Thursday, November 12, 2009

Geographers, the locational sleuths

Picture descriptions:
Images: Data rich locations -just different intelligence required!

Related sites to the Spatialworlds project
Spatialworlds website
21st Century Geography Google Group
Australian Geography Teachers' Association website
'Towards a National Geography Curriculum' project website
Geography Teachers' Association of South Australia website
Email contact

Where am I??
Adelaide, Australia: S: 34º 55' E: 138º 36'

Locational intelligence and geography
As with any new term there are a range of term owners, all with their own interpretations. I thought it would be quite simple to do an entry on the ‘buzz word’ Location Intelligence. I thought I knew what it meant from my own extrapolation of what I know of geography, GIS and the word intelligence. However as I researched I came to realise that the term has a very business origin and hence many of the definitions and descriptions of the application of the term relates to the application of spatial technology for only business/insurance applications. One commentator said that:
“The first and most significant difference is that GIS starts with geography and location intelligence doesn't. Location intelligence starts with a business problem.”

This really got me thinking! So, what is being said is that we have to come up with the problem first and then look at what geography we have to access via technology such as GIS. This may seem a rather simplistic back to front approach but not all that different to what I have been advocating with the meaningful use of GIS in the classroom. That is, we must develop a context for the use of GIS before we start to just use the technology and expect the geography or GLAT (Gee look at that!) factor to provide deep learning for students. Although still business focussed the following descriptions of Locational Intelligence are getting closer to the classroom application for the term Locational Intelligence.
Location intelligence enables you to answer a fundamental, yet complex question faced by nearly all organisations: Where? It's a critical factor in countless strategic and operational decisions in business and the public sector. Associating your organisational data with location is the foundation for making critical decisions that improve performance.”
Location Intelligence is the capacity to organize and understand complex phenomena through the use of geographic relationships inherent in all information. By combining geographic- and location-related data with other business data, organizations can gain critical insights, make better decisions and optimize important processes and applications. Location Intelligence offers organizations opportunities to streamline their business processes and customer relationships to improve performance and results.”
But, my favourite description is about the providing of context:
“Providing context is what location intelligence is all about. But providing location context involves more than delivering a picture or a map. Location-enabled self-service portals or applications should have access to all the relevant content there is. Ensuring collection of all information relevant to the context of location requires the ability to query and present content.”

My next question is, can a location be intelligent? Or can a location be un-intelligent? If intelligence relates to being clever and with intellect, then the amount of data we can access connected to place can enhance our understanding of a place in functional and creative terms. I see much of what we have been doing with GIS in schools over the years is to show students that the data crunching and representational ability of GIS has increased our knowledge and understanding of place and places. An intelligent location is one which we can find heaps of data about and hence develop a range of problem solving scenarios for students to analyse. I like the term Locational Intelligence in its broader educational sense because it gives a life to a place and insinuated action and application in response, as if a place or location has a brain and unique quality. We all know that every place has a sense of uniqueness and this is determined by the data we need to uncover for such a place. An unintelligent location would be one which we cannot uncover adequate data – such a location is just place with no intelligence on it. So what is intelligence in the broader sense
“Intelligence is an umbrella term used to describe a property of the mind that encompasses many related abilities, such as the capacities to reason, to plan, to solve problems, to think abstractly, to comprehend ideas, to use language, and to learn.”
Although a general description of intelligence, this definition can be as equally applied to the use of GIS as a problem solving tool in the classroom!
As geographers we need to be intelligence gathers (overt and covert) on place. To carry the ‘CIA’ analogy even further we need to interrogate the data uncovered to ensure we have a real and objective understanding of the data collected – not false intelligence! Geographers are locational sleuths and we now have the tools to uncover a huge amount of locational data and in turn have an enormous amount of intelligence on a location. This broader conceptual definition of Locational Intelligence can be applied to the classroom as an action-based approach for learning:
Today, Location Intelligence is used by a broad range of human endeavours. Applications include:
• Communications & Telecommunications: Network planning and design, boundary identification, identifying new customer markets.
• Financial Services: Optimize branch locations, market analysis, share of wallet and cross-sell activities, mergers & acquisitions, industry sector analysis, risk management.
• Government: Census updates, law enforcement crime analysis, emergency response, environmental and land management, electoral redistricting, tax jurisdiction assignment, urban planning.
• Healthcare: Site selection, market segmentation, network analysis, growth assessments.
• Hotels & Restaurants: Customer profile analysis, site selection, target marketing, expansion planning.
• Insurance: Address validation, underwriting and risk management, claims management, marketing and sales analysis, market penetration studies.
• Media: Target market identification, subscriber demographics, media planning.
• Real Estate: Site reports, comprehensive site analysis, retail modeling, presentation quality maps.
• Retail: Site selection, maximize per-store sales, identify under-performing stores, market analysis
When you consider that as much as 85% of the enterprise data companies and governments use already have a reference to location, then Locational Intelligence using spatial technologies such as GIS is inevitably going to become a core skill and application in society when making critical decisions in terms of:
o Increasing revenue and optimising capital investments
o Improving planning and customer/social services
o Decreasing the impact of natural/human generated disasters and crime

The following ESRI Australia links on the practical application of GIS and Locational Intelligence give an excellent insight into the importance of Locational Intelligence in our society today.

Preparing for the population explosion
In 2050, it is estimated that Australia's population will explode to 35 million, with the world's population set to top 90 billion.
But how are government organisations, businesses, scientists and environmentalists preparing to meet this demand?
Find out how location intelligence is playing a key role in equipping our decision makers with comprehensive and accurate information to help better converse, sustain and manage the environmental challenges of a growing world.

Pandemic planning
From swine flu and the SARS virus to localised legionnaires disease outbreaks, a year doesn't seem to pass without a serious epidemic. But how does the world react to control the spread?
Get behind the scenes of how location intelligence is used for early detection, tracking, response and control of infectious disease outbreaks.

To follow-up this blog posting on Locational Intelligence consider visiting the ESRI spatial round table forum. Have your say on the hot topics in the spatial industry at. ESRI's Spatial Roundtable provides a great opportunity for you to share your points of view about concerns, trends, challenges, and technologies.

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