Location Intelligence, Spatial Data Analysis | Pitney Bowes

The future of location intelligence: an expert's outlook

The Power of Place, a Forbes Insights white paper sponsored by Pitney Bowes, is sparking conversations about current and future uses for location intelligence. For additional insight, Pitney Bowes sat down with Joe Francica, the company's managing director for geospatial industry solutions. 

Interviewer: What type of organizations are most likely to be using location intelligence right now?

Francica: There are three groups. First are organizations that have been using location intelligence for a long time, because they have an obvious need for it. Government. Real estate. Transportation. Telecommunications. Location is intrinsic to all of these businesses. Government: We need to know where the power lines are. Real estate: Where should we develop our next shopping mall? Telecommunications: Where should we place our cell towers?

A second group is made up of businesses that didn't start out as being dependent on location information, but are today. These are retail, banking and finance. You have to be able to understand the proposed location of your next home improvement store or chain restaurant. You can’t build a restaurant without doing traffic pattern analyses, without understanding if the potential location is likely to help make the restaurant profitable. Otherwise, you might invest millions of dollars developing a bad location.

Then there's a third group of businesses dependent on location intelligence. For them, location intelligence isn't just intrinsic to the business, it is the business. And that would be companies like Uber or Lyft. Those companies wouldn't exist without location intelligence. We open up our app. We call a car. The car is routed to us. This is all based on geo-spatial information.

Interviewer: What type of tasks will location intelligence be used for next?

Francica: For marketing. Let's use retail as an example. They've already used location intelligence to determine where to locate a store. Now they're expanding its use. Retailers are looking at location intelligence and thinking, 'How can I attract more shoppers without doing more mass marketing?' With social media they have loyalty apps and "frequent flyer" programs for a store's regular customers. This gives retailers information they can use to reach out to people directly. They can offer coupons and discounts based specifically on the customer's shopping patterns and geography. Then, once customers get inside a store and are located via their smart phone apps, they can be directed to visit a particular aisle for discounts on polo shirts or whatever sales are relevant to them. So now location intelligence is giving you not just the ability to attract people, but to track their transactions. And through this, you can get to know your customers really well. When did they buy? How much did they buy? Are they connected to other people who may have made purchases at this store?

It may start with marketing, but location intelligence will increasingly be used in other departments, too. What's happening is the lines are blurring between the technology that traditional GIS users have been using—the standard desktop mapping tools and client software—and technologies that are easy to use by general business people. So, location intelligence is no longer just the domain of GIS specialists. Now, it can be used — just as an example — by a business analyst who may not be trained in location technology. At Pitney Bowes, we encourage this. We continue to add functionality to our location intelligence software to make it more conducive to users who might not be familiar with GIS programs.

Interviewer: Where will the next wave of location intelligence data come from?

Francica: We've really just scratched the surface of mobile data. We should think of the mobile devices that we carry in our pockets as sensors. Mobile phones broadcast our location every which way — assuming we allow them to. Plus, we have smart meters in our houses. We have them on streetlamps. We have traffic sensors on the road. They're all generating data. And all that data is being connected in a meaningful way through the Internet of Things.

The volume and velocity of data that’s coming at us is incredible. You have to be able to not just collect it, but to analyze it and use those analyses to make decisions. Pitney Bowes is helping companies do that.

Interviewer: Pitney Bowes isn’t the only company offering location intelligence software. What do you think sets our company apart from the crowd?

Francica: Pitney Bowes has both software and an entire workflow that we provide our clients to help them attract customers. We help them identify and locate customers, then communicate with them. It's a great capability.

Our customer information software takes a simple piece of data —a name and an address from a transaction at a retailer, for example. It tells retailers that this consumer spent $75 on gifts at one of their department stores. With that data, we’ve identified you as a customer and we know what you buy. So, Pitney Bowes takes that information and verifies the customer's address, correcting any errors. And with that corrected address, we've located you: we know where you are. We know your community. We know the demographics of your area. We know the distance between you and the local department store. With that information, the retailer can make it very attractive for you to get in your car and drive over. And then the retailer can communicate with the shopper in whatever omni-channel communication methodology it wants —email, web, direct mail, billboards.

The other thing I think that sets us apart is, we’re not just a software company. We’re a data company. We have a tremendous catalog of about 4,000 different datasets — global datasets from demographics to street addresses and their points of interest, to world boundaries. We can provide this data to our clients, then help our clients connect this information with their existing client information files. Not many other companies can do this. It's part of what sets Pitney Bowes apart.

Want to know more? Download the white paper:

The Power of Place: How Location Intelligence Reveals Opportunity in Big Data