Mapping out the future – how to take data into a new dimension

By Richard Peters, Specialist Content Creator

You might think that you’ve heard everything there is to hear about big data…. How it’s used to describe the voluminous amount of ‘structured’, ‘semi-structured’ and ‘unstructured’ data a company creates captures and stores – and then frequently struggles to turn into actionable and information. How it can help drive more informed and accurate decision-making, shape business strategy and deliver business success. And how it can be defined by Gartner’s famous 3vs – volume, variety and velocity.

Think you’ve heard it all? Well, think again. The chances are that you’ve heard far less about what is in fact a key element of all data sets: location. But in fact, location analytics is bringing an exciting new dimension to the traditional big data approach – and a vast range of organisations across the world in all sectors of the economy are already reaping the rewards.

There was a great buzz around location analytics and the potential business benefits it brings at Esri’s 2014 UK Conference, an exciting event I attended recently.

Held in the shadow of Westminster Abbey, at London’s QEII Conference Centre, big data was a key topic of conversation for the 1,450 delegates – an event record by the way – that crammed into every corner of the exhibition halls. We heard why location analytics is much more than simple mapping and how the ability to combine maps with up-to-date demographics information, consumer spending, lifestyle and business data can bring companies tremendous rewards.

What is especially exciting is the range of applications for this fast-growing new technology area.

Engineering contractors can use the approach to model and forecast travel demand, track maintenance needs and develop precise plans for new road construction projects. Retailers can use it to plot where competitive stores are based or where demand is most likely to come from. Hospitals can apply the approach to quickly understand where certain diseases are in the community, for example, or predict demand for services in certain areas. The list is growing all the time.

So, next time you think you’ve heard it all about big data remember to keep an open mind. Mapping and location analytics technologies have well and truly arrived – and they are taking data to a whole new level.