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The most important technology trend you’re not hearing about: Location intelligence is solving the unsolvable

In this article—the first in a series about the growing impact of location intelligence—I discuss the way location intelligence is helping solve previously unsolvable business challenges.

The most important technology trend you’re not hearing about: Location intelligence is solving the unsolvable
[Andrey Popov/AdobeStock]

If you’ve never heard the term “location intelligence” before, you’re in good company—this significant technology trend is flying completely under the radar. But given the impact it’s poised to have on critical business functions across a long list of industries, its low profile won’t last long. In this article—the first in a series about the growing impact of location intelligence—I discuss the way location intelligence is helping solve previously unsolvable business challenges.

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Location intelligence refers to the actionable insights derived from the massive ocean of geographic data generated by devices like phones, tablets, sensors, industrial machinery, and satellites. This data contains information that can help organizations overcome complex challenges that other technologies have struggled to solve.

For example, location intelligence is allowing utilities companies to achieve their decarbonization goals years—or even decades—ahead of schedule. Companies are fixing global supply chain challenges that would otherwise disrupt operations, while retail companies are conducting personalized customer engagement that was previously impossible without insights from location-based data. A new wave of location-based services is being delivered to users via smartphones and tablets thanks to location intelligence. And finally, location intelligence is making it possible for non-profits, NGOs, and governments to monitor and respond to humanitarian and environmental crises around the world.

Even if you haven’t heard the term before, location intelligence is an indispensable part of your everyday life. If you’ve ever used your phone for navigation, requested an Uber ride, or asked Siri the location of the nearest Starbucks, then you’ve used apps powered by location-based data.

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To illustrate that, let’s look at the Uber app. It uses data about your location, the location of multiple potential drivers, digital maps of your city, the distance between you and your driver, the status of traffic along each possible route between the two locations, and other location-based data points that are all changing in real time. A massive volume of data enables you to know when your driver will arrive and what your ETA is to your destination. Location data is the engine behind all of that, yet this is still just the tip of the iceberg of what location data can do.

Petabytes upon petabytes of location data are produced every day by connected devices operated by individuals, companies, non-profits, and governments—forming massive proprietary and open-source data sets whose growth is accelerating as more connected devices are used around the world. It’s big data on the biggest of scales, and location intelligence turns that raw data into actionable insights that resonate with users because it is inherently visual information that our brains are so well suited to understand. One of the ironies of the technology era is that organizations have never had access to more information, but they struggle mightily to understand and put it into action.

For the past two decades, massive work has been put into attempting to turn other kinds of data into “visual information” that people can digest. Insights from location-based data don’t have that uphill battle because it is all visual information—as easy to digest as the app that tells you where the nearest coffee shop is located, or the digital map that shows you which states have rising or declining cases of COVID-19. That intuitive nature of visual information is key to the impact location intelligence is poised to make.

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So why has the technology reached this critical mass moment now? One major reason is the volume of location-based data, which has exploded as the number of connected devices has grown. Billions of smart phones, billions of IoT sensors, and billions of other connected devices provide a volume, depth, and richness of data that provides the foundation for all of this.

Another reason is the advancement of analytic software that processes this data at a scale that was previously impossible with the small geospatial departments that so many organizations have. This software is a force multiplier that allows this data to be processed at scales that were impossible until now.

The last major reason location intelligence is reaching critical mass now is workers and consumers have become familiar with visual data thanks to route-finding apps, ridesharing apps, retail apps, and other technology they use every day. People are comfortable with this kind of information and putting it into action, and increasingly they expect this to be the norm.

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These three factors—the richness of data, the ability to analyze it at scale to deliver actionable insights, and widespread familiarity with working with location-driven apps—are ushering in this new era of location intelligence and changing the way we do business.


Todd Slind is the VP of Technology at Locana, where he leads development of solutions that harness the power of location intelligence.

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