabytes in 2025. 90 ZB of this data will be created on IoT devices by 2025. This gives a sense of the expected volume of data.

Despite the explosion of data within and out of businesses and organisations, not all businesses attain this value from data. Organisations with high data and analytics maturity level are able to transform the business data into valuable insights across the organisation. That is Business Intelligence in action.

Geospatial technology on the other hand is the technology relating to either the collection or processing of data that is associated with location. Examples include,Internet mapping Technologies (such as Google Earth), Global Positioning System (GPS), Geographic Information System (GIS) and Remote Sensing.

The GeoInformation System (GIS) powers Location Intelligence, providing a framework to manage, visualise, analyse and disseminate insights. The integration of varied sources of data on this platform allows businesses to better understand relationships.

Both Business Intelligence and geospatial technology make use of these components – Technology (hardware + software), Data, Processes and People (the drivers) for informed business decision making. The key differentiator for Location Intelligence is the use of spatial technologies and spatial data; providing unparalleled insights.

To thrive in this digital era, successful organisations are making a conscious effort to understand and leverage the power of location intelligence; to develop a holistic view of markets, customers and operations.

In the second part of this article (next week), the review would focus on the role Location Intelligence plays in improving business outcomes, increasing workflow efficiency and driving business growth.

By Amerley Ampofo