Unlocking insights from big data

Adding location into the big data mix can help unlock powerful insights.

Adding location into the big data mix can help to unlock powerful insights, says Dan Paull, Chief Executive Officer of PSMA Australia, the provider of authoritative national mapping and location information.

“With the Internet of Things now more accurately described as the Internet of Everything, these ever-growing connections with the internet are generating a vast array of information,” says Dan. 

“Your smartphone can identify exactly where you are almost all of the time. Many applications will ask you for access to your location information and most will have functionality that is enabled by this reliance on knowing your exact location.”

Dan said that we are seeing many innovative developments emerging from this focus on the everyday functionality associated with how humans combine connectivity and location.

“These innovations are incredibly diverse, whether it is the probe data used by telecommunications companies to determine how fast traffic is moving, or sensors attached to oysters to monitor their growth.”

Dan said a US firm, Orbital Insight, has found that by looking at satellite imagery of a company’s parking lots and the rate of change of vehicle turnover in those parking lots, they had found a connection with the organisation’s financial performance at the end of the quarter.

“On the basis of this analysis over a long period of time and across many car parks, they are actually able to very accurately predict how well an economy might perform, well ahead of other indicators.“

While all types of digital data is now being captured and made available, Dan said the key to making sense of the information involves finding the patterns that exist.

“The challenges of data management used to be storage, then capture but it has now shifted to how to provide meaningful analysis.”

As it is estimated that upwards of 80 percent of data has some kind of geospatial relationship, Dan said that introducing location can be key as it provides a means to determine patterns from masses of data.

“Traffic flows, pedestrian movements and shopping habits all appear chaotic but analysing the data using location can find the patterns that exist.

“By improving our understanding of how we live in cities and how to better plan for the future, digital 3D city models will increasingly play a crucial role to enable us to manage our cities in smarter and more sustainable ways.

Dan said that one of the key aspects of getting this analysis right was actually understanding the location associated with that information.

“In order to get real insights from big data, you have to be able to anchor it, using location points that you have a high degree of confidence in to provide the means for performing the analysis across all the data.”

Dan said the ability to mine big data effectively offered both government and business the opportunity to drive productivity gains and better economic outcomes.

“Everything happens somewhere, making location a really useful means for interpreting and analysing enormous amounts of information. Using location information makes it easier to find and apply these insights in very practical ways.”

This article was first published by the Institute of Public Administration Australia (NSW Division) in Ignite

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