Geolocation is revolutionizing the enterprise in unimaginable ways. Geo provides the necessary tools for businesses to transform their strategy, analytics and experiences for clients and customers. Taking advantage of the endless possibilities geo has to offer opens up and expands revenue opportunities for enterprises that have never been possible before. In this Ask the Expert interview, we sat down with Shel Davis, our Geo expert to answer questions surrounding geolocation.
How have geospatial and geolocation services evolved over the years?
The technologies used for locating and tracking people and assets have been evolving almost continuously over the last two decades. The pace of change is part of what makes the field so interesting. The cost of understanding something’s location to within a few meters has dropped 2 orders of magnitude in the last 15 years.
Writing Geographic Information System (GIS) code solutions no longer require special desktop software and a group of technical people. Now, with fairly simple tools, anyone can geocode, reverse-geocode, provide directions, calculate distances, and display information on interactive maps. The introduction of Google Maps in 2005 opened this transition to open standards, interoperability, and Internet-based geospatial SaaS. In addition, the proliferation and technical advancement of location-aware devices (like fitness trackers, smart watches, smart phones, tablets, and various chips) as well as on-prem geolocation technology (like WiFi, iBeacons, and B.L.E.), means there is more geolocation data being collected now than at any time in history.
Location data is now everywhere and digitized. As Google and other hyper-scale cloud platform providers continue to make massive storage, computing power, and other infrastructure more reliable, cheap, and easy-to-use, the changes in collecting, processing and analyzing geospatial data will only accelerate.
Describe some of the ways companies are leveraging geospatial and geolocation services today.
You don’t have to look very far to find hundreds of ways that companies take advantage of geospatial and geolocation solutions every day. I’ll highlight a few below.
- Logistics and Trip Analytics: Many companies are using big data and geospatial analytics to optimize route planning and reduce service delivery times. Being able to immediately recognize problems and/or opportunities along a route using geospatial clustering and real-time traffic data is a competitive advantage for many logistics companies.
- Fraud detection: Tracking the location of attempted credit card transactions and/or quickly analyzing addresses in loan or job applications gives companies better ways of detecting fraudulent activity faster, so that they can react to these events in real time.
- Indoor Maps: Retail chains like Macy’s are turning to geo-location technology to deliver a better in-store experience. Other companies are implementing indoor navigation solutions to increase employee productivity (navigating corporate campuses, finding empty conference rooms, etc.) and more-efficiently manage how office space and corporate assets are being used in those spaces.
- Finance: Investors are turning to satellite and even drone-based imagery as a source of data to make more informed decisions about commodities and predicting consumer demand.
- Advertising: In a mobile world, being able to advertise on mobile is a necessity. Better ad targeting, using consumer geospatial data as well as purchase history and locations, is no longer optional.
- Entertainment: The biggest mobile game in recent memory, Pokémon GO, showed how the overlay of cyberspace upon the real world can deliver a compelling augmented reality (AR) experience.
Can any industry benefit from a geo solution? Explain why or why not.
Yes, I think any industry can benefit from a geo solution. Every company should think about what location data they are already gathering, what more they have the potential to be gathering, and how they can leverage that data to produce better business outcomes. If a company cannot readily answer the questions listed below quickly and easily, with a reasonable degree of accuracy, they should think about engaging a company like Maven Wave to better formulate a location data strategy.
- Do you know where your ______ are?
- (customers, employees, suppliers, equipment)
- Where are your best business opportunities?
- What makes these locations good opportunities?
- How will you find more locations like these?
- (Where are the next opportunities going to be?)
- Where are your coverage gaps?
- How quickly can you get to those gaps?
- Can you provide an ETA?
- Are you driving efficiency in a way that allows you to fit one more ____ per employee per day?
- (trip, customer delivery, service call)
- Is your location strategy helping you comply with local legal requirements?
Knowing location provides context, and context can be acted upon for better decision-making. Any company that can combine business intelligence with location intelligence will have a sizable competitive advantage in the coming years. Anyone that cannot, will be left behind.
What are the unique features Google Maps offers for geospatial and geolocation services?
Google is a company that can offer the scale, scope, accuracy and speed in geospatial services that very few companies can match. Google has a unique combination of access to huge data streams, including satellite imagery, streetcar info, web traffic and millions of mobile devices coupled with a hyperscale infrastructure that can ingest, store, process, and render this data quickly, reliably, and at global scale.
Google’s location data is also continuously being refreshed, so that billions of geocodes in the Google geocoder stay current and hundreds of millions records in the Google “Places” database stay deep and relevant for autocomplete and “nearby search” purposes.
Google’s access to terrain, average road speed, real-time traffic conditions, and weather gives it the edge when companies use the Google Directions API for real-time or “predictive” ETA on any road, at any time. Google’s ubiquitous “StreetView” imagery provides users a current, contextual view of where they are and where they are going in 77 different countries. And Google’s access to information on cell phone towers and WiFi access points gives it the ability to provide a “Geolocation” service that allows users to figure out their current position without access to GPS.
What do you predict for the future of geo?
As the global population becomes more mobile and more interconnected, the need for geospatial and geolocation services will only grow. Couple that growth with the introduction of billions of connected devices that will be coming online in the next decade — all of which will have location information – and the future looks bright!
Many of the game-changing technologies people are reading about today from driverless cars to drones to augmented reality, have geo at their core. These growing industries will drive innovation in geospatial and geolocation services. As geolocation technology becomes cheaper and more ubiquitous, “harder” solutions like real-time indoor navigation, accurate hyper-local marketing, and 3D spatial navigation without GPS will become commonplace. Expect the volume of geospatial data being collected, stored, and analyzed to grow exponentially, and expect companies to leverage even more geospatial data in their business analytics, especially with machine learning.
Meet the Expert: Shel Davis
Shel Davis is a Senior Principal at Maven Wave with over 20 years of enterprise consulting experience, most recently specializing in Google Cloud Platform and Google Maps geospatial solutions. Prior to joining Maven Wave, Shel was one of the original employees of another Google Premier Partner called Cloud Sherpas, which was acquired by Accenture in 2016. Shel has held a variety of technology leadership positions over the years and has helped hundreds of companies solve challenging problems, especially in the manufacturing, transportation, insurance, and retail verticals. Shel graduated from Duke University with a B.A. and Georgia State University with a Masters of Information Systems.