Whether it’s known or not, geospatial data plays an essential role in our everyday lives. Unimaginably vast volumes of data are continually generated by the physical world, delivering an unprecedented opportunity to understand what is happening around us.
But despite escalating investment – with the global geospatial industry expected to be worth almost $440 billion by 2020 – the full potential of this data is far from realized. While some sectors such as marketing are making tentative use of geospatial data, there are countless other areas in which it can be utilized.
The here and now
Location-based marketing is one of the most recognized uses of geospatial data, with brands using information produced predominantly by smartphones to gain deeper insights into their audiences. In 2017, 63% of global smartphone users accessed their device at least every 30 minutes and this increased mobile activity produces vast volumes of data about where consumers spend their time, how long they spend there, and what they do. Granular real-time geospatial insight can be used for precisely targeted marketing based on a user’s unique context and preferences. In fact, 80% of marketers using location-based advertising report growth in customer base, higher response rates, and increased customer engagement.
Geospatial data is also widely used in asset management and logistics, allowing businesses to make efficient use of physical assets such as buildings, vehicles, and equipment, and service assets such as repair crews. For example, a provider of enterprise printing equipment currently uses data about the location of its customers, its service engineers, and spare parts inventory to deliver an efficient repair and maintenance service – including a rapid supply of parts via well-placed forward stock locations and cost-effective reverse logistics.
Finally, geospatial data is used for advanced visualization, to increase understanding of a particular situation. The Financial Times recently used geospatial data to map the UK’s broadband network and reveal previously unidentified patterns in download speeds.
A turning point for geospatial data
While undoubtedly useful, these current applications of geospatial data are extremely limited, using relatively small data sets to deliver narrow insights. Technological constraints of memory capacity and processing speeds prevent businesses unlocking the true value of available data. But new technologies are emerging that combine functionalities such as dynamic filtering, movement tracking, dataset comparisons, and geofencing to enable real-time interaction with extreme, trillion-row datasets, opening up limitless possibilities to leverage geospatial data.
A geospatial future
Investment in smart cities is increasing, with the market expected to grow 16% to reach over $2,700 billion by 2024. Geospatial data underpins the development of smart cities, providing local authorities with the insight to efficiently manage resources such as transport, housing, energy, water, waste, and healthcare and meet the economic, social, and environmental needs of inhabitants.
Smart city projects are already in progress. In Amsterdam – a city with open geodata policies – a data-driven rubbish collection initiative is reducing waste and pollution, while a programme called Beautiful Noise collects ambient geo-social data to alert people to transport delays or long queues.
The ability to use real-time geospatial data from multiple sources including mobile devices, sensors, and beacons will accelerate smart city development. It will turn these one-off projects into a continuous, cohesive, data-driven strategy that enables urban areas to function more efficiently and sustainably. Real-time processing of geospatial data will allow predictive analysis, enabling the proactive prevention of potential issues such as power outages, housing crises, and long hospital waiting lists, rather than retrospective resolution. Working in an everything-connected ecosystem, local authorities can make real-time decisions that ultimately benefit all.
Geospatial data produced by smartphones – as well as other IoT devices such as connected cars – has been used for many years to provide real-time traffic updates, but is now beginning to be used to improve mobility by understanding population movement, establishing patterns, and allowing the in-the-moment needs of people to be addressed. This could include reallocating public transport resources to areas where crowds are gathered or diverting traffic away from an incident that could potentially cause delays. In addition to improving the individual’s immediate experience, these measures also have wider implications such as reducing crime or minimizing pollution.
While these examples largely relate to the public sector, businesses will benefit from sub-second extreme geospatial data analysis, allowing them to understand their customers’ needs before they do and deliver the products or services required to meet those needs.
With the necessary technology finally emerging to harness the true potential of geospatial data, the scope for the future of an everything-connected world is limitless.
Note: This is a guest blog by Ben Manning, VP Product Management, GeoSpock