Location Intelligence (LI) – the ability to map and compare your spatially significant data with your more traditional metrics captured within a Business Intelligence (BI) solution – has a vast array of potential applications across many industries and job functions.
Or, as industry veteran and respected analyst Wayne Ecerkson put it in a recent blog post,Location Intelligence is More Than A Map: “Location intelligence, also known as spatial analytics, creates maps that enable users to view the relationship of objects in space and perform a variety of spatial calculations, such as, ‘How long will it take to drive from Detroit to Cleveland?’ or ‘What percentage of high income customers are located within a 15 minute drive of this store?’ Or ‘What’s my risk exposure to a hurricane that plows through Dade County, Florida?’”
Here are some prominent examples of LI’s usefulness and application by industry:
The mining and exploration industry: Being able to track, plot and understand the location of infrastructure and resources (or potential resources) is critical for corporations in the mining sector to properly assess the profitability of any given exploration or venture. Geospatial mapping capabilities enable organizations in the mining and exploration industry to:
Is there sufficient equipment nearby to undertake a specific project?
Where is the equipment that is scheduled for service?
Track sub-surface infrastructure
Monitor, track and assess the availability of staff
Monitor the environmental impacts of exploration and mining activities
Establish the location of hazardous materials
Monitor work-related incidents and establish appropriate OH & S protocols
Compare pre-approved sites with geographic phenomena, features and obstacles
Insurance companies: Assessing risk enables insurance companies to structure a reliable, fair and profitable business model. Understanding the location of customers in relation to other location-based data, such as crime rates (car theft) or weather patterns (frequency of severe weather systems) by city, region or state, enables insurers to identify high or low risk cases and develop marketing strategies, policies and pricing models accordingly.
Customer relations in the finance and banking sector: A recent Bank Systems and Technology report said that many U.S. banks and other financial institutions could benefit from implementing a BI solution: “Banks want to use customer-level data on product holdings, channel activity and profitability to improve the targeting of online campaigns and make account application and funding processes more seamless and effective.” Using an integrated mapping tool, such as LI, banks and other financial institutions can foster deeper and more profitable customer relations by:
Analyzing, segmenting and serving the customers in each division according to costs, profits and services (current and potential)
Conducting effective customer profiling to develop more successful marketing and sales campaigns through detailed and accurate customer segmentation
Effectively tailoring products and services according to the customer base within each region or division
Identifying and actively retaining and pursuing each division’s most profitable customers
Airports and airlines: Mapping the location of aircraft is critical for obvious reasons. Further, combing the location of aircraft with other operational data can expose and answer critical questions. For example, what’s the maintenance record of the aircraft closest to a particular airport? Based on that record, is it reasonably safe to turn the aircraft around for back-to-back flights without a closer inspection and safety check?
Healthcare providers: Understanding the operational status of healthcare providers and institutions from a locational perspective can lead to more efficient practices and higher standards of patient care:
Clinical applications: Patient safety and quality of care can be documented and tracked to uncover unsafe or substandard practices. This information can then be used to identify areas where healthcare professionals may need additional training or where stricter regulations and procedures should be put in place. For example, the number and type of medication errors can be tracked and documented across different medical institutions. That data can be drilled down on to establish in which wards, on what day, and at what times the errors occurred. From there, the nurse or doctor responsible can be identified, and that individual’s history can be profiled to discover how many medication-related errors that person has made, the nature of those mistakes, and the timeframe over which they occurred.
Financial applications: Track billing errors across different regional facilities. There are a multitude of systems that collate patient and treatment information to establish what services and procedures should be included in a claim. BI tools can be used to match charges with outgoing claims and patient flow rates between facilities, to reduce the number of billing errors, and decrease the number of denied claims.
Operational applications: LI combined with BI can integrate data from multiple operational systems to produce reports that allow individual medical institutions to gain greater insight into their operating environment. Hospitals in each region / jurisdiction can be actively monitored – by integrating information from a number of different systems – to achieve an up-to-the-minute picture on the number of free hospital beds, and location of medical emergencies and emergency vehicles, to decrease the number of ambulance diversions.
Retail outlets: Presenting location-based data allows retailers to uncover relationships between stores, products and customer types – across a range of different parameters or metrics – that affect sales performance. Tracking stock levels also enable retail operators to coordinate warehouse deliveries to ensure individual shop fronts are always well stocked. Looking at sales of particular items by region or store also allows for more effective and efficient stock delivery, store management and can underpin the development of highly specific and successful marketing strategies. Additionally, new mobile applications, such as Foursquare, can actually detect when registered customers are near a store. Combing this data with customer transaction history, a text message can be sent to that customer when they are in the vicinity, alerting them to products and special offers that match their purchase history. For more on utilizing LI in the retail industry, check out our blog Location Intelligence: The key to sustained retail success >
Transport and logistics companies (Supply chain management): Mapping manufacturers, distribution warehouses, retail outlets and cross referencing their associated transportation routes with items ordered, stock-in-warehouse, stock-in-transit and available transport vehicles, can boost the number of timely deliveries and facilitate efficient dispatch and supply-chain management. Determining the fastest transportation routes, enabling effective forecasting (matching store locations with the size of surrounding populations can be used as a guide to determine potential profitability) and optimizing warehousing processes and stock flows based on the consumption rates of particular products by locality are other important potential location-based assessments. As Ventana Research noted in its 2010 report, Why Geography Matters to the Enterprise: “Having a unified view of information that includes the location of your products and their places in the supply chain can enable you to monitor the continuity of business and manage its efficiency through delays or crisis.” A recent survey on the use of enterprise mapping technologies, conducted by Vanson Bourne on behalf of Google, found that their use was particularly prevalent within the transport and logistics industry, with around 60 percent of organizations already deploying such capabilities. The research also indicated many notable positive impacts, with 67 percent of industry respondents already utilizing mapping technologies experiencing better customer engagement, with 46 percent reporting improved productivity and efficiency, and 46 percent enjoying reduced costs. Advantages cited by transport and logistics professionals surveyed included: The ability to identify distribution bottlenecks and simplify delivery planning, “Increased awareness of where spending would achieve best results” as well as more cost efficient and faster strategic decision-making.
Utilities and communications: Managing a diversity of assets across widespread areas can assist organizations from the utilities and communications sector to more effectively manage operations. For example, utilities organizations are able to integrate GIS data and customer metrics to highlight areas that receive a high number of complaints or nonpayment incidents, developing regionally-based strategies and marketing campaigns to combat these issues. Identifying trends in customer service-related issues by geography also enables the underlying problem to be more effectively diagnosed by being linked to regional issues, such as lack of income or language barriers.
Higher Education: Mapping a range of metrics can help Higher Education institutions offer better teaching and learning environments, facilities, and attract prospective students. Universities consume and produce a huge amount of data. Adding geographical components to student data can allow Higher Education institutions to develop more effective marketing campaigns by visualizing student intake by postal address; and more effective research grants can be made by assessing the number of incoming grants by geography. Additionally, facilities can be placed in the best positions on campus by tracking student traffic flow.
Media development and buying: Planning publication production, editorial agenda and distribution based on subscriber locations and demographics enables media organizations to match the right content, to the right publication, to the right audience and optimize their production processes.
Real estate and commercial developments: Determining optimum sites for commercial development is essential. Amongst a plethora of considerations, you would need to match desired site locations against your target market. For example, where are public transport routes located in relation to your target market and your desired site? Can people get there in a timely manner, without exerting undue effort? It doesn’t matter whether you sell cars or hamburgers – you want your product to be easily accessible to your most ideal customers. If you sell luxury cars aimed at the wealthy business executive, constructing a dealership in a suburb where the median household income is $30,000 per annum is a bad idea. What’s a good position to build a shopping center? Are there enough potential customers (right demographic, psychographic and purchase habits) within a close proximity? Where are these potential customers in comparison to other shopping centers that offer similar products?
Telecommunications: Mapping network coverage against target markets and demographics enables organizations in the telecommunications industry to assess the ability of current infrastructure to deliver on demand. Analyzing competitor network coverage compared to market share and distribution also facilitates effective and accurate SWOT analysis to identify weak spots and potential opportunities. Rolling out infrastructure (towers) to support network expansion is complex and costly, involving the purchase of land rights, the acknowledgment of zoning regulations and property rights / ownership, in conjunction with calculating which locations will provide the best network coverage at the lowest price possible.
LI’s effect on job function
The September 2011 Vanson Bourne study of 250 marketing managers found that the ability to map data had a particularly strong effect on strategic marketing initiatives; resulting in:
Improved customer engagement
Increased Web traffic
Increased brand loyalty
In fact, 62 percent of those surveyed also said that the information gleaned from the technology had forced them to reconsider their product strategy.
And, a staggering 90 percent of marketing managers from across the transport, finance, retail and public sectors planned on implementing enterprise mapping and geospatial technology in 2012.
“We live in an increasingly visual age and people expect to be able to digest information quickly rather than spending time trying to decipher it,” said Sanjay Patel, Head of Enterprise GEO - EMEA at Google, in relation to the Google sponsored study. “It is important that marketers are aware of the potential of mapping technology to help them visualize their data within a geographical context.
“Mapping technologies are being used for far more than just showing your customers where you’re located. Organizations in all sectors are harnessing the power of mapping technologies to get a better view of their customers, improve business processes, and most importantly of all, drive sales.”
Back to Wayne
So what exactly gives LI its panache and insightfulness? Well, once again, Wayne said it well: “maps bring data to life and make it easier for business users to identify the significant trends and issues contained in most reports and dashboards. But location intelligence goes beyond basic geographical displays; it delivers interactive spatial models that correlate business data on a three-dimensional surface.
“For example, BI users might use interactive maps to sift through hundreds of variables to optimize the siting of new stores, dealerships, branch offices, factories, drill heads, pipelines, and so on. Or they could use maps to view how the buying habits and demographics of customers located around stores have changed over time. Facilities managers could use interactive maps to plot the optimal evacuation routes from any point in an office building or estimate the physical and financial impact of a nearby bomb explosion. Insurance agents could use GIS-enabled BI tools to simulate what they would have to pay policy holders based on the wind speed and path of an oncoming hurricane.”
And, as more organizations continue to collect more data, the opportunities and potential applications continue to multiply.