Executive Q&A: The Future of Geospatial Data
How can collecting and using location data help your enterprise? Quadrant CEO Mike Davie tells us about today's use cases and how to prepare for tomorrow.
- By James E. Powell
- November 4, 2021
Geospatial data is some of the most highly sought-after data in today's competitive business landscape. Companies from UPS to Uber to Grubhub rely on accurate and up-to-date location data to compete in their respective marketplaces. The COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened the need for correct, current location data. We asked Mike Davie, CEO and founder of Quadrant, for his professional insight into the current state of the industry and what the future may hold.
Upside: How is geospatial data being used today?
Mike Davie: Geospatial data, including point-of-interest (POI) data, is used across many industries, including in last-mile delivery, food delivery, supply and logistics for brick-and-mortar and online shopping, real estate, ridesharing, mapping, and navigation. Many of these industries depend on accurate address information to speed delivery of goods, services, and people while reducing waste (time, gas, etc.) and minimizing delayed or inaccurate deliveries, which frustrate customers and can disrupt supply chains.
Geospatial data is also essential in enabling governments, critical service providers such as health care organizations, and businesses, including retail and restaurant chains and banks, to keep pace with rapidly changing populations, whether from re-urbanization in the developing world or soaring growth in developing countries. This type of data quickly becomes outdated, and data sets that were considered high quality a year ago may be nearly worthless today.
Up-to-date location data, for example, helps government agencies decide where to build a train station, developers locate a new retail outlet, educational institutions plan new campus facilities or locations, and small businesses decide on a new location.
What are some of the new use cases for location data, post-pandemic? What new challenges or situations are you seeing customers tackle?
COVID-19 has changed how people interact with businesses and how businesses interact with customers and each other. Movement patterns known before the pandemic no longer apply, and companies are trying to figure out the new world we live in. Consumers are relying more on online services, which is changing how businesses organize their supply chains and how they expand or contract their commercial presence. Geospatial data is essential for understanding these changing patterns. It's also essential for helping government agencies assess the effectiveness of their pandemic control measures and understand how to adjust the availability of in-person services.
Location data is particularly important for retail and restaurant businesses. Just as these businesses needed to adapt quickly as lockdowns began and remote work surged, they will have to adapt again as reopenings take place in fits and starts -- and where the "new normal" is yet to be determined, so the demand for accurate, up-to-date location data will continue to soar.
Pandemic-driven population movement is another increasingly important challenge that requires updated location data. Governments and urban planners must understand how to expand or contract infrastructure to ensure adequate services without waste. For example, a government agency can use location data to assess evolving transportation or healthcare requirements in a particular area. The combination of POI data and mobile location data can make these trends visible and provide actionable insight.
How does location data help improve business profitability?
Geospatial data is often a deciding factor among competitors. Which delivery company consistently delivers orders faster and with greater accuracy? Which company has access to the most reliable maps? Which rideshare company offers the shortest pickup times? Shortening delivery times can reduce operational costs and provide a company with an edge over the competition.
In re-urbanization, the companies that can expand or contract their footprints most efficiently will see the greatest return on investment. Real estate companies that can use location and mobile data to accurately assess market potential will likely see the most profit.
What's the current state of geospatial data quality? What impact has COVID-19 had on the state of geospatial data quality?
Geospatial data is always changing, and the way we map and collect POI data has evolved over time. Today, we are not just mapping to a dot on the building, but an exact location within the building. Delivery companies need to know where the store entrance is located, where the pick-up counter is within the store, and where the commercial delivery door is. Rideshare services need the exact location of their customer for pickup and drop-off locations. These nuances cannot be answered with the previous way of mapping.
COVID-19 has also introduced restrictions to movement within a building, such as which entrances can be entered versus exited. All mapping systems need to have that updated information.
How can organizations proactively determine if their geospatial data needs to be updated?
With businesses changing locations or closing so rapidly, data needs to be updated regularly. Annual, semi-annual and even quarterly updates aren't enough these days. If you haven't updated your data in three months, you can be sure it's outdated.
As a supplier of geospatial data, how do you keep your data up to date?
Our POIs are constantly added, verified, and regularly re-verified by our team so our data reflects changes in the physical world as quickly as possible. Our data refresh is also based on the following essential qualities:
- Accurate locations. Our data is manually verified on the ground with a custom smartphone app. This results in a more accurate data set compared to web scraping or other automated methods.
- Authentic data. Our POI-as-a-service is free of inauthentic entries that often pollute user-generated data sets.
- Complete attributes. Manual verification makes it possible for us to provide complete POI data on an attribute level (including categories, opening hours, postal address, and brand).
Recent events (such as the pandemic) and long-term trends (such as re-urbanization) are driving innovation in both mobile location data and POI data. For POI data, a desperate need for accurate and up-to-date data sets has driven us to go beyond the idea of web scraping or crowdsourcing data to build a new, proprietary data collection platform, which includes Geolancer, a custom-built smartphone app, and the corresponding back-end infrastructure.
Using the mobile app, freelance Geolancers can add POIs manually on the ground and periodically verify them while walking around in their neighborhood. This provides the most up-to-date and verified information to data buyers while also helping small, local businesses be seen.
Where do you think innovation in the location data industry is headed? What's next?
A key challenge for the location data industry moving forward is scaling globally. More data in more use cases in more places around the world means vendors will need to expand capacity to provide customers with the data they need. This was one of the things that motivated Quadrant to join Appen -- enabling us to tap into Appen's global crowd of over one million workers in over 170 countries, ensuring we can serve our customers' scale, speed, and quality requirements, and creating what we believe will be a market-leading POI platform.
For mobile data, evolving privacy regulations (such as GDPR) and changes to app policies will eventually lead to a point where data sourced without explicit user consent will be unusable in many countries. This has led to the need for consent management platforms, which we have already built. Our Quadrant Consent Management Platformuses blockchain technology to track data back to the source and provide a real-time audit trail so customers can secure their revenue stream while ensuring compliance.