Location, location, location - why geospatial technologies are hot

Geospatial technologies such as mapping software and location-based apps have become essential to our smartphone experience. They allow us to book an Uber taxi, find a local restaurant, map our runs or find a soul mate nearby.

Geospatial technology (location, geospatial data management and spatial analytics) has given consumers a newfound convenience and freedom on smart devices, for both work and leisure, but this is only just the beginning. Local and spatially-aware apps are set to become far bigger parts of digital lives.

The geospatial industry has been hiding under the radar, but it is anything but small. Back in 2013 Google commissioned the first report on geo services through Oxera. It estimated revenues from global Geo services where anywhere between $150-$270 billion. Geo services includes digital mapping and location-based services ranging from electronic maps online and via smartphones to satellite navigation, imaging and location based searching.  This was larger than estimates for the size of the video game industry and around one-third of the annual revenue produced by the airline industry. Figures vary at how fast the market is growing, Oxera puts it at 30% per year globally, whilst The Boston Consulting Group puts it at 10% a year (in the US).

The geospatial industry is extremely broad. Digital imagery and location-based services, for example, are central to a host of areas including supply chain logistics, infrastructure design and defense as well as the fast growing mobile consumer device market.

Geospatial technology is changing the way people and enterprises interact with the world and is making huge savings at the same time. Oxera estimates that 1.1 billion hours of travel time and 3.5 billion liters of automotive fuels are saved globally due to improved navigation.  It also estimates that GPS generates $10 billion in cost savings annually through improved efficiency in logistics.

2016 will see companies increasingly look to leverage the power of geospatial technology to meet growing consumer demands, whilst enabling companies to learn more about their customers and better target their needs. Here are five areas where we will see the next wave of geospatial advancements.


CES 2016 expo was dominated by wearables – from hi-tech fashion add-ons to fitness bands, watches and devices that track everything from health and wellbeing to moods and pets.

The location data that is generated by wearables provides two extremely rich sources of data on who you are and where you are.  User favorites can be cross-referenced using data analytics to provide a unique picture of the consumer, enabling more targeted recommendations. 

Drone delivery

Logistics companies will soon follow Amazon’s lead and use drones to deliver smaller items, cutting down on carbon footprint and delivery vans choking up traffic.

With wearable technology and geospatial capabilities, such as asset tracking, you can connect with both people and things in real time. This would enable drones to deliver to wherever you are, which means no more staying in for parcel delivery.

Amazon already has drone development centers in the US, UK and Israel and is testing the 25kg plus drones, which will fly at under 400 feet, designed to deliver packages up to approximately 2.2 kilos in weight. When they will take to the skies, however, we have yet to find out.

Linking data science with geospatial capabilities

In retail, having a geographical edge can make all the difference. User data such as which restaurants a consumer visited over the weekend, what events they bought tickets for and how far they travelled provides a rich seam of data for data analysis.

SpaceCurve, for example, provides information on the behavior patterns of people at or near locations.  The solution enables retailers to get answers to detailed queries such as “did any millennials shop at my store between 10 am and midday – or did they go to a competitor?” Location-based analytics can also pull in new measurement concepts, such as the impact of environmental conditions.

Going cashless

Geospatial technology is enabling the reinvention of the payment method.  Using geolocation, wearables will start making payments even easier than mobile banking or contactless payment. Using proximity and geolocation wearables will be able to provide a fast, easy and convenient way of making a payment. Geolocation technology can confirm the person is in the location, whilst proximity to in-store sensors can prompt payment. Soon it may be a case of picking up a product and walking out of the store to make the payment!

Proximity marketing

Consumers will see more proximity marketing coming their way, thanks to geospatial technology, which is revolutionizing the way companies can communicate with customers to provide them with offers and find out more about their behavior patterns.  Coca-Cola, for example, recently linked up with Norwegian cinema owners CAPA to put proximity beacons in a number of its cinemas. Smartphone users received an offer for free Coca-Cola and discounted tickets. This enabled Coca-Cola to understand their customers and also provide something valuable for them in return.

Jan Howells

Jan has been writing about technology for over 22 years for magazines and web sites, including ComputerActive, IQ magazine and Signum. She has been a business correspondent on ComputerWorld in Sydney and covered the channel for Ziff-Davis in New York.