Location-based analytics has changed the fortunes of many of the world’s data rich, information poor retailers.

What this new breed of advanced analytics tools offer over the more traditional BI solutions is an ability to connect data to the real-world and use geographic context to deliver actionable business insights.

Put simply, diagrammatic or tabular representations of risk show only a fraction of the overall picture.

By highlighting the geographic elements in business data, you can instantly see the information that matters to your operation – such as which part of your company infrastructure is susceptible to largescale natural disasters.

Analysing company data against the backdrop of a specific territory or geographic area is not a new practice. For more than four decades government agencies, commercial enterprises and NGOs have utilised location-based analytics to equip decision-makers with actionable business intelligence.

In Australia, location-based analytics software – more commonly referred to as Geographic Information System technology (GIS) – was traditionally the domain of land management agencies and the military.

But following the 2011 Brisbane floods, GIS made its first significant move into mainstream data analytics.

The new Big Data analytics

The key component of the technology that caught the imagination of BI and Big Data professionals was its predictive capabilities.

In the case of the Brisbane floods, GIS technology was used to map the likely path of the rising waters – before the disaster fully unfolded. It was a watershed moment for the spatial industry.

Beyond its predictive capabilities, the technology’s capacity to work with real-time data to provide decision-makers with a live view of their business was considered game-changing.

These two capabilities alone had moved GIS from its long standing back-of-house role to be viewed as one of the most exciting developments in Big Data analytics since the democratisation of BI.

The irony of the technology’s new found rock star status is that GIS has been used to perform military-grade analytics for more than 40 years.

More than dots on a map

GIS technology is often mistaken for the more Google-esque type of mapping. It’s important to discern here – we’re not working with simple dots on maps.

Advanced location-based analytics has the ability to process and analyse multiple, large and complex data sets to produce the sort of business insights that will shift a share price.

The good news for those organisations who have yet to invest in advanced analytics or who have made substantial investments in other technologies, is there are no rules for adopting this capability.

Location-based analytics can be implemented as either a standalone or complementary system. And it’s an investment that invariably pays for itself many times over.

To learn more about how location-based analytics is transforming business, download the Australian Financial Review’s Special Report.

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