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Thursday, 15 November 2012 10:03

Location, Location, Location – why quality data is important for spatial intelligence

Location, Location, Location – why quality data is important for spatial intelligence

The term ‘geocoding’ has become one of the latest buzzwords in the business space, and is touted for its ability to deliver a host of benefits. Geocodes provide a precise location, expressed as latitude and longitude co-ordinates, and as such have many applications across different industries. This data is not new but is becoming more useful with the introduction of spatial business intelligence tools that present business information on a map.


Geocodes can be beneficial to any business which uses or manages address information in any way, as it allows objects which have an address, such as customers, to be plotted on a map and compared to objects that do not have an address, such as the customer demographic, or risk profile, of the area


The benefits and challenges of linking address and spatial data are explored in detail in the whitepaper An Introduction to Geocoding which can be downloaded .


One of the applications of geocoding is to improve service delivery, both for retail and government sectors. Geocoding data can be used to determine the density of populations or the density of customers in specific areas, as well as the layout and distance of these customers or populations to existing stores or facilities such as hospitals, schools and so on. A visual plot of store coverage overlaid with customer locations allows retailers to plan the locations for new stores thus providing convenience to customers and therefore more likely foot traffic in the stores. For government service delivery new facilities, such as hospitals and schools can be planned for precisely where they are needed, and costs can be allocated to the correct service area.


Location is also important for risk management. By plotting the location of an insured risk on a map, and overlaying this with risk factors such as flood plains, or crime levels, insurance firms can optimally calculate risk for each insured address. Location data can be critical disaster management, making it simpler to ensure that emergency services arrive as quickly as possible.


Another common application is to use location data for route planning. Shipping and logistics firms can optimise productivity by plotting delivery and collection addresses on a map, reducing errors in delivery and plotting the most efficient routes for each vehicle. This helps to optimise efficiency of the delivery chain, saving time, fuel and resources while at the same time improving customer service.


Geocoding data is available from various sources. However, it is often not a simple matter to add this data into existing address information, since lack of standardisation and poor quality data can negatively impact the applicability of geocoding data.


For example, the spatial data, or data from the geocoding database, may recognise “CAPE TOWN” as a city. However, in a company’s records, the name may be misspelled, as CAPE TWON or CAPETOWN, or even be in another language, such as KAAPSTAD, or may be buried in the wrong field in the database. These are common issues which can cause a failure in the lookup of geocoding data, meaning that accurate locations cannot be added.


In order to reap the benefits of geocoding data, it is critical to apply sophisticated cleansing and matching to improve address quality before geocodes are applied. Data quality and standardisation tools, such as the Trillium Software System, find these common errors and correct them, as well as identifying the same address that may be represented in two different ways, based on its elements. For example, data cleansing for geocoding should be able to recognise that KERKSTRAAT 11, Pretoria is the same address as 11 Church Street, Pretoria. By addressing data quality and standardisation issues, the probability of finding a match and being able to add an accurate location is vastly improved.


Geocoding data adds another dimension of information for businesses, and enables enhanced analytics to be conducted using geospatial information. Quality address data is a prerequisite for realising the benefits that geocoding can deliver! Download the to find out more.

Published in Analytics & BI
Google Traffic Maps

What if you could discover why your deliveries are delayed, or where to build your new retail store, by simply looking at a map? It’s amazing how looking at a problem from a geographical view can change our perspective – new insights, new ideas for action seem much clearer than when the data is presented in a graph or a table.

This is known as “spatial business intelligence” – data presented in map form for ease of analysis. It has already started revolutionising the way many businesses operate. Logistics companies use the data to avoid traffic jams or hazardous roads, airports have used it to prevent collisions with birds and police have made use of it to discern patterns and determine a criminal’s modus operandi.

But spatial business intelligence is only as good as the data that’s available. If fresh data on road works and diversions is missing from your traffic map you won’t spot the pattern behind those late deliveries or the sea of competitors located in the area you wish to enter.
Data has been potentially the single most limiting factor in developing spatially based business solutions. Sometimes it simply didn’t exist, but mostly – it was simply too expensive to access. The companies who gathered the data protected their intellectual property with hefty price tags, so that most businesses could ill afford to invest in an entire database.

Luckily, we’re seeing the dawn of Data-as-a-service. It’s now possible to integrate multiple feeds from different spatial data publishers, delivering real business value quickly and cost-effectively. The business case for spatial solutions has changed and it is likely to become a massive driver of innovation in the next few years.

But if you hope to take advantage of a spatial business solution, there are two important factors to consider:

  • How mature is the data feed

Examine the data feed carefully. Determine how easy, or difficult, it is to access and integrate, how reliable it is and how often it is updated. If one looks at the EU, we can see that there is good deal of accurate information available. Real-time weather and traffic feeds can be bought virtually anywhere, at a reasonable cost. This could well be where South Africa is headed. Whether you’re planning a route for a single trip or a complex delivery network, this information once properly integrated into useful applications results in dramatic efficiency improvements.

  • Managing delivery from multiple suppliers

Having said that, it’s not likely that one single data publisher will be able to supply all your needs. Systems designers will need to manage relationships with several different organisations at once and unless you have the capacity to manage this in-house - make sure you choose a partner who already has this network of relationships in place. Your partner should offer solid guarantees about quality of service and uptime – in other words, you shouldn’t have to worry about which data is coming from which publisher, the solution should just work.

Spatial business intelligence is still in its infancy in South Africa, but we’re rapidly catching up to the rest of the world. Familiarise yourself with the systems and process now, so that, when given the right data at the right time – you can design world-beating solutions that leaves your competition in the dust.

EDITORS NOTE: To try live data maping visit "http://goo.gl/maps/CEpp"

Published in Software
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