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Cloud — the next destination of geospatial

Image Courtesy: Forbes
  • Location driven intelligence and data is helping companies across industries to create deeper customer engagement and a competitive edge
  • Growing amount of data means challenges around storage, privacy and affordability will continue
  • Convergence of cloud computing with spatial technologies can offer an alternative ready- to- use, affordable and scalable platform data that can be cross leveraged across a spectrum of web and mobile applications

Think of a time, when you have used a map to find a café for your family dinner. Or perhaps, you used it to look for a newly opened fashion store in your neighborhood. Working with location technology day in and out, I am fascinated by the journey of maps- from paper to a tap on the phone. I have never been more energized by the growth of these location technologies having an impact on our daily lives, the way we work and interact. The beauty of maps, however, is that they can be used in a variety of forms, beyond just navigating roads and finding landmark buildings. Location mapping and technologies, as companies are now finding out, is helping businesses small and large across the world, to combine geography with business intelligence, thus enabling them to make faster and efficient business decisions.

One of the most important examples of how businesses are benefitting from spatial technologies and platforms can be found in the transport and logistics sector. While battling with challenges around high infrastructure maintenance costs, energy consumption, environmental challenges, safety regulations, etc., companies continue to navigate through a complex network of multiple carriers, service providers, physical locations and unexpected inefficiencies in the supply chain and high costs.

By deploying location data and analytics, businesses are now devising innovative solutions and, in some cases, creating new business opportunities. For example, in 2016, the automobile giant, Mahindra and Mahindra launched an agricultural rental equipment service. Using its app called Trinngo, farmers can now rent tractors and equipment on a pay-per-use basis. These orders are then passed on to the nearest franchisee using location-based mapping.

Alternatively, retail companies are using data from location check-ins and customer detecting in-store Wi-Fi antennas that can detect nearby smartphones and triangulate their location, to create geo-behavioral consumer profiles’ that help them devise personalized and targeted marketing communications. For instance, OLX India used hyper-location targeting to reach second hand mobile and automobile markets using pin-codes. Competitive-minded businesses have been leveraging, location analytics, in the context of big data and micro-level data models, to identify new markets and make other decisions such as where to open a new store.

Challenges

Despite the tremendous advances made by location mapping and technology industry, there are significant challenges to its widespread adoption and its potential, thus remains untapped. This can be traced back to reasons such as lack of awareness around geospatial and predictive analytics, data privacy concerns, capital intensive network and data storage infrastructure and lack of proper data collection methodologies.

Cloud computing- The next frontier for Location Intelligence

In addition to the scale and cost challenges, new and emerging technologies pose another challenge to businesses today. Being an early adopter of these technologies has lots of advantages but often necessitates careful planning, forcing companies to consider how they operate and conduct business. Fortunately, the emergence of cloud computing aims to provide a potential solution for all these challenges. Cloud computing on its own has become an integral part for many companies today, helping them with greater convenience, lower costs and enhanced efficiencies. Having grown as a disruptive technology itself, today cloud computing serves as an equalizer for the accessibility and affordability of big data and other innovative solutions, including geospatial technologies.

Let us look at the benefits of integrating these two technologies together and how ‘location as a service’ could be a key ingredient for any business strategy:

Location as a service on Cloud

As is in the most cases around emerging technologies, regulatory and security concerns around data privacy in cloud remain. Businesses are worried about data leaks, vulnerability attacks and lack of control around off-premise infrastructure.  However, the benefits of convergence of cloud computing with spatial sciences are likely to exceed and rather offers compelling ready- to- use, affordable and scalable alternative to companies, especially the small and medium enterprises, who unlike their larger counterparts lack the money and human resource muscle. To put things in perspective, users can increasingly leverage a cost-effective, flexible, on-demand computing platform to integrate- observation systems, clustering, analytical visualizations, statistical trend analysis, parameter extracting algorithms, simulation models, map-based storytelling, etc., all essential components for geospatial technologies.

At the most basic level, convergence of these two technologies means the ability to store and process higher volumes of data at an unprecedented scale. However, ‘location as a service’ can deliver actionable location insights that are real-time and that can be cross leveraged across a spectrum of web and mobile applications. Cloud based location solutions can enable anyone with an internet connectivity and a Web browser using any device such as desktop, a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone to access maps including high definition imagery, topography, street based maps and functionalities like geo-coding on the cloud on the move, thus reducing on premise spends on developing and maintaining an IT infrastructure.

Last, but not the least, it can also make data sharing and collaboration between multiple parties easier, faster and secure. Businesses can take advantage of crowd sourcing as individuals turn both into consumer of the geospatial services as well as data sensors.

Our ‘location intelligence platform,’ called the- HERE Platform, allows businesses to enrich their data through an advanced development workspace that offers standardized developer tools, analytics, scaled out processing and data management. Customers and partners can also monetize and license their maps with third-party data to create new, innovative offerings in a neutral, secure and open marketplace. The platform also makes it easier to analyze and archive the data, process events, visualize information and create dynamic datasets on the factors that include their businesses- whether it is determining business locations for retail stores, determining least cost path navigation for fleet management or creating new insurance incentives on road by profiling driver habits. With an equal emphasis on security, the HERE Platform complies with all applicable privacy and security regulations across geographies.

As we continue our journey in a digital world, connected with new and autonomous technologies, businesses will have to focus on building capabilities that help them stay ahead of the competition and remain profitable. Thus, at the convergence of cloud computing and spatial intelligence, lies the next big opportunity to make location intelligence accessible and strategic business advantages.

Note: This is a guest blog by Damandeep Kochhar, Global VP and MD India, HERE Technologies