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Business & ICT Trends, Applied to Your Organisation

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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IPM Demystified

Posted on May 13th, 2011 by TimClaes

IPM – Infrastructure Planning & Management

Unknown by many, feared by some (typically by people who don’t know enough about it), but oh so important to have under control in your organization, especially towards the utilities & telecom sector  (gas, water, electricity, mobile, TV, …) and the (public) transportation sector (trains, busses, airplanes, …), but not exclusively. Also in other sectors you have plants, buildings, other important assests you want (and need) to stay on top of.

Aging workforces is a fenomenon that you need to deal with more and more nowadays, especially in the area of enterprise asset management/facility management/maintenance & infrastucture management. 20 years ago you had enough with the Autocad drawings and with the knowledge of the people on the floor, but due to cost reductions, more complex environments and work pressure it is no longer possible to keep everything in the heads of people. And on top of that the few people who were having all the knowledge are going on pension leave.

Aging infrastructure is the second fenomenon that is popping up more and more. Are you aware that you can be held responsible as an organization if accidents happen due to old and not well maintained infrastucture material? Based on my experiences it is actually pretty scary how many organizations don’t have the possibility to monitor this adequatly, and don’t have any records available about the age and the ideal renewal dates of material. And certainly in combination with the first fenomenon.

As such Building information modeling (BIM) become more and more important. BIM is not about the Autocad drawings itself but it is about storing the relevant information into a database with the objective to really manage the information. All possible relevant information about the used material is kept in the database. If it is stored in a spatial database you are also able to store the location of the material, allowing you to use location intelligence to combine the impact of different materials to one another. (e.g. if a certain cable is cut, what is then the influence on the rest of the infrastructure, based on the location relationships). The location can be kept in x,y coördinates (2D-model) or in x,y,z coördinates (3D models). (Also address information can be stored accordingly by geocoding the addresses)

And this needs to happen for the full infrastructure life cycle – IPM – from Infrastructure Planning to Management. Today all the infrastructure phases are typically dealt with seperately using seperate tools:

  • Planning
  • Conceptual design
  • Detailed design
  • Construction
  • Management

Needless to say that this results into a very chaotic mess – even if you use seperate databases per phase. It is impossible to still make the right decisions at the right time as you don’t have all the relevant information at hand. Especially if you know that many of these “projects” take multiple years to be accomplished, what makes it extra difficult to remember everything over time.

As such IPM  allows you to create a unique topology across the lifecycle of the infrastructure for your entire organization, linking many different departments together, allowing people to start from the same master data, to do simulations, to create new schedules, to start new infrastructure projects , etc. Then IPM truely becomes an important integrated part of your complete enterprise architecture an no longer sits at the sideline in the hands of the few GIS engineers.

A last interesting remark is the possibility to set up Digital Cities using IPM, running all kinds of 3D simulations, like you see in the movies.

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