Location Intelligence; Because Everything Happens Somewhere

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 organisations 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, visualise, analyse, optimise and ultimately understand the significance of location, place & geography. A GIS helps to transform businesses and organisations across a wide range of industries by enabling a better understanding of the impact and influence of ‘where’ things are.

Location Intelligence; 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 visualisation. 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 optimisation. 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’.

Location Intelligence; Making Sense of Complex Situations

We live in a complicated world. And Location is the science of our world allowing us to organise 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 organisations & 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 organisations 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.

Location Intelligence; 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 programmes. A recent Deloitte Industry 4.0 survey of 361 executives across 11 countries shows that 94% report digital transformation as their organisation’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 organisations but also the digital transformation of society on the whole.

Location Intelligence; 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.

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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, anonymised and analysed is revolutionising our understanding of people and places, experiences and expectations.

Location Intelligence; 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 analysing trends, brings to life patterns and influences that are otherwise difficult to recognise 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 maximising return on investment should be considered “location” dependent.

Location Intelligence; Enabling Industry Growth

And this isn’t just the privilege a few organisations. This is happening across all industry sectors. 

Here in Ireland we have use cases and stories with over 150 active customers across 16 different industry sectors as highlighted here.

These customers are using location, place and geography to ask and answer questions like:

  • Where are my customers, prospects or assets?
  • What is my geographical spread? What is the extent of my service area or sales territory?
  • Is there a pattern or trend; ’a common ‘location based’ thread’ if you like?
  • Is the information I have about somewhere, impacted or influenced by its location? For example, is a store performing poorly because of where it is, or where something else is?
  • Can I find out where things are based on specific business criteria or conditions (geo-marketing/prospecting, where is my target audience?)
  • Show me what has changed over time? (population and demographics, infrastructure, landscape, urban development, etc)
  • What does it contain or is it contained by? (i.e. is this property in a flood zone or does this flood zone contain any properties?)
  • Do they overlap? (territory/routes/catchments/jurisdictions). If you have overlapping entities within your business, then there is a high risk of inefficiency. And inefficiency costs money.
  • Are they connected? Physically (i.e. pipes, wires, routes, etc) OR non-physically (i.e. relationship between areas of affluence and consumer spending, flood risk and insurance premiums, property prices and the rural/urban divide).
  • Are they situated within a certain distance of one another? (store location, retail optimisation, service areas, travel times)
  • What is the best route from one entity to the others? (how do I get there in the most cost effective and efficient way? route optimisation)
  • Where are entities with similar attributes located? (Where are the other areas in the country that have similar criteria to those that I am having success with here)
  • Are the attributes of one entity influenced by changes in another entity? For example, scenario planning, predictive analysis (i.e. if I do this here, what happens there?)

With a better understanding of location, place and geography, senior executives across all these industry sectors are making informed decisions that contribute to the continued growth of not only their respective business, but also their respective industries.

Location Intelligence; Supporting Sustainability

On a more broader scale, the United Nations (UN) has been working for years to combine geospatial and statistical information to visualise patterns, address data gaps, and effectively target resources to areas demonstrating the most need in order to improve overall development outcomes.

It is promising that it is now broadly accepted that the private sector has a critical role to play in UN’s 2030 Agenda and in particular its contribution to the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as laid out under that agenda.

A recent survey of over 1,000 CEOs from around the world, by the UN Global Compact and Accenture, found that 87% “believe the SDGs provide an opportunity to rethink approaches to sustainable value creation.” Another 70% of those CEOs “see the SDGs providing a clear framework to structure sustainability efforts.” These findings indicate strong support for applying the SDGs in a business context.

So, the question is no longer whether companies should engage sustainable development initiatives, but rather how they should do so, and Location Intelligence has a significant role to play. Of the 230 indicators that support the 17 UN sustainable development goals, 162 of them are impacted and influenced by location, place and geography.

So, it’s no surprise to me that the Association of Geographic Information (AGI) in the UK has recently reviewed and renewed their mission statement; ‘Putting Geospatial at the Heart of a Sustainable Future

Location Intelligence; Our Planets Nervous System

Location intelligence through The Science of Where’, is creating an enormous impact across all parts of life, enabling individuals & organisations, businesses & communities, to not only collect & manage their data, but to synthesize and socialise it into interesting collections of detailed information for the planet. 

By thinking globally and acting locally, increasingly, data, related to location, place and geography is being organised into all types of information products that help us understand almost everything about our world, creating what we like to imagine as an “intelligent nervous system for the planet”. This ‘nervous system’ is providing a framework for advancing scientific understanding, and integrating and analysing all types of spatial knowledge (all the “-ologies” such as biology, sociology, geology, climatology, and so on).

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Location intelligence provides a platform for understanding what’s going on at all scales; locally, regionally, and globally. It presents a way to comprehend the complexity of our world as well as to address and communicate the issues we face using the common language of mapping. This fast-growing trend has been adopted by hundreds of thousands of organisations worldwide, enabling more people to use geographic information and its inherent intelligence to explore and share the numerous geographic patterns about our localities, our towns & cities, our regions & countries, our continents and our world.

So, given the ubiquitous nature of geography! given that everything happens somewhere! and given the fact that without geography you are, quite literally, nowhere! …. then every business strategy, every government initiative, every social programme, and every environmental consideration, needs to be underpinned by Location Intelligence.

It is on this basis that I strongly believe, at a strategic level, that Location Intelligence IS the answer (to so many things social, economic and environmental) and therefore the actual question doesn’t really matter. 

However, what does matter is our mindset. Can we start to think in a different way about Location, Place & Geography and how it impacts our businesses?  If you’re open to the possibilities, then a geographic approach could be the answer to so many our business and societal challenges today.