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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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