Are you connecting your data to a map? You should. Attractive and easy to understand, map-based presentations often make patterns more obvious than charts and graphs do. Many organizations are discovering the power of geographic information systems to incorporate location-specific data into effective visual presentations.
Recently, I learned that 20 years ago specialists were asserting that 80% of all data contains geographical references . That sounded high, so I asked Stuart Hamilton , GIS program director at the College of William and Mary, to clarify. His estimate: 95% is more accurate today. New technology is partially responsible, including cell phones, GPS devices and electronic toll collectors.
Government users pioneered GIS for monitoring lot boundaries, water run-off, population movements and more. GIS is widely used to coordinate evacuations and emergency supplies and monitor the spread of diseases, among other things.
On the business side, distribution companies have used GIS to monitor and manage their fleets for years. Energy companies have used seismic data to determine drilling locations. And for consumers, mapping software has been combined with location-based information to create easily understood maps that can show everything from the air quality in certain areas to the locations of public restrooms, high-crime zones or Kentucky's bourbon distilleries -- the possibilities are endless.
If you think GIS has a place in your business, prepare to address challenges like these:
It's easy to plan for tomorrow's weather by watching The Weather Chanell's progressive weather map . Businesses will soon use similar maps to analyze and predict where their customers live, work, shop and travel. Your competitors will use GIS soon. Don't be the last company to adopt this valuable technology.
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This story, "Have You Mapped Your Data Today?" was originally published by Computerworld.