Location Intelligence: What You Need to Know
This blog examines modern applications of location intelligence and how organizations can use it to identify threats faster.
“Location intelligence” may sound like a term that entered the technological lexicon during the age of the smartphone and self-driving cars, but its origins can be traced back to the actions of a single physician nearly 200 years ago.
In 1854, before germ theory was widely accepted, medical experts believed cholera and other contagious diseases of the time were caused by “miasma”—a toxic air emanating from rotting organic matter. A sudden, concentrated outbreak of cholera in London’s Soho neighborhood was puzzling doctors and causing a panic among residents. To better understand the outbreak’s cause, a physician named John Snow documented confirmed cholera cases using a map of public water pumps to pinpoint a single contaminated water pump where the outbreak—one that killed 616 people—originated.
This simple act of marking up a paper map fundamentally changed how scientists, doctors, journalists, business professionals, safety and security professionals, and virtually any field interested in knowing what is happening at a specific location visualize data today. And while the maps, tools, and data look much different than Dr. Snow’s did in 1854, the concept has remained largely unchanged.
Whether it’s answering a confounding question, solving a problem, or even identifying threats to your locations and assets in real time, location intelligence provides organizations all over the world with the information they need to make crucial decisions and accelerate response times.
In this blog post, we’ll examine current-day applications of location intelligence, explore who uses it (and why), and discuss how your organization can use this information to identify threats to your business faster and keep your people safe—in the office, at home, or on the go.
What Is Location Intelligence?
At its most basic, location intelligence involves using geospatial data to solve problems. As you can imagine, the uses for this methodology are virtually endless.
Cell towers, RFID, and GPS—combined with smartphones—provide the potential to determine and track the location of almost anything. Think of apps like Google Maps that show you where the nearest pizza parlor is and give you exact directions for getting there. Over the past 15 years, consumer transportation apps have virtually eliminated the need for paper maps and make it far easier for anyone to navigate an unfamiliar city or find any remote destination. But location intelligence is more than just using GPS to find the quickest route to the nearest slice of pizza.
The analysis of this spatial data provides detailed insights for businesses and government organizations. Banks can analyze a customer’s spending at particular locations and provide feedback to help them save money. Websites like NeighborhoodScout analyze crime statistics in specific areas to tell you how safe or dangerous a specific neighborhood is. Most importantly, companies like AlertMedia can warn you of potentially dangerous situations unfolding near your location.
What location intelligence is not
Geographical Information Systems, or GIS, are not the same as location intelligence. Even though they are closely related, GIS and location intelligence are distinct concepts. GIS refers specifically to the software and hardware behind digital mapping and geospatial analysis. Location intelligence solutions use GIS, maps, and data to solve problems. GIS may be the technical foundation of location intelligence, but it’s a contributing gear to the machine that is location intelligence.
Business intelligence refers to the process of transforming data into actionable insights that inform an organization’s strategic business decisions. It’s how data is structured, analyzed, and interpreted to make a business more efficient or help them get a leg up on their competition.
For years, organizations have tried to make sense of what’s happening around the world in an effort to spot trends, capitalize on shifting market dynamics, and, ultimately, make smarter decisions. And much like location intelligence, business intelligence has its roots in the mid-19th century. The term “business intelligence” was used to describe how businesses could benefit financially from gathering and taking action on information before their competition. One hundred fifty years later, business intelligence is a $40 billion industry with companies rapidly investing as part of a digital arms race to outmaneuver less capable competitors.
Can location intelligence be a part of business intelligence? Of course. Location intelligence can influence decisions involving logistics, supply chain management, and efficiency, but it is more focused on solving problems and getting ahead of emergencies than gaining a competitive advantage.
Who Uses Location Intelligence?
As mentioned above, there are limitless possibilities for how location intelligence can be used. However, here we’ll focus on how organizations use it to create a safer, more connected workforce. With that in mind, people in these roles use location intelligence regularly to inform their decision-making, keep their people safe, and ensure their business runs smoothly.
Today, organizations of all sizes are susceptible to a wide range of critical events: severe weather, disease outbreak, acts of terrorism, active shooters, and more. To fulfill their duty of care, many organizations are increasing their focus on mitigating the risk of these threats and keeping their employees out of harm’s way.
Safety and security professionals have a significant role in these initiatives. For these roles, location intelligence helps them understand whether their employees are in proximity to emerging threats, prioritizing emergency response efforts for those in harm’s way.
As with safety and security leadership, location intelligence helps individuals in charge of business continuity planning get ahead of critical events that pose a risk to everyday operations. They can track the locations of manufacturing facilities, data storage, transportation routes, or any variety of assets that their business needs to function at full capacity.
If a critical event occurs near one of these assets, they can react quickly and commence backup plans and disaster recovery initiatives. Location intelligence is critically helpful for companies with trade, supply chains, employees, partners, and assets spread around the world.
While larger organizations will likely have dedicated safety/security and business continuity teams, small to midsize companies lean heavily on HR to initiate policies and procedures that help fulfill their duty of care and maintain business continuity.
The best location intelligence solutions integrate with HRIS to automatically create and update groups based on employees’ location, role, or custom filters—helping HR quickly determine an employee’s location should an emergency occur.
Types of Data Used in Location Intelligence
Location intelligence leverages many different data sources to provide a user with a complete picture of what is occurring near locations of interest. Some examples of this are:
- Human mobility – Provides insights on where people are located in relation to the weather, traffic, or other threats that impact their mobility. This type of data is invaluable for organizations that want to monitor their traveling employees. Managers and executives can view flight maps and incident feeds to see if an event is disrupting flight patterns and travel schedules.
- Road traffic – Uses location-based cameras and GPS to push intelligence about accidents, delays, roadwork, and general traffic density to useful sources like law enforcement, news stations, traffic apps, and more.
- Points of interest (POI) – Monitors important physical locations like government buildings, financial institutions, sports stadiums, concerts, and anywhere large groups of people gather. These locations are susceptible to terroristic and human-made threats as well as natural disasters. Location intelligence around these physical locations can provide authorities with valuable information and help them avoid disaster.
Mitigate Loss With Location Intelligence Tools
Organizations have a lot of new technology at their disposal, including location intelligence that provides them with around-the-clock, real-time visibility into disruptive events happening near their people and assets. Location intelligence tools, like AlertMedia’s Global Threat Intelligence, can help the following industries mitigate loss and improve emergency response initiatives:
- Supply chain – Countless organizations use location intelligence to conduct a deeper analysis of their supply chains by monitoring their suppliers’ locations, shipping routes, and delivery areas for potential disruptions or bottlenecks.
- Retail – Many retail businesses use location intelligence to view incident feeds of critical events near their stores’ locations. This can help employees in loss prevention roles contact those locations to help minimize the event’s impact, safeguard assets, and keep employees working in that location out of harm’s way.
- Healthcare – Hospitals, urgent care centers, and home healthcare organizations use location intelligence to monitor critical events occurring near their static sites. It is also used to monitor remote locations where traveling nurse practitioners are working in the field—providing 24/7 coverage for a workforce that is always on.
How to Get the Most Out of Location Intelligence Solutions
When evaluating location intelligence solutions, are a few essential features you should consider:
There’s an expression used in newsrooms and writing bullpens worldwide: information is only as good as its source. This also pertains to location intelligence. If you’re relying on data to keep your people and business safe during a critical event, that information should be of the highest caliber.
Many solutions on the market serve as a glorified RSS feed of critical events happening worldwide. This means you’re left sifting through volumes of information from disparate data sources, wondering what is real and what isn’t. To ensure that you are receiving only the best location intelligence, you should consider the importance of analyst-vetted data.
With analyst-vetted location intelligence, like AlertMedia’s, you won’t have to determine the accuracy of the information you’re receiving. Our team of in-house analysts monitors thousands of public, private, and dark web data sources to identify early signs of an active threat, weed out misinformation, and corroborate details about unfolding events.
Knowing which threats are relevant (and irrelevant) to your business is just as important as the accuracy of the data you’re receiving. A location intelligence solution that automatically determines the threat’s potential impact on your people and business can save you a lot of headaches.
Solutions with this feature, like AlertMedia, can filter out the noise and deliver only the most relevant view of events that may impact your people and business. Combining verified, up-to-date intelligence with your location data can help you accelerate response times and make decisions with the best available information.
Whether it’s a natural disaster, severe weather, political upheaval, terrorist attack, or any other type of critical event, time is your greatest resource during an emergency.
Location intelligence solutions that can automatically alert you—over multiple channels like text, email, voice, and mobile app—of threats unfolding near your employees and locations give you a headstart when initiating an emergency response. It also means you don’t have to be at your desk or constantly monitoring a feed to ensure you’re staying on top of events that could have an impact on your business.
AlertMedia is the only solution that integrates analyst-vetted threat intelligence with powerful emergency communication capabilities to help you achieve 24/7 situational awareness based on your locations.
Take a Proactive Approach to the Safety of Your People and Business
Location intelligence has come a long way since Dr. John Snow marked up a water pump map in 1854. Every day, organizations use this powerful tool to solve problems involving supply chains, logistics, loss prevention, traffic, business travel, employee safety, and more. With the right solution in place, your organization can use your location data to get ahead of critical events and take a proactive approach to their people and business’s safety.