Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Editor’s note: Today on ZyncroBlog, we are delighted to have Pere Molina, trained matematician and geomatics engineer by trade, he is Research Assistant at Instituto de Geomática. He has participated in European projects on personal navigation using mobile devices, and in his opinion, geo-technology nowadays is a reality of the present and a need of the future both for users and companies. Thanks for your collaboration, Pere. Welcome!
“Wait, let me check it in Google Maps…” And there you have it! Problem solved. The typical questions of “wasn’t it close to that closed cinema?” or “what is there to eat around here?” belong to the past, to what we call the ‘1.0 era.’ Without a doubt, open web-map services like Google Maps, Bing, OpenStreetMaps and others have become the best street-level sales reps we could have ever imagined, both for users and small, medium and large enterprises. One of the keys lies in having exploited the potential of the Web 2.0 (sharing, socializing, user-focus, etc.), adding an extra variable: the where.
The example given in the first paragraph, i.e. checking the location of a service on a cell or PC, illustrates the two paradigms that have led to the boom in geo-technologies. firstly, free interactive access to geo-information, and secondly, personal location tools in real time. In today’s post, I will look at both and their impact on today’s society.
“Business intelligence” and its geo-aspect
Around February 2005, Google posted on its blog the launch of Google Maps (initially for Explorer and Mozilla). Thanks to the magic formula of the company’s search engine, users can find places on a map instantly, automatically, digitally… and free. The rest of that story of small achievements was a question of time: open interfaces enabling interactive development based on maps, incorporating services and businesses on the maps, time-spatial traceability of an individual’s information, integration with social networks and many other nice features. In short, the fusion of an (enormous) database of services for the consumer with an (immense) layer of geographic information and its materialization in the (small) screen of our PC or the (tiny) screen of a smartphone. But perhaps the most important achievement is establishing the following idea in the social sub-consciousness: we all need free access to information, but what’s more, we need it referenced in space–which is what is know as Awhereness
This also applies to organizations. To be able to precisely and quickly visualize data from one or several customers and/or other companies in a geographical context may be critical in decision-making. The so-called visual business intelligence services are precisely used to provide greater understanding of the customer and their surroundings, and to be able to give better forecasting. For example, the company Geo.me produces what are called heat maps: a bit like meteorological maps, in which we see the cloud evolving in time and space, a company can see how the sales rate of a product evolves in each country, or see the number of hits on a web and its spatial and temporal distribution, or on a smaller scale, see where customers move around a supermarket and hence understand what they are looking for and what they like. All are data and all have a spatial component. In such a way that a multi-scale geographical support where this data can be represented is an open door to improvements in efficiency in a company.
Go on, ask yourself: How can I incorporate geographic or spatial information in my products or services? What would be its added value? Don’t worry whether it is viable technologically speaking — now it is.
Personal navigation, or “tell me where you are and I’ll tell you what to do”
Once we have the map, it’s a good idea to find ourselves on it. And more interestingly, to do it in real time. This is what is known as personal navigation and we have seen it filter through first from automobiles (thanks to the brands Tom-Tom and Garmin, above all), and then to cellphones (from the first integration in 1999 by Benefon, and later implementation in many other models). Services for cells are the famous Location-Based Services (LBS).
This evolution is in keeping with that shown in the market study carried out by the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency: road and LBS applications represent 54% and 43.7% respectively of the total in the satellite navigation technologies market in the period 2010-2020. Personal navigation in LBS has benefited not just from GPS, but also from other existing technologies available for mobile devices, such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth protocols, or mobile GSM coverage itself, It represents a natural progression.
The aim in LBS is clear: offer users a range of possibilities (offers, entertainment, information, etc.) with their spatial reach. And it’s viable: there is a large geographic database of services (first paradigm) and the user’s location is pinpointed with more or less precision (second paradigm). Some revealing examples are the social network FourSquare, created in 2009 and with more than 20 million users these days, which provides services mainly focused at entertainment based on the position of its users; or the community Endomondo, whose beta was launched in 2009, based on following the position of its users to create sporting statistics (trails, speed, times, etc.) These are just two examples of the many out there, but all have a common denominator: using the capacity of current mobile devices to quickly provide a user position with acceptable precision. Without this technology, all this business wouldn’t be viable (to not say it would be impossible).
In a near future, our cells will locate us in outdoor locations below the precision meter thanks to the multiple global satellite navigation systems, such as the European Galileo or the Chinese Beidou, and with greater reliability. With it, undoubtedly other application barriers will be broken and new needs will emerge. An example of the direction it is heading is the system PastView, consisting of an augmented reality video glasses (in other words, a reality overlapping the one seen) for taking tours around a city (Seville, in this case) and discovering how the city looked in the past. The system uses (what a surprise!) the position provided by a cellphone to superimpose the map correctly and display it through the glasses. More recently and closer to home is the system Barcelona Visual, based also on augmented reality that can be downloaded as an app. We can see that the tourist sector is incorporating personal navigation capacities into their products having seen the added value they provide.
And not just entertainment, restaurants and tourism are the sole beneficiaries and potential operators of geo-technology, enterprise 2.0 management also incorporates mechanisms based on personal navigation:
In short, the benefits of geo-technology as a tool for businesses are undeniable, and there is a long list of success stories and best practices. Know how to take advantage of the potential of geo-technology 2.0? I hope, at least, it has helped you “mark that route on your map.”