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Importance of Location Data

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Introduction:

Location data- also known as geographic information or geospatial data- refers to the specific whereabouts of a particular object or asset. There are two basic data types of location data: vector- (using points, lines and polygons) to represent both natural and man-made features with clearly defined boundaries (building, roads, city) and raster-(regularly sized grids/pixels) representing spatial features like terrain.

Location data is used for more than just locating your favourite restaurant. This post takes a look at how private and public sectors are taking advantage of the abundance of location data to bring about desired outcomes. These include saving both time and money, improving public outreach and even saving lives.

Data Science

Data Science encompasses mining, scrubbing, and analyses of large volumes of data to solve data-intensive, large-scale problems. The processes require the use of advanced mathematics, statistics and programming techniques to extract meaningful conclusions from raw data. With Data Science, a whole chain of queries can now be answered in the time it took to answer a single question.

Location data adds extra valuable insights. It gives organizations ways to visualize, track and trace products and assets. The insights provided help organizations increase profit margins by managing costs, increase operational efficiency, improve marketing campaigns and identify new business opportunities.

Once a business opportunity is identified, location data can be used to identify the ideal location for a customer fulfillment center and manage inventory based on demographic, ethnicity and recurring purchasing patterns of the customers in that area.

Business Intelligence

Business Intelligence deals with understandings of the whys and hows specific business interactions happen. All business happens somewhere.

The fields of Location Intelligence and Business Intelligence are now merging thanks to the rapid increase of GPS-enabled devices. An Increase in data with spatial-temporal information is helping to solve business problems and achieve goals across many different industries.

Integration of Business Intelligence software with mapping and spatial analysis is allowing businesses to provide additional context to location data visualizations and analyses. Businesses can now analyze various situations and complexities. The insights provide ways to solve various use cases such as site selection to products and services delivery optimization.

Marketing

A quote from Gartner Report ( Architecting for Location March 2021) states: “Every business process can be enhanced by exploiting the location of participating people or objects.” Businesses are moving away from traditional advertising based largely on demographics and geography. They are now targeting audiences based on their common interests and location. Location data improves understanding of the targets’ affinity to certain products or services.

Location data-gathered from consenting mobile device users- includes the following information:

  • Mobile device Identifier
  • Recently visited locations (stores, health clubs, entertainment venues)
  • Timestamp

With this information, businesses can create detailed customer personas based on visits to identify brands (eg McDonalds) or venues (coffee shops). These patterns help identify the kind of shoppers they are. Armed with this information, they can adjust their outreach. Customize placement and language of their advertisements to better speak to their target customers and optimize conversion rates of prospects into customers.

By identifying clusters of prospects with similar buying habits and reasons for using a particular product or service, businesses can adjust their inventories in different areas. This improves their overall return on investment (RoI).

Public Sector

The public sector needs to protect and serve the community by deploying the right resources to the right places at the right time. Sectors like healthcare, law enforcement, transportation and emergency services rely on location data both during the planning and the execution phases.

When disasters strike, the biggest question in the public mind usually starts with: ‘Where’s the nearest….’ From evacuation routes to emergency resources and disaster relief sites. This information may not only save time to get to safety it may also save lives.

Some emergency situations, like tornadoes and forest fires, impact people in the same area differently based on their exact locations. Authorities use Wireless Emergency Alert to broadcast notifications from cell towers to enabled devices in locally targeted areas to the people who are most likely to be impacted.

During the global coronavirus pandemic, government agencies are using location data to plot infections heatmaps. These show ‘hot’ areas- areas with high infection rates.

Heatmaps are can also be used to identify other ‘hot areas’ like areas with high crime rates.

Conclusion

Location data is for more than visualizing points on a map. It’s playing an important role in both the private and public sectors. Corporations are using it to improve their customers’ experience and improve their profit margins. Government agencies are serving communities and keeping them safe.

With Data Science making it easier to analyze huge amounts of data, lack of understanding is becoming less of an obstacle from senior management, especially in large corporations, to buy-in application of spatial analysis in decision making. Location data has a very high potential to derive more value in assisting broad and intelligent decision-making processes.

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Ally Fumo

Ally Fumo

Former GIS Analyst in Oil and Gas industry turned Copywriter.

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