Geographic Information System (GIS) started out as just a proprietary system that used its own standards into a position of using technology standards and technology-based standards to be accepted by the IT community as another form of information technology that could help manage business. It has become one of the newer emerging Business Intelligence (BI) areas that, “has now become a full IT system for integrating all sorts of scientific and geographic information into all human activities” (Mitchell, 2009, p. 2).
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Geographical Information Systems
A GIS implements computers to capture data on all forms of geographical referenced information and manages the data for analyses. Visual data produced by GIS systems can be used to show relationships, patterns and trends by reports that can either be shown on a map or in standard reports, graphs and charts. Several available programs can be obtained for free from sites, like opensourcegis.org, to incorporate into businesses Enterprise Resource Planner (ERP) to help develop a company’s business strategy/plan in banking, insurance, logistics, media, real estate, and retail. Corporations are not the only organizations that can/have benefit from a GIS. Government, educational and science, environment and conservation, natural resources and utility organizations can also benefit from implementing geographic information systems to learn best practice by collecting data dealing with Geo-location problem solving. “GIS is a powerful analytical tool. Its benefits to underwriting management are many, in helping to better underwrite risk and control hazardous and catastrophic exposures” (Picture, 2005, p. 10).
Benefits of GIS in BI has evolved to the point were we do not need to know who did what when and why but also solved the 5th piece of the puzzle, where it happened, also known as spatial technology. Gis.com describes several different uses that can be implemented using GIS. The basics of how GIS can be used is to map features on a map and to find patterns on how those features change to make better decisions in market research, by using quantities as a reference with location businesses in sales can easily be informed were there target market is located and which locations on a map have the highest densities for a chosen market segmentation. An additional feature is the ability to shift the location information by time and distinguish patterns in time. A good example would be how meteorologist use GIS to track global trends in weather in order to better predict weather in the future. The realization of how well GIS can help in business is apparent when global organizations like the World Bank make it a priority to “help countries develop national statistical capacity and help mobilize the expertise of the international statistical system” (World, 2011, para 2).
Data collection used for plotting points on a map use to mainly involve businesses questionnaires and government censuses were the primary way to collect data could be inaccurate because of the many steps it takes before the data is digitized and you still had to account for human error. The quality of data was not as accurate as current resources being applied today through smart phones, and other forms of computers that are connected to the Internet and constantly report location through the use of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. Addition the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips, satellites, scalable maps, aerial-photography and Global Positioning Systems (GPS), Geo-tagged pictures, and just about anything that moves have also been tied in with GIS to allowed for tracking of data that can be placed on a map with more accuracy through automation. Time accuracy of data is another quality issue that needs to be addressed. The world is always changing, you usually wouldn’t use last month’s weather report to go on a motorcycle ride, or you friends address from 20 years ago to send a post card. It is important to make sure that the data being used is up to date before making critical businesses decisions on it also.
Challenges and risks of deploying any BI environment process or tool are the same as it has been to deploy any form of decision making platform in the past several decades. Wither implementation is constrained by technical ability, human and financial resources or just the lack of coordination throughout an organization. There are traditional legalities being added to cover privacy rights as more and more Geo-data about consumers is being disseminated throughout the world. Privacy rights are being circumvented by added small disclosure rights to most software that has to be accepted before you can use a service providers services. One way an organization can save resources is to implement low cost external data that is readily available by companies like Google maps but it is a patchy solution and potentially could not be available in the future.
As a BI consultant I would recommend the use of geographic information for any larger company, in any industry, the larger the company the greater the needed to track spacial information in order to reduce risk in decision making. The technology in GIS has developed to the point were anyone can access the Internet and get a general view of spacial data for underwriting, man-made, environmental, infrastructure, facilities and especially in businesses were the sales by location can provide better information on policyholder, and can target potential clients.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words! (2005, December). Canadian Underwriter: Insurance Technology Guide 2006,10. Retrieved April 17, 2011, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 974623161).
Mitchell, R.. (2009, July). Jack Dangermond. Computerworld, 43(24), 13-14. Retrieved April 17, 2011, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 1821176221).
World Bank Aids Tanzania to Improve Quality of Statistical Data and Information. (2011, March 26). The Pak Banker. Retrieved April 17, 2011, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 2302228461).