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New generation of online location intelligence tools will help you find best location for your business

Web mapping has gone mainstream for a while now. Rather well-known tools such as CartoDB or Mapbox have helped boost the output of online maps on the web. Not a single day passes without new and amazing map output going viral within the various social networks. One of the main reason why this has happened is that these new applications have managed to bring down the entry barrier of creating interactive maps. Nice, but how did that happen?

Well, while desktop-GIS has traditionally been a niche market and an expert domain, web mapping has become something for everyone to mess around with today. You do not have to be a seasoned developer or a data scientist any more to display spatial information online these days. Well-known tools such as CartoDB’s online map editor or the newly released Mapbox Studio have made uploading and visualizing geodata a breeze through the use of super intuitive user-interfaces, drag-and-drop data upload and a limited selection of very powerful features for the display, manipulation and styling of geodata.

That’s nice, but how about location intelligence?

Now, while web mapping has made huge advances in this regard, digital location planning seems to have remained stuck in the early days. The geospatial intelligence market is still dominated by big players using expensive proprietary data and/or very expensive desktop software and things are as complicated as before. Companies that can afford the “luxury” of location intelligence usually have their own departments for location planning or hire external consultants.

Sadly, a number of fundamental parameters of location planning have still not changed since the 1990s: It requires (1) expensive proprietary data, (2) expensive proprietary software as well as (3) expensive staff dealing with (1) and (2). Small and medium size enterprises and startups, however, often cannot afford this and require more accessible, i.e. open solutions, for example when looking for the right location to open a new branch or new service hotspot. Also bigger companies could save a lot of money through more flexible alternative solutions.

Interestingly enough, this enormous market has not yet been catered to. In fact, many companies are looking for exactly that: Easy-to-use tools, which help them make smarter location decisions and can be operated by — let’s say an ordinary business analyst – instead of a GIS expert. And the question is right: Why should location planning be more difficult than today’s web mapping experience? It is fundamentally a no-brainer that location planning should be as simple as 1,2,3. Instead of accepting the “old” rules of the business, it is time to open up the tools of location planning to everyone and make it simple, more user-friendly and convenient.

Bringing location intelligence to the web will make expert GIS-analysis available to a wider audience.

A few companies have already taken steps into this direction. For example, the startup Motion Intelligence from Germany has developed a simple tool, based on an open and free API that helps you find the right location, be it for real estate objects, hotels, shops, schools, doctors or any other Point of Interest (POI) with a geolocation. By using the app, you can learn, how many people (or potential customers) can reach your stores or locations within a given travel time, let’s say in 30 minutes by public transport. The trick is to combine advanced travel time analysis with open population or environmental data. The tool works in any modern web browser and its out of the box functionality makes it dead simple, so you no longer need expensive GIS solutions and support to make smart location choices.Motion IntelligenceOther companies are following similar routes: Mapcite offers web-based location analytics tools for non-expert users, while Ubilabs’ Atlas solution is an easy-to-use online tool for location planning, which incorporates a catalogue of full-blown market research data. The future looks bright though. Let’s hope that more and more companies will follow suit and develop more advanced open location planning solutions for everyone to use.

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Ordnance Survey’s map of the Red Planet

Mars, our beloved Red Planet and possible space colony of the future has been mapped several times in the past but always in a fashion that made the map look alien (The map of Mars’ geology). Then again, map making is an art and there is a reason why Cartographers are the rock stars in this game.

Chris Wesson, a cartographic designer with Ordnance Survey,  Britain’s mapping agency has created an interesting map of Mars that the WIRED titled “A Map of Mars That’s Perfect for Everyday Earthlings” aka tech blog lingo for a paper map? I don’t know but it is certainly very interesting from a cartographic viewpoint.

The Ordnance Survey map of Mars

The Ordnance Survey map of Mars

Iconic Paper Maps – Ordnance Survey Mars Map

The planet Mars has become the latest subject in our long line of iconic OS paper maps. The one-off Ordnance Survey Mars map, created using NASA open data and made to a 1:4,000,000 scale, is made to see if our style of mapping has potential for future Mars missions. – Ordnance Survey blog post

The cartographic style for the mars map is somehow similar to other OS maps but there are certainly elements in the design that are different. If you are interested in understanding the thought process of the Cartographer, head over to Ordnance Survey blog post about the map – here’s the link.

The Mars Map is available as a paper map and is certainly destined to be hung on your wall as an art exhibit.

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