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Improving your business with geographic information
With the introduction of systems such as the Global Positioning System (GPS) it has become relatively simple to pinpoint your exact location on the surface of the Earth and store the coordinates in a database. Consequently, this has resulted in the development of a broad range of applications that use this type of information and the user base has expanded beyond the traditional areas such as surveying and mapping. In future, the users will come from land, water, environment, natural resource management, transport, fleet management, emergency response and navigational industries as well as the recreation sector.
One such application is the Geographic Information System (GIS). Businesses typically already have databases, hardware and software. A GIS can graphically display your existing data and gives you the opportunity to visually analyse the relationships between that data. By linking your stored information to a suitable base map a GIS can show:
- Locations where raw materials or goods and services are obtained, assembled and produced for sale
- Locations where the goods and services are stored, marketed, sold and consumed
- Locations where wastes created by business activities in the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors of an economy are disposed of via landfills, incinerators or water bodies
Links and networks that connect locations of materials, production plants, distribution centres, consumers and any other parts of the operation that occupy space on the globe
The real power of a GIS is that it allows you to make business decisions based on the best available information. Many such decisions are fundamentally spatial. They involve analysing the spatial, or geographic, extent of existing and potential markets, locations of suppliers and distributors and costs at a particular location. A GIS is an efficient method of keeping track of how much of your inventory is stored where. It allows you to explore the demographics of your customer base with queries such as ' how many families have an income of over $50 000 and live within 10 kilometres of our store?' To stay competitive, it is imperative for businesses to monitor the performance of their various business units. A GIS is well suited for this purpose, particularly for companies with branches in different geographic locations.
Business planning at the strategic and operational levels has always required analysis of information. Spreadsheets and databases, however, generally contain much more information than is required and patterns and trends are not always easily identified in rows and columns of figures. A picture is worth a thousand words. A database by itself is difficult to understand but with a GIS, patterns and trends, that would have otherwise remained unidentified, will become obvious to even the novice user.