By Mike Steyn Director at Aspire Solutions
Many business problems can be solved by taking a geographical view. From discovering why deliveries are being delayed to understanding where to locate a new retail store, looking at the problem on a map brings new insights and new ideas for action.
But spatial business intelligence is only as good as the data that’s available – if fresh data on roadworks and diversions is missing from your traffic map, for example, you won’t spot the pattern behind those late deliveries.
Until very recently data was the single most important limiting factor in developing spatially based business solutions. In some cases it just didn’t exist; but most of the time, it was just too expensive to access. The companies whose business it was to gather the data protected their intellectual property by making it accessible only to those who could afford to pay massive fees. If you couldn’t afford to buy an entire database, usually at a cost that represented a significant capital investment, you were doomed to stay in the dark.
Fortunately business models have evolved in step with delivery technologies: Data, like almost everything else, is now available as a service.
For those who build business solutions, it’s now possible to integrate multiple feeds from different spatial data publishers, delivering real business value quickly and cost-effectively. This is completely changing the business case for spatial solutions and is likely to be massive driver of innovation in the next few years.
There are two important factors determining the success of any spatial business solution: Firstly, you will need to consider the maturity of the data feed: How easy is it to access and integrate, how reliable is it, how often is the data updated?
Recent experience in the EU has shown us where South Africa could be headed in the next few years: There, real-time weather and traffic feeds are widely available at reasonable cost. Whether you’re planning a route for a single trip or a complex delivery network, this information once properly integrated into useful applications results in dramatic efficiency improvements.
The second factor to consider is managing delivery from multiple suppliers. It’s likely that no one data publisher will be able to supply all your needs: Instead, systems designers will need to manage relationships with several different organisations at once. Unless you have the capacity to manage this in-house, make sure you choose a partner who already has this network of relationships in place and can offer solid guarantees about quality of service and uptime. As the client, you shouldn’t have to worry about which data is coming from which publisher – the solution should just work.
It’s still early days for this kind of solution in South Africa, but we are catching up rapidly – and given the data, we can still design world-beating solutions.