Already incredibly useful for helping us get directions, find the nearest grocery store and find out our state capital, Google Maps is now becoming the hot way to display enterprise or organizational data that’s associated with particular places. As a data visualization method, the timing of this trend isn’t surprising. The concept of big data has opened organizations’ eyes to the value of their myriad data sources — many of which are tagged with geo-location information — and now is opening up new ways to process and display that data.
IBM’s Jeff Jonas described the importance of geospatial data at our Structure: Data conference in March, calling it “prediction super-food.” You can watch the video below to get the full (and rather entertaining) explanation, but here’s a summation: geospatial, or space-time, data adds context to the information we already have, allowing us to make better decisions. Using a puzzle analogy, lots of data without context is like a pile of puzzle pieces, but lots of data with context is like those same puzzle pieces coming together to complete the picture.
Geospatial adds an incredible amount of context. It allows for complex tasks such as tracking of people as they go about their business to help determine who’s connected to whom, or predicting where someone might go next and what’s the best route to get there. If we’re talking about a spreading disease, Jonas explained, geospatial data helps us determine its vector and velocity.