Using Location to Gain Intelligence

In a recent post on 3 trends in data visualization, we addressed the increasing importance of geolocation capabilities in data analysis. We also looked at how the incorporation of mapping and geolocation capabilities into the feature set of a comprehensive business intelligence (BI) application has brought a new understanding to the BI process.

So it should come as no surprise that having the ability to detect and show the location associated with specific pieces of information can be of great value to an organization. For example, the ability of a retailer to detect the location of specific groups of customers and their purchase patterns can help it to determine whether to establish a new branch or store. As another example, detecting the frequency of crimes according to their location can be extremely useful for a police department in applying security measures to these regions accordingly.

Owing to user needs and demands, as well as to the need for improved BI offerings, BI software providers have been enhancing their data analysis capabilities through the intensive use of geolocation information and the visualization of their results in a geographical manner.

BI providers are now incorporating powerful functionality features to enable their users to take advantage of geo-mapping capabilities, which when combined with powerful and/or popular mapping tools can help users to gain insights into their information. The availability of sophisticated mapping applications such as those provided by ESRI, a provider of software products for geographic knowledge and visualization, along with simple yet powerful and popular mapping servers, such as those provided by Google, mapquest, and Bing, has encouraged the use of geographic information for many different purposes, such as BI. This has also led to the incorporation of new software products offering business analytics applications with location features into the BI space.

The following list is a sample of some of the providers offering software applications for developing location intelligence projects.

Additionally, some of the most important features of location intelligence applications are summarized below:

  • Data integration capabilities, particularly from real-time sources (RSS feeds, sensors, real-time transactions, etc.)

  • Easy and powerful visual data modeling and visualization tools

  • Powerful visualization of maps, geometries, and associated information

  • Analysis of spatial relationships

  • Designer tools for incorporating standard or custom geometries such as point lines or polygons and other figures to identify data associated with specific points/regions within maps

  • Dynamic recalculation and updating of data based on map navigation

  • Dynamic recalculation and updating of data based on user location using global positioning system (GPS) device features

  • Augmented reality functionality such as associating real objects with their pertinent information

Other traditional BI providers have incorporated strong geolocation capabilities into their BI offerings, including the ESRI partnership with BI providers such as IBM, SAP, SAS, and Oracle to provide specific connection and integration with ESRI’s geolocation products and technologies.


The need for location-based analysis is not new. Location information is key in many industries and lines of business for acquiring a business understanding and a baseline for many analysis efforts. Location intelligence or location analytics applications can provide organizations with the means to easily collect and connect the data with location-based information and perform location-based analysis (‘plug and play’). They can also help organizations to achieve greater visibility and agility in business activities by enabling them to respond on time and on location.

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