Location intelligence is not new. People have been analyzing demographic data by comparing region to region for many years. Just think of Walter Cronkite standing in front of a map of the U.S. with each state colored blue or red as votes came in for the presidential election. You may have heard of “mapping software” at some point in the past. Yeah. That’s location intelligence too. But this technology has changed over time and its fancy new name really reflects the advent of data inundation that every other software tool is experiencing. Location intelligence is doing a lot more these days.

With location intelligence, users can combine geographical data with just about any other kind of data – whether it be data about the physical characteristics of the geographic region itself or data about the people who live or work there and their behavior. The combination of all this data can be used to improve insight so you can make better decisions.

Tweet: How to use location intelligence to turbo-charge your analytics

Location intelligence users begin by defining their business or organization’s environment and all the things that influence it. Data is collected about these influences. This data is then merged into a location intelligence tool so users can view the relationship of influences in two-dimensional space and analyze those relationships. This helps users identify significant trends and issues relative to customers or operational data and geography. By viewing the data in a map, it is much easier to quickly ascertain insights that would be more tedious to uncover in a report or dashboard.

For example, take a look at the map below. This is an example of how an insurance company has taken information from a real-time weather feed to determine which areas are most at risk of severe weather on a given day.

Using a map to determine who’s most at risk of severe weather

So why is there such a huge buzz now about location intelligence? In recent years, the barriers to accessing and utilizing geographical data have been lowered, making it easier for more businesses to tap into the rich source of information that is available.

Want to hop on the bandwagon? You may already be able to imagine the types of questions that might be answered with location intelligence. However, in case you need a little prompting, here are some examples of how it might be used.

Hospitals: Using Geographic Information to Better Service Patients

Regional hospitals may be able to attract patients from areas in which they historically have not gotten traction. To do this, hospitals need to look at what zip codes, cities and counties their patients are currently coming from. By uncovering this information, hospital administrators can make savvy decisions about where to concentrate marketing efforts – perhaps targeting areas where the patient density is lowest. This information can also help them determine where it might be profitable to open up satellite locations, clinics, or specialized services.

Hospitals can use maps to determine where their patients reside and where they should locate ancillary services

Location intelligence may also be used within a hospital to map out and analyze staffing issues. What areas of the hospital are being underutilized? What areas of the hospital are over-taxed? Once administrators have a handle on this information, they can be more responsive to each area’s needs.

Insurance: Understanding Risk Exposure and Ensuring Proper Coverage

If a homeowner makes an insurance claim for damage to his or her home from a certain hurricane, insurers can use location intelligence to check the validity of that claim. They can combine demographic data with NOAA’s hurricane tracker maps in order to reveal whether the home location was in or near the path of the storm. Insurers can also determine whether claimants reside in a flood zone requiring a higher level of insurance coverage.

Insurance companies can integrate storm maps into their analytics tool to better service claims

Insurance companies can also use location intelligence to determine risk exposure to other natural disasters in any geographic region. They may want to analyze potential payments to customers for home damage based on data about disaster impact such as earthquake intensity, wind speed or velocity, and geographic location.

Distributors: Improving Stock Levels and Saving Money on Shipments

It’s obvious that with slim margins in many industries, the success of just-in-time delivery is important. This depends heavily on a company’s ability to determine what is in stock, where it is in stock, and when stock needs to be replenished. With location intelligence, companies can quickly and easily analyze delivery costs based on how orders are fulfilled.

For example, when a large order for Merlot comes in, location intelligence can help determine which warehouse a wine distributor should ship from to save the most on delivery costs. Or, by leveraging location intelligence tools for tablets, store managers may be alerted about a product being out of stock as staff use their mobile devices when they see empty store shelves. They can then figure out where parts are located in a warehouse, as shown in the map below.

Manufacturers are able to get a better handle on parts and stock with location intelligence

Store managers can also analyze store locations with demographic and geographic data to understand why certain locations perform better than others. Do high- or low- income individuals live nearby? Have the buying habits of local customers changed recently? Maybe it’s due to a change in demographics.

Politics: Understanding District Demographics to Gain an Edge in the Polls

For politicians seeking election, it’s important to know who is voting, their demographic information, and where they reside. Politicians can use location intelligence to analyze voting district demographics in a state — or even nationwide — and use that information to decide where to focus campaign efforts.

Maps are powerful in politics, enabling campaigns to determine where they should focus their resources

And more …

The potential to benefit from the use of location intelligence is huge – limited only by sources of data and one’s imagination. If you have data based over a certain geographic region, you may want to consider analyzing that data in relation to geographic data and see what insights you can uncover. (And as a side note, if you’re using Diver | BI, you’ve got a jump on preparing the data for this integration because mapping capabilities are already part of the solution.) Business intelligence, location intelligence – whatever you call it, it harnesses powerful insight to help you reach your goals.

Rose Weinberger, MBA