Asking geographic questions is something we as humans do all the time. It's a capability that has served us well since the early days, when knowing where a sabre-tooth tiger's lair was in relation to your cave proved very valuable.
Fast forward a few thousand years and we're doing the same thing in spades. While we live out our lives travelling, shopping, communicating and working, vast amounts of data are being collected concerning where those events happened.
For many (maybe most?) of us, having apps and services deliver information to us that is relative and relevant to our current location is a worthwhile trade-off between value and privacy.
Add to that the exponentially growing body of data that is being collected from sensors, both personal and commercial (aka the IoT), and location adds up to significant component of many organisation's data assets, both in terms of size and potential value.
To realise value from all this location data, contemporary data analytics approaches need to elevate location to be a first class citizen, as opposed to a simple visualisation opportunity. By that, I mean location-based analysis needs to be a core part of the analytics workflow, and surfaced in such a way as to make asking 'where' type questions as simple as say getting summary statistics or a crosstab on a table of data.
Every organisation will look at 'where' through a different lens, but the types of questions that all business leaders should be looking to ask of their data include:
- How is this phenomena distributed geographically?
- How is what's happening here related to other locations?
- What's nearby?
- How has this area changed over time and space?
- How is this area ranked against others?
This is bread-and-butter location-based analytics, but based on my experience, it's noticeably absent in many organisations’ current data analytics workflows.
Location-based analytics has grown up and become pervasive. It's no longer just the stuff of scientists and geospatial professionals.
Every organisation can now tap in to this powerful capability and gain a bigger and better understanding and insight of their operations as a result.