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Location analysis helps businesses make better decisions

Nearly every enterprise in today's business world seeks to gather more data and use it to make decisions about their futures. It's imperative that companies know their customers, and to that end, they're gathering as much information as possible about them - who they are, what they do with their money and why they do it.

It's not just the who, what and why, though. There's a fourth W. These days, one of the most important questions is "where?" Companies want to know where people live, where they go to work and where they choose to spend their cash. By examining trends in people's locations, firms can make determinations about where they can adjust their operations. Executives can identify places where their marketing teams are focusing too much or too little, optimizing their strategies to make the most of every location under the sun.

Perhaps the most important area where firms today must work to ensure data quality is in their location analysis initiatives. Companies are actively looking to make better decisions about different locales, but if they're off even by just a mile, that misstep can be the difference between setting up shop in a thriving business hotbed or a slum.

Matt Felton, director of research and geographic information systems (GIS) at MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate Services, recently did an interview with SmartBrief in which he extolled the virtues of using technology for analyzing locations.

"More and more, we're seeing people using GIS themselves, either using their desktops or on the web," Felton said. "There's a lot of technology out there now that makes it easy for them to find a lot of information."

ESRI explains that people in a wide variety of fields can make good use of information gleaned from location analysis. Here are a few areas where the technology can help.

Disaster relief
This is a big one. If a region is struck by a fire, tornado or other catastrophic event, authorities need to hone in immediately on where the damage is and who is most in need of help. Location analysis can quickly identify areas where relief is needed, saving time for organizations that often don't have much to waste. Cutting even a few hours from the decision-making process can be the difference between life and death.

Finance
Banks and credit card companies can derive a lot of use from location data. They can use the information to find out where their customers are, which can help them decide where to open locations and where to offer special deals and discounts. It can also help them identify fraud - if a suspiciously high level of activity crops up in one specific area, financial institutions will know where to investigate.

Government
There are many, many uses for location information in government. Examining different locales will help organizations make decisions about education, public works, social programs like Medicare, and more. Governments should aim to satisfy all their citizens, but location data helps them determine where to focus the most.

Transportation
Transit authorities need to know where people are and where they're going. Should there be more trains to this city? Fewer buses to that neighborhood? What about traffic - how can drivers avoid problem areas? Data analysis helps find answers to all these questions.

Utilities
For organizations that provide things like water and electricity, data analysis helps uncover potential areas of overuse or underuse. These firms must seek to optimize the allocation of their resources, and data can help.

Location, location, location. It's everything in business, and using accurate data to analyze geographic information can help everyone make better decisions about their futures.