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The potential of Location Intelligence

Posted on May 19th, 2011 by TimClaes

Location Intelligence?

At first sight you probably think of this as a niche solution for your business, with lots of ”nice-to-have” features, but with low priority for running the core of your business.

But if you start thinking about this in more detail, location could be an important extra dimension to consider when analyzing your data and could (or better said ’should’) influence your core decision processes. Address information is all over the place in your organization: customer data, account data, employee data, production sites information, facility management… Nevertheless organizations do so little with this.

If you’re lucky, location intelligence is already used in your organization by a single department (e.g. marketing –> for geomarketing, site selection, routing… purposes) using an isolated approach, but until now it is rarely integrated enterprise wide. However lately I see some movements in this area, where location intelligence is integrated in the complete enterprise architecture of organizations, where location intelligence gets integrated into Master Data management initiatives. I can only support this, because in the end it is not all that complex to set up. So with a minimal amount of extra effort, you can realize a lot of quick wins.

What needs to happen? First of all the address information needs to be geocoded, basically this means that you are going to attach an X and Y coordinate to the address information. (and in some cases – for 3D purposes – a Z coordinate) Simple services exist in the market who can support you on that. Doing so enables you already to visualize this information on the map (e.g. Google maps, Bing maps…) This is typically free of charge and we call them Map Viewers.

But you can also take it one step further for analysis purposes, where you will divide the map into polygons, representing either company specific information (e.g. sales territories) and/or geographic specific information (e.g. counties boundaries, cities…) These polygons will be stored in what they call a spatial database (SQL spatial, Oracle spatial) This information can be set up internally or can be bought. Typically you will buy the geographic specific information and build your own organization specific information starting from the geographic specific information.

And now it becomes really interesting because you can start building thematic maps, providing real-time business insights. It can show all kinds of information linked to address information (e.g. income of people, travel time to site, number of visits, interests of customer…) and doing calculations against the chosen polygons. For doing these kind of things, specialized tools exist in the market to support you, we call them Map Analyzers. You should look at this as an extension to your BI environment, offering you real-time information, combining different sources. Towards the end users easy web access exist and often integration possibililties exist  with your other information systems such as ERP, BI and/or CRM.

As such location intelligence can become part as a service in your organization (in line with a service oriented architecture), enabling anyone to use the location dimension as extra dimension to analyze information and to make the right decisions, at the right moment in time.

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