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Google: Businesses could benefit from location-based intelligence

There is a lot more to maps than getting from A to B, says Google's head of enterprise GEO

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Nearly three quarters of IT decision makers are failing to make effective use of mapping technology in their businesses, according to Sanjay Patel, head of enterprise GEO at Google.

While putting a map on a company's website requires only a few lines of code, and can help customers to work out where they are going, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to enterprise use of mapping, Patel told Techworld. In particular, IT decision makers should start thinking about using location-based business intelligence in order to process and analyse Big Data.

“I can't stress enough that mapping in business intelligence is a huge market, not just from a Google standpoint but also from a business perspective,” said Patel. “We have a saying in the geography world, which is that 'data is king'. If you can't put data onto a map and understand it, then you're in the wrong line of business.”

Patel explained that adding geographical context to Big Data can help organisations visualise their data, in order to get a better grasp of internal operations and customer behaviours.

For example, the transport and logistics industry is pioneering the use of mapping technology, using GPS to track the routes that drivers take, as well as metrics like speed and traffic, in order to accurately schedule deliveries and economise on fuel.

Meanwhile, some retail chains are starting to use mapping technology to monitor the effectiveness of marketing campaigns in different areas of the country, or manage stock based on customer demand, said Patel. Supermarkets like Tesco are even using indoor mapping and location technologies to track the routes that shoppers take around stores and place products accordingly.

However, there is also value in opening that data up to the end user, said Sanjay. For example, Google Earth Builder allows organisations to create maps using their own data over a private cloud platform, and then share those maps securely with other organisations or business partners.

“What we did was cut a sliver out of our platform and offer it as a secure platform for end users to upload their own mapping data,” said Patel. “They don't have to worry about machines, processing, bandwidth, maintenance and all that kind of stuff. They can put their data on this mapping platform and deliver it out to their own users with all the security protocols that they want.”

Patel explained that providing real-time data to the end user in map form, and allowing that end user to contribute their own data, helps organisations instantly build up a more comprehensive picture of the situation in hand, enabling them to act more quickly and effectively.

“It's all about learning and information and making people understand that the traditional way of using maps is long gone,” he said. “It's not about just getting from A to B, it is completely utilising the business environment.”

Earlier this year, Google was ordered to pay a fine and damages to a French mapping company, Bottin Cartographers, after a court ruled that the search giant was guilty of unfair competition and “undercutting competitors” by making its Google Maps program free. Google is appealing the decision.

Meanwhile, Google recently came under fire for introducing of usage limits to the Google Maps API, meaning that high-volume users will have to pay if they exceed 25,000 hits a day. Google claimed the measure had been introduced to secure the long term future of the Maps API, while minimising the impact on developers.


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