Location, Location, Location

Geospatial applications bring intelligence and efficiency to the enterprise.

by Alan Joch, November 2008

Whether they’re looking for directions to a new restaurant or plotting the family’s summer road trip, today’s tech-savvy consumers are turning to automobile navigation systems and Web mapping programs in droves. And as people become more comfortable with the technology in their personal lives, enterprises are finding that big benefits can come from adding spatial capabilities to their own business applications.

These are benefits that, in many cases, are being driven by users themselves. As people become more comfortable with applications that rely on geospatial data, customers are fueling the demand for those same capabilities in the enterprise. These enterprise applications are also driven by the expansion of the location-aware infrastructure, which supports the ability to get an address or location and incorporate it into an application. In addition, the quality of location data has dramatically increased, making it more readily available in formats that are appropriate for business applications.

GIS Takes Off

Traditionally, geospatial applications were used by lines of business responsible for land and infrastructure management in energy, public sector, telecom, and utility organizations. But that’s changing, as all types of organizations realize that geospatial data can deliver information that affects many areas of the business.

“Now we’re seeing map displays and location queries being added to business activity monitoring applications, business intelligence, call centers, retail merchandising management, and insurance,” says Jim Steiner, Oracle senior director of server technologies. “With the built-in spatial and mapping capabilities in Oracle Database, Oracle Application Server MapViewer, and Oracle Spatial, Oracle gives customers and partners the ability to incorporate maps and location into every type of application where spatial data might be useful.”

An example of an organization that is building a location-aware infrastructure is one of the world’s largest reinsurance companies, which relies on data from geospatial applications for portfolio risk assessment. The company creates predictive models for natural disasters by mapping out the number of policy holders and individual policies within a region and the value of the policies within a high-risk zone. It can perform financial-exposure planning when a disaster is imminent or actually taking place. In the case of a major hurricane, for example, analysts at the company would bring in meteorological information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that predicts the path of the hurricane so that they can see how that event might affect the company’s portfolio. This information empowers the company to decide where best to deploy its service personnel and insurance assessors.

Using Geospatial Intelligence to Protect the Earth

The ability to quickly gather and analyze information is often the key competitive differentiator for companies that are able to stay a couple of steps ahead of the competition. But in this information-driven age, the same level of agility is essential for organizations such as the Nature Conservancy that measure success not in market share but in staying ahead of climate change, poorly planned developments, and other threats to the environment.
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