TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

Location Intelligence and the Conquest of "Inside Space"

"Inside space" is using location intelligence to optimize everything inside a facility -- from business-critical operations and processes to the smallest customer interactions. It's an idea whose time has come.

Extra-terrestrial space isn't the final frontier, at least according to data visualization maverick Andrew Cardno. That would be what Cardno calls "inside space" -- the area inside a casino, warehouse, retail store, manufacturing facility, etc. Think of inside space as business real estate GPS-ified: using location intelligence to optimize everything from business-critical operations and processes to the smallest customer interactions. It's an idea whose time has come, Cardno says.

Defining "Inside Space"

Upside caught up with Cardno at the TDWI Las Vegas Conference, held this February at Caesar's Palace. A casino like Caesar's, Cardno argued, is a textbook example of how a company can use location intelligence to optimize the design and layout of physical space.

"The inside-space revolution is similar to what happened in May of 2000, when the GPS randomization [technology] 'selective availability' was turned off. This paved the way for massive consumer adoption of GPS receivers. We have a similar opportunity today [with the Internet of Things]," Cardno contends.

"In one sense, inside space is the idea that the space inside this casino [Caesar's Palace] can be manipulated and rearranged," he explains. "As the owner of this building, I could come in here tomorrow and alter or remove that restaurant, alter or remove the layout of this cafe area and these tables, or decide I want to do something different with that bar over there. With location intelligence, I have the potential to turn all of my inside space into something that's alive and interactive."

VizExplorer isn't an opportunistic IoT-come-lately vendor. It made its reputation marketing Cardno's "super graphic" technology: easy-to-understand data visualizations optimized for exploring very large data sets. ("Super graphics" will in some cases exaggerate the way a visualization is rendered to make it easier to interpret or to encourage rapid identification of a particular event or signature.)

Location Intelligence Growing Across Industries

Companies in casinos and gaming, hospitality, manufacturing, retail, and other verticals are already using location intelligence to optimize inside space, Cardno says. VizExplorer has been particularly successful in gaming; casinos use it to optimize the placement of machines and table games, to identify malfunctioning (or "loose") slot machines, and to detect fraud, among other use cases.

The ability to monitor, measure, and, to the degree possible, optimally arrange just about everything within a campus or complex -- the insides of buildings and tunnels, the human and vehicular traffic on roads, in hallways, in and out of specific rooms, etc. -- is nothing short of revolutionary, he argues.

"Before the inside space revolution, I didn't know where things were, ... where people were, what they were doing, or how ... they were interacting [with services or amenities]. I now have the capacity to monitor all of these events or interactions. This [intelligence] is truly transformational," he says.

Use Cases Illustrate the Possible Scope

He uses the example of one customer, a large shipping and logistics specialist that uses location intelligence to optimize its airport maintenance operations. "They're going to track every single part -- every nose cone, every jet engine, every piece of avionics; it all is tracked so they can optimize the entire process of managing their facility." Maintenance and optimization at this detailed level just wasn't possible before, Cardno argues.

The airport maintenance example is just one among many. "We have a partnership with a healthcare provider [where] ... we're working on putting in real-time location services into the hospital environment. Their entire operation is going from a room with racks of servers in it running everything to hundreds or thousands of smart devices all over their property everywhere," he says.

"This will completely change the efficiency and safety of the hospital. For example, the workflow of the patient through the hospital -- all of the informal or unscripted interactions [the patient has] -- this is still largely unknown. We can be smart about that in a way we just couldn't be before."

Enabling Architecture Still in Progress

The inside-space revolution isn't a fait accompli, however. Location intelligence of the kind Cardno describes requires an enabling technological architecture -- complete with a unified metadata layer and a polyglot analytics engine that can query against transactional, event, streaming, textual, and other types of data in real time -- that is formidably difficult to design and engineer.

Cardno says VizExplorer has been developing an architecture of this kind for almost a decade.

The benefits of using location intelligence to optimize "inside space" sound futuristic, Cardno concedes. At the same time, a number of companies in different verticals are taking steps to achieve them. "Imagine turning up at the hospital and a little self-driving chair turns up outside your car and takes you directly to your X-ray appointment. It sounds far-fetched, but in the casino, you're already seeing companies such as Google coming in and offering automated vehicles," he says.

"Here in Las Vegas, between Fremont St. and Las Vegas Boulevard, there's already an autonomous bus. The challenge of building an automated wheelchair is so much less complex. The [inside-space] revolution is really just beginning."

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