Technology_Location, location, location

Many of the questions and answers arising from using big data are linked to location. One of the fastest growing areas of big data involves location analytics. Matt Lythe, who manages Eagle Technology’s graphical information systems (GIS), says adding maps to data often makes information understandable. He says: “Geography is common reference point. You can use maps to look at data in an easily digested way. You can often see patterns and trends much more quickly than just scanning data in table.”
Traditionally geographic information systems have been used by councils, utilities and resource companies to map assets. Now, other organisations are moving to mapping technology thanks, in part, to the data being collected from mobile phones and other digital devices. This means that transactions can be tied to geography. And the data then distilled to reveal trends. For example, companies can draw up maps showing the places their customers are most likely to frequent.
Lythe says that in the past Eagle sold GIS technology separately from other services: “We don’t do that so much now.” He uses the example of courier company. In the past, it may have used GIS to optimise routes. With big data now pulling information from traffic systems, the courier company can dynamically change fleet routes and respond better to traffic conditions at different times of the day. If vehicles are moving slowly on, say, Auckland’s Southern Motorway, drivers can be diverted around the hold-up.
He says retail is an important potential market for GIS-linked big data. This is being driven by smartphone users signing on for proximal services which allow retailers to know when potential customers are near to store: “It’s about bringing the digital world to the physical world.” Lythe sees these technologies giving local retailers fresh edge as they compete with overseas online stores that can bypass New Zealand’s GST.
Other applications allow wine-growers to look at micro-climates – conditions in one part of winery may not be the same as in another part – and to deal with the precision placement of fertiliser.
Lythe says that GIS systems already deal with huge amounts of data: “Typically, customers are using terabytes. With GIS there’s direct link between more data points and increased accuracy.” As if today’s data volumes are not enough, he says there’s likely to be much more in the future, as farmers and others start working with UAVs – unmanned aerial vehicles or drones. Lythe says UAV can fly the length of an entire road, capturing it in detail using LIDAR, laser imaging remote sensing technology that can accurately measure distances.

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