Companies specializing in geographic information systems (GIS) are combining location data with analytics to create valuable assets in the online world.
There is plenty of activity pointing to this trend. Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO) recently teamed up with Nokia to integrate Nokia’s Ovi map and navigation services into Yahoo maps.
Autonavi, a digital map, navigation, and location-based data company based in Bejing, and one of many contributors to Bing maps, recently filed an F-1 form with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to go public on Nasdaq under the symbol AMAP.
According to Reuters, Autonavi hopes to raise up to $100 million and plans on using the proceeds to expand its data processing facilities, build a research-and-development center, fund capital expenditure for aerial photogrammetry business, and for general purposes.
Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), which accounts for about 1 percent of AutoNavi’s business worldwide, has applied for Chinese approval to download maps of its own in that country. However, there is widespread doubt that Google will get the necessary approvals, given its history of conflict with the Chinese authorities.
Why is geospatial information so important that companies are shifting to get a share in the market? For starters, nearly one third of American consumers own some type of navigation system. And with the growth of mobile phones and devices as navigational tools, digital mapping and navigation software are more important than ever.
There are other potential uses of this information. The Geospatial Revolution Project is a documentary series in development by Penn State public broadcasting that chronicles the many uses of geospatial information. The teaser trailer talks about how an individual can create maps, then analyze the information using multiple layers to create accurate predictions. The documentary series, which is still in production, is due to be released online.
There are also a range of potential enterprise uses of geospatial data.
“Done correctly, GIS exposes hidden relationships and helps everyone explore and investigate market conditions and performance,” stated Simon Thompson of GIS software provider ESRI in an article last year.
Insurance companies use geospatial information to analyze and distribute risk. If they can predict the risk of flooding or wildfires for a house, they can gauge the proper price for a policy.
GIS can be used in predicting strong locations to set up renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, and biomass.
FedEx uses GIS not only to reduce resources needed to deliver shipments; for sensitive shipments, they can use it to regulate temperatures that affect the cargo.
There appears to be a growing perception of value in knowing where things are and relating that information to other kinds of data. GIS technologies will continue to be a focal area of investment for companies worldwide.
— Matthew Mikus is a journalist specializing in technology, business, and environmental issues.