“Are we almost there yet?”Posted on Jul 1, 2014 12:00:00 AM
The summer vacation road trip. Depending on your age you may have slightly different memories of this. But, for many, the memories of sweating it out in the back seat of the crowded family station wagon required that The Question (in a whiny, exasperated voice) be asked numerous times in the final stretch of the day’s drive. The driver was usually prepared with a repertoire of reactions and responses…with “look at the map” being a go-to retort. Unfortunately, today’s digital maps and arrival time calculators have nearly eliminated this treasured communication ritual.
If you had a Top 10 list for the ten ways the Internet has “improved” your life – where would access to maps rank? It might not naturally make your list, but when you think about how many times you have referenced location data in combination with other search information, you realize how much you may be taking maps for granted.
Think back, even 10 years ago, about how you accessed location information. You may have had a globe in your home, a US road atlas in the trunk of your car, or a local street map in your glove box. While there may be some nostalgic memories of planning your vacation drive with a Rand McNally Atlas, physical maps have become a decoration. Spatial decisions have gone digital. Internet based maps are now so integrated with GPS technology – in our cars and mobile devices – that you almost can’t remember the idea of writing down an address and cross-hatching the coordinates on a physical map.
Google has changed the way we think about geographic information. Maps have become interactive, dynamic tools that can be key drivers in real-time decision making. Google and others have created simple and accurate digital map engines that allow you to derive information quickly and efficiently…whether you are trying to find a restaurant or making multi-million dollar logistics decisions.
I am not sure that anyone has ever attempted this calculation…but, what is the estimated economic value that has been generated with digital map technology? The value must be in the trillions.
Google Maps include a significant amount of valuable data points. I could make Google Maps even more valuable to me by fully integrating it with “my” business data. This type of integration is going to change the way that people think about digital maps. New ideas are coming forth in the area of spatial statistics and geo-analytics which will provide public and private sector entities with significant competitive advantages and real economic returns.
There are numerous well-established and sophisticated GIS systems that produce valuable map information that is critical in the public sector for municipal services and economic development. However, there is another wave of innovation that is going to occur in the next few years…further development of business analytics and maps. The potential uses for geographic referenced analytics are nearly unlimited. It is going to be exciting to see this technology integrate into everyday decision making…begging the anticipatory question “Are we almost there yet?”
Mike English is a founder and the CEO/President of Forecast5 Analytics, Inc. – a technology company focused on software development and data analytics for the public sector. Mike has spent his entire career concentrating on the development of financial and strategic solutions for schools and municipalities. Forecast5 is headquartered in Naperville, Illinois – a suburb 30 miles west of Chicago.