Let us start with a statement of fact; ‘Everything Happens Somewhere’! So therefore, it should follow that knowing ‘where’ matters? Nearly all data can be linked to a physical location and time. Location is a powerful way to connect people to place, transactions to actions, responses to trends, and customers to where they do business and the kind of business they do.
However, location isn’t just a common thread connecting disparate data sources and breaking down silos, often it provides the most transformative insights. Leading organizations tap into location intelligence to solve business problems and uncover new opportunities.
Location intelligence is powered by what is generally referred to as a Geographic Information System or, as we commonly call, a GIS. A GIS is a platform that provides a framework of capabilities to manage, visualize, analyze, optimize and ultimately understand the significance of location, place & geography. A GIS helps to transform businesses and organizations across a wide range of industries by enabling a better understanding of the impact and influence of ‘where’ things are.
The science of where
To truly understand the impact and influence of ‘where’, we need to understand the subtleties of ‘location’, ‘place’ and ‘geography’ in the context of the intelligence that each source of data provides.
When we first moot the concept of ‘location, place and geography’, people look confused, instinctively thinking that these three terms mean the same thing. They don’t! Location, Place and Geography, offer very different levels of insight. It is Location, that connects people to place; With ‘Location’ we create information through location-based visualization. This basic manipulation of data answers the question … ‘Where is it?’ It is Place, that then helps us understand the impact and influence of where things are; Using ‘Place’ we develop greater meaning through location-based analysis. This deeper dive into our data answers the question … ‘What is going on around me?’ And, it is Geography, that provides a common canvas on which we make decisions; With ‘Geography’ we develop greater insight through location-based optimization. In this final stage of analysis, we start to enquire … ‘How can I make it better?’
This is the essence of what we call ‘The Science of Where’.
Making sense of complex situations
We live in a complicated world. And Location is the science of our world allowing us to organize and apply thinking related to human and natural activities. This world that we live in is constantly changing, some would say it is still evolving. We are part of this living, changing system, that touches all of our lives. As individuals, it touches our friends & families; as workers, it touches our organizations & businesses; as citizens, it touches our cities & communities; and as human beings, it touches our whole planet.
The global use of location intelligence is expected to double by 2025, becoming a $25 billion industry according to BusinessWire.com. It is anticipated to expand at a compound annual growth rate of over 15% over the forecast period. A key driver in this growth is the growing use of location, place and geography by the private sector.
My experience of working closely with public and private sector organizations is that location, place and geography is now accepted as a key platform for making informed business decisions. And given the ubiquitous nature of geography, the use and application of location and place are practically limitless.
Driving digital transformation
Not only do we live in a complex world, but we also live in a world that is being constantly monitored and measured, with billions of devices connected to the Internet. We call this The Internet of Things (IoT). By the end of next year it is reported (https://www.thesslstore.com/blog/20-surprising-iot-statistics-you-dont-already-know/) that there will be 25 billion IoT devices, rising to 80 billion by 2025. By 2023, there will be 3.5 billion cellular connections alone, with an annual anticipated growth rate 30%, giving rise to over 25 million apps. And, all of this ‘connectedness’ will generate 50 Trillion Gb of data and $4Trillion in revenue opportunity.
And as result of all of this ‘connectedness’, senior business executives now have access to unprecedented amounts of data on which to support, drive and evolve their digital transformation program. A recent Deloitte Industry 4.0 survey of 361 executives across 11 countries shows that 94% report digital transformation as their organization’s top strategic initiative.
These executives understand that location data provides unique insights, revealing hidden patterns and relationships in their data that subsequently drive stronger decision-making. With over 80 percent of business data containing geographic information, location intelligence delivers insights into markets, customers, services, logistics, supply chains, and asset, facilities & risk management. It will continue to evolve and will increasingly play a greater role in not only the digital transformation of organizations but also the digital transformation of society on the whole.
Underpinning the “digital twin”
Given all of this measurement, we can now create, what we refer to as a digital twin; a digital replica of a living or non-living physical entity. For many, a “digital twin” conjures notions of something akin to science fiction. However, this isn’t beyond our comprehension or experience today. We are already creating digital twins of Cities (Smart Cities), Airports (Schiphol Airport)and Ports (Port of Rotterdam).
With Location Intelligence we can also create a digital twin of our businesses. We do this by knowing where things are; customers? staff? Competitors? prospects? assets? fleet? Where should I build something? Where should I avoid building? Where do I have coverage? Where is coverage absent? Where are your services needed; Where are they not needed? Where is demand coming from? Where is it likely to increase? By bridging the physical and the virtual business worlds, data is transmitted seamlessly allowing the virtual entity to exist simultaneously with the physical entity.
Think about your smart phone, your Fitbit, every lifestyle device and app that is capturing information about you. Where you had dinner, the cup of coffee you put on your loyalty card, your last credit card transaction; even, how you got here, where you came from and the route you took is a source of location insight. Each is a point in time and space, yet when combined they create, what amounts to, your digital twin, a twin that you are unlikely to ever meet! That same data, especially when aggregated, anonymized and analyzed is revolutionizing our understanding of people and places, experiences and expectations.
Helping us see what others can’t
Location Intelligence lets you transform data into actionable insight, helping you to see what others can’t. If a picture paints a thousand words, then a map paints a million! Given the unique ability for geospatial information to provide a common canvas on which to make complex business decisions, ‘geography’ is now considered a new business platform for change and transformation at local, national and global levels of business.
Taking geography into consideration when examining key performance indicators, evaluating current market conditions, and analyzing trends, brings to life patterns and influences that are otherwise difficult to recognize when using tables or graphs. The concept of ‘geography as a platform’ may be new to the business world but evidence suggests there is no better way to assimilate and communicate business information and market trends than understanding and knowing ‘where’.
Knowing where things happen, where your coverage is poor, where your assets are located, where your resources are best deployed, where you have under-supply, where you are prone to certain problems, where your services are needed, where demand is coming from and where it’s likely to increase, are all fundamental ‘location’ based questions that businesses need to answer.
And, if we accept this proposition, then every aspect of driving business success and maximizing return on investment should be considered “location” dependent.