by Andy Berry

What is the ‘Location of Things’ and how is it minimizing risk?

Jan 17, 2018
Technology Industry

Understanding the relationship between people, places and things is crucial to reducing risk. How are different industries doing this, and what are the benefits?

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Credit: Thinkstock

“A place for everything, and everything in its place” is an expression dating back to the 18th century, in a Victorian England where cleanliness and tidiness were widely revered. In today’s dynamic world of commerce, “place” has never been more relevant as businesses collect data on digital and physical locations to drive decision-making, influence outcomes and get closer to their customers.

As we move around, we generate data. Our devices capture, connect and communicate information on these physical movements, on our journeys, on the places we visit and the routes we take. Our digital footprints trace the virtual steps we take across the web, through social media and mobile applications. Gleaning understanding and intelligence from these locations and journeys has been simplified and adapted to add real value to business – an invaluable strategy which weaves through public and private organizations alike to deliver meaningful experiences to customers and citizens.

The understanding of the relationship between people, places and things is a growing, innovative market – a market that, says Analyst group Research and Markets, will be worth $71.6 billion by 2025 and is growing at a CAGR of over 34%. They call it the ‘Location of Things’, and define it as “an emerging sub-category of the Internet of Things (IoT) concept that enables connected devices to monitor and communicate their geographic location. Enabled by IoT sensors and location technologies embedded into various connected devices allows organizations and service providers to collect a variety of data over the network.”

“North America and Europe accounted for the majority share in the location of things markets while Asia Pacific is expected to grow at a CAGR of nearly 35.9% over the forecast period”, says Taruka Srivastav in The Drum, with China, India, Japan, and other developing nations in the region expected to drive growth. The key market players set to drive this growth, says Taruka, include Google, Here, Qualcomm, Apple, Pitney Bowes and Bosch.

The gamechanger: GPS receivers small enough to fit inside smart watches

Analyzing location data itself isn’t a new practice: at its most primitive, the world’s first maps pulled together geographic information and points of interest. But it was only in the mid-90s when Global Positioning Systems or GPS were used in the US military to add context, to pinpoint positions and provide a deeper level of understanding. Now it has entered the mainstream, fueled by in-car navigation systems and by GPS receivers becoming small enough to fit inside smart watches, smartphones and other connected devices. Now, we widely share our location data: checking in to various locations on social media platforms, sharing details of our latest run or cycle, and sharing our location with retailers to find our nearest branch of their store.

Understanding the “where?”

Data collected in a Location of Things model is gleaned from addresses. An address anchors thousands of data points, both physical and digital – IP addresses, social networks, email addresses and GPS coordinates, as well as physical addresses, homes and offices. Collecting data on these addresses and using it to generate insight can minimize risk, enable data-driven accurate decision-making, and facilitate the delivery of highly personalized customer experiences. Added to this is the fact that software and tools which analyze this geographic data are now reaching a new level of smart, with the ability to digest and analyze huge amounts of data at great speeds. They can now cleverly detect patterns, trends, risks and opportunities that are unseen to the human eye.

Understanding location or geospatial data can help us to create accurate forecasts, predict behaviors, identify weather patterns and assess the likelihood of events occurring, along with their impact. This forecasting is one area where the Location of Things adds immense value to businesses, removing the guesswork and enabling businesses to build a business model based on factual data. Here are some examples of how different industries are using this understanding to drive down risk:

Location and insurance

Insurers and underwriters can carry out more accurate risk modelling based on a better understanding of geographic location. They can identify and understand areas prone to flooding, for example. Willis Re, one of the world’s largest risk management firms, is a business which uses software and data to perform risk analysis and catastrophe modelling for their insurance clients in more than 150 countries.

Location and retail

Retailers have long understood the power of place, opening physical stores where demand is high, and the demographics fit the business. Now, collecting and analyzing geographic location data can minimize risk and enable the delivery of personalized customer engagement strategies:

  • Retailers can analyze data and open stores where they know their customers are located
  • They can enhance their inventory management by stocking the products most popular in a particular location, or seasonal based on weather patterns specific to the area
  • They can avoid the risk of “cannibalization,” in which their own stores remove the business from other nearby stores

Domino’s is the largest pizza chain in Australia, which makes managing franchise territories complex, and raises the risk of inadvertently creating territory conflict. Using Pitney Bowes location software and data, Domino’s deployed a solution to ensure that addresses within a territory are determined within minutes, allowing for territory adjustments and increased delivery reach by providing the ability to keep up-to-date with new builds, demolitions and changing to building use.

Location and telecoms

Telecoms companies and mobile operators use geospatial data to identify areas with the strongest and weakest signals, helping them with capacity planning, product development, customer services management and marketing.

One of the largest telecommunications providers in the United States set out to prove the quality of their coverage by developing a crowdsourced coverage map. The provider used software to generate a multilayered map in minutes—versus weeks—to demonstrate service coverage to potential subscribers.

Location and local government

Chances are, your local government is already using the “Location of Things” to give you a better service, and to help them reduce costs by directing your queries to the web. For example, some have captured and incorporated location data into a model which helps citizens understand where their nearest leisure facilities, schools, GP surgeries or parking locations are.

Torfaen County Borough Council in Wales is a local government working to streamline, automate and share city data. They have developed informative, mobile-friendly interactive maps that save taxpayers time and money by allowing agencies across Torfaen’s government to pinpoint problems and act quickly to solve them.

As organizations really grasp the value of weaving together different data points to create insight, the Location of Things will transform interactions between consumers and businesses. Understanding the relationships between people, places and things adds an invaluable layer of insight to their organizations. Pitney Bowes calls this the Knowledge Fabric – the interlacing of different data points and connections to reveal extra depths within data, which are meaningful and actionable to organizations.

Armed with this insight, businesses can boost engagements with their customers, making them personalized and relevant; they can improve their strategic planning and base it on fact; and they can make decisions which affect the future of their organization, forecasting and influencing accurate outcomes with precision.