Putting the 'where' into your analytics

IDC's Vesset agrees that adding GIS to the data gathering and input mix can complicate matters. "From a data management perspective, you need appropriate infrastructure and processes in place because you're dealing with large amounts of data," he says.

EDENS' Beitz has found the problem lies with data integration, not data entry. The cities and counties that his firm deals with have closed, proprietary databases, making it impossible to easily extract data.

"They don't have the capacity or desire to serve out their map data to be consumed as services in other applications," he says.

If the government data were to be widely available, companies would save a tremendous amount of time, according to Beitz. Today, to find information on an adjacent parcel of land where EDENS wants to expand, the company has to dig through the county's website.

"Imagine if we could open up our GIS application and display the counties' GIS data as an additional layer that can be queried," Beitz says. "We could set up alerts to tell us if the zoning has changed on any land within three miles of our property and track changes in property ownership near development sites."

VTN's Warren has experienced similar pains, causing the company's GIS database to be built bit by bit from data gathered during individual projects.

For EDENS, VTN, the EPA and other organizations, data openness is the next big frontier for fully integrating GIS with business analytics. "This would help us to more closely monitor our target markets and to quickly take advantage of emerging opportunities," Beitz says.

Sandra Gittlen is a freelance technology writer in the Boston area. Contact her at sgittlen@verizon.net.

This story, "Putting the 'where' into your analytics" was originally published by Computerworld.

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