One of the hottest topics recently in the world of IT, and in business in general, is just how the massive volume of available data, better known by the moniker ‘Big Data’, can be explored to optimize business results and be decisive in the creation of innovative new products and services.
Big Data has become so important that, at the World Economic Forum 2012, it was cited as a new class of economic asset on the same level as petroleum. Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, explained recently that, much in the same way that petroleum was the natural resource that paved the way for the Industrial Revolution, data will be the resource that makes the difference in terms of competitiveness, innovation, and possibly even survival in this industrial revolution we find ourselves in now – the Information Age. The defining characteristic of the Information Age isn’t so much the need to produce and acquire more information as it is about which information we should pay attention to. Business intelligence presents an entirely new set of challenges.
Geospatial Big Data can be defined as Big Data contextualized geographically. The question is if it is a specialization or an expansion of what we already acknowledge as Big Data. I believe that it’s a complement that expands – a lot – the possibilities of knowledge extraction vis-a-vis the contextualization of information in both space (Where?) and time (When?).
The volume of geospatial data that’s coming from many sources is growing exponentially year by year. This effect is amplified by the diffusion of sensors, smartphones, new satellite networks, images updated nearly every day, and the generation of massive databases in real-time via social networks and other cloud technologies. Therefore, the field of vision for discovering new business opportunities, risk analysis or creation of new service industries is proportionally widened.
These measurements are creating more precise and comprehensive data for GIS (Geographical Information System) professionals to work with. As a result, GIS systems are getting bigger.
More importantly, how can the analysis of GeoSpatial Big Data be employed to leverage or create innovative new business? There are many diverse examples. There is market research reporting that Telecom companies are already using locational information nearest to their customers, collected over the course of a day, over a period of years, together with users’ profiles (age, sex, place of residence, work, etc.) to define the most adequate placement for installing billboards. They then use this information to define the type of advertisement that would bring in the greatest return in relation to the profile of the persons who pass through the pre-designated areas.
To explain further, it isn’t simply just visualizing market data or concentration of customers generally, but rather making in-depth analyses that provide evidence of the characteristics of your market. In this hyper-competitive world, having access to important information to support decision making – as close as possible to real-time – may be the differential for leveraging results not just in terms of strategy, but also operational decisions.
The characteristics of data volume and the capacity for instantaneous processing of that information enables the personalization of the service for each individual or for each entity analyzed.
It is in this way that Big Data – or in it’s most ambitious form, Geospatial Big Data – changes the social contract established between consumers and providers. For that reason, Big Data is so impactful that it becomes an essential resource for amassing a competitive differential in this revolutionary new period. It has the potential to disrupt not only the established business model across industries, but also to become the determining factor for the creation of new socio-economic models, transforming the relationship between individuals and public and private service providers. And once this relationship is transformed, the impact of the benefits for the individual consumer or citizen are immense (Forbes, 2012).
Therefore, Big Data is more than just manipulating large amounts of data. Its primary purpose is to leverage greater understand of an individual or group, eminent risks, opportunities that can impact expected results, and consequently, make your business more agile for answering the kinds of questions that were almost impossible to untangle before.
According to a Harvard Business Review study from 2012, the companies that have as a guideline making decisions based on facts obtained via evidence from the data, are on average, 5% more productive and 6% more profitable than their direct competitors. However, are current technologies prepared to optimize the extraction of information at an agreeable speed, quality, and cost? I’ll answer this question in a future article with greater emphasis on geospatial technologies.
This post originally appeared on the goGeo blog and is reposted here with the author’s permission.