What is spatial analysis? How is geospatial analytics used in business?

Explore this in-depth guide to spatial analytics strategies, examples, and technologies to learn how to leverage geospatial analysis in your business.

spatial analysis example of insurance claims by geo location using Qlik Sense analytics platform

What is spatial analysis?

Spatial analysis is the collection, display and manipulation of location-based data—or geodata—such as street addresses, zip codes, satellite images and GPS coordinates. Also referred to as geospatial analytics or geoanalytics, it helps you uncover location-based insights by overlaying maps with layers of location and business data—such as sales figures or transit times—so you can visualize, analyze, and get a more complete view of your data.

Imagine opening up a treasure map for your business that shows you where new business opportunities, cost savings, and partnerships are or could be. In business terminology, this treasure map is the “geo-enablement” of the digital enterprise.

CIO.com 1

Why is spatial analysis important?

Analyzing location-specific performance in businesses with distributed physical locations like retail, manufacturing, and banking is well established. But as the number of connected devices rises, so does the amount of geodata and the opportunity to gain new insights. Visual mapping that includes location data from satellites, smartphones and wearable devices, vehicles and even shipping cargo can strengthen your existing data by providing new perspectives for better decision-making.

Growth in the spatial analytics space is driven by the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), big data, the cloud, and the integration of geospatial information systems (GIS) with business intelligence (BI) and analytics platforms.

The geospatial analytics market is projected to grow from $40.65 billion in 2018 to $86.32 billion by 2023.

Markets and Markets 2

Location analytics provides insights on the “where” aspects of your business, and can help you determine anything from the best location to open a new retail store or bank branch, to predicting the most efficient transportation routes. It also allows you to see changes over time, such as how consumer spending rises or falls each season, or how weather fluctuations affect delivery times. And, because geospatial analytics make this data available through visual mapping, you can more easily explore and identify patterns and gain insights that you might have missed from data presented in tables or columns.

By uncovering ways you can use spatial analysis to help increase revenue, cut costs, and improve your core competencies, you can ultimately increase ROI and grow your competitive edge.

Key capabilities of spatial analytics technologies

Geographic location can increase the value of a wide range of business data. More than just visualizing data points on a map, geospatial analysis tools help you analyze and aggregate location and other business data to solve challenges and meet business goals. To maximize the value of your geodata, it’s important that your analytics tools incorporate these geospatial analysis capabilities:

Geographic Search

With on-the-fly location lookup, you can automatically populate and update dashboards and maps with data about specific places and areas for use in spatial analysis. Search by city, county, zip code, place names or airport codes. For example, if you want to analyze police activity in a specific region, you can quickly include that data on your map without knowing any geographic coordinates.

geographic search of police activity using Qlik Sense bi platform

Clustering

Clustering lets you view the geographic density of points or events, showing groupings of high or low values that stand out in your data. For example, by analyzing how many people live within a 15-minute drive time from existing stores, a retailer can determine the best possible locations for a new shop.

Formatting and Annotating

Colors, lines and shapes can help you more easily make sense of your data. When analyzing customer buying behavior, for instance, you can use colors to represent the shops and zip codes in which people are buying, as well as shapes to differentiate between shop locations and customer data.

Layers

Geospatial analysis tools allow you to perform visual mapping, which helps you view and analyze multiple data sets by displaying them on maps in different layers. The layers are overlaid on background maps and can include area, bubble, chart, geodata, heatmap and line layers. Data for background maps and layers can come from both internal and external sources, such as CAD files from traffic or weather warning systems.

Target Highlighting

Your analytics solution should allow you to select any type and combination of data on any layer, whether you select from a bar graph, or directly on the map using lasso selections or pan and zoom. For example, you could combine road geographies with traffic conditions to analyze traffic flow in a certain area, or overlay real-time weather with weather warnings data to understand how those patterns affect airport traffic in a particular region.

target highlighting in spatial analytics using Qlik Sense to select any type and combination of data on any layer to analyse patterns

Gartner names the ability to embed geospatial analytics into interactive dashboards as a critical capability of an analytics and BI platform.

2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms 3

Spatial analysis examples for key industries

Geospatial data analytics can be used to uncover powerful location-based insights through a wide range of industry-specific applications. Here are a few common examples:

Retail

Retailers use geospatial analysis and visual mapping to help them understand the reach and performance of their stores and competitors, uncover customer behavior and buying patterns, analyze drive times, and predict sales and revenue potential for new store sites.

Learn how retailers can use geospatial analysis to make better decisions for store expansion.

Transportation and Logistics

By supplementing customer shipment data with external data like alerts from the National Weather Services (NWS), transportation providers can more proactively address delivery delays, and provide customers with a higher level of service.

Learn how Oddysey Logistics uses location-based data for better risk management.

Banking

Geospatial analytics can help banks address and prevent customer churn by providing insights into customer and competitor locations relative to bank branches, as well as providing recommendations for optimizing customer routes to branches.

Discover how banks use geodata to analyze performance, branch closures and competitors.

Explore more industry examples with these analytics demo applications

Key challenges of spatial analysis

Different File Formats and Structures

Location data comes from a variety of sources— both internal and external—and is often stored in proprietary formats across different systems, making it hard to access and use. If your business faces this challenge, modern data integration solutions will help you standardize and filter your data to make it analytics-ready.

Data Silos

Different goals and priorities across business functions can result in data silos. To break down silos in your own organization, first consider whether or not the data you collect should be restricted to your team for security reasons. If not, find out how you can extend the value of that data by sharing it with other teams for further analysis.

Slow Processing

Managing massive amounts of geodata requires a level of computing power that many organizations don’t have. Cloud-based solutions can help you store, manage and process data in real time at scale. You should also have the option of storing map servers on premise for even more secure, faster access to visual mapping information.

Best practices in spatial analytics

Look beyond your own data

Bring in information from external sources so you can see the bigger picture and get a thorough understanding of what’s happening with your customers, your environment and the industry.

Empower users to take action

Make it easy for people across the business to access insights and take action. While map visualization tools are a start, it’s the ability to easily explore the data and perform analysis that empowers users to solve business problems.

Use the power of human intuition

Most complex business problems require human intelligence. Combine the scale and speed of AI with the power of human curiosity to uncover hidden insights that deliver exponential value.

Take spatial analysis and insight to the next level with Qlik

Qlik Sense BI platform offers a unique associative analytics engine, sophisticated AI, and scalable multi-cloud architecture.

With Qlik Sense, our next-generation data analytics platform and Qlik GeoAnalytics, you can make game-changing spatial analysis and insights easily available throughout your business. And powerful visualization and exploration of geographic data is just the beginning. Our one-of-a-kind associative analytics engine and sophisticated AI empowers people at all skill levels to freely explore data to make bigger discoveries and uncover bolder insights they can’t find using other analytics tools. Enable almost nearly any data analytics use case and massively scale users and data, empowering everyone in your organization to make better decisions every day.

Learn more about spatial analysis and the Qlik data analytics platform

Frequently Asked Questions about Spatial Analysis

What does spatial analysis mean?

Spatial analysis means finding location-oriented insights by overlapping layers of geographic and business data onto maps. This allows you to visualize, analyze, and get a more complete view of your data to solve complex location-based problems.

What is geospatial data used for?

Geospatial data can be very helpful in analyzing a wide range of use cases such as improving logistics planning and transportation for fuel and time saving or selecting store locations for optimal customer traffic.

What is geospatial big data?

Geospatial big data refers to spatial analysis using location-based or geographic data sets that stretch or exceed the capacity of most current computing platforms. Geospatial data represents a large and growing portion of big data.

References

2. “Geospatial Analytics Market by Component, Type, Application, Vertical, and Region – Global Forecast to 2023.” Markets and Markets, April 2018