5 'eureka' moments created from multi-dimensional thinking with GIS

Without even knowing it, geographic information systems (GIS) are creating a better future for us. The ability to visualise data, unlock hidden insights locked away in spreadsheets and reports, and carry out multi-dimensional analysis, is enabling many organisations to spark genius ideas.

In this piece I’m keen to address how five businesses have used GIS to analyse a wide variety of datasets, aiding multi-dimensional thinking in order to create spectacular discoveries that change the way they work and the way we live.

1) Jaguar Land Rover – Creating the perfect car

Jaguar Land Rover use maps to model and analyse a wide variety of datasets including weather, average rainfall, temperature, humidity and altitude, at each of its 172 customer locations. Each dataset provides a different perspective as it is then overlaid onto road network maps to increase the understanding of the driving conditions, optimise the design of vehicles in all terrains and finalise vital manufacturing design decisions.

2) Public Health England - Improving our nation’s health

Imagine having the ability to foresee the spread of disease. Using a map you’d be able to track where it’s moving and who it will affect, allowing you to find patterns that you might otherwise be unable to see.

Maps provide the perfect platform to visualise such data, find trends, make predictions and most importantly in this case, prevent future outbreaks.

Public Health England (PHE) use GIS to better understand health information, including: the risk from and spread of disease (e.g. a flu pandemic); the ecology of vector borne disease; radiation, chemical and environmental hazards; emergency response; accessibility of health services; and identifying, understanding and finding solutions to reduce health inequalities.

PHE uses a wide variety of geographic information to gain a multi-dimensional perspective of complex health issues, ensuring that a range of facts are considered before determining the best course of action. So literally - in some cases - a matter of life and death.

3) Avon and Somerset Constabulary keep our homes safe

Just like the spread of disease, patterns in crime can also be visualised and analysed on a map, to prevent, prepare and protect. Smart policing ensures that scarce resources are directed to the right place at the right time, helping to keep us all safe.

GIS has the power to extract actionable police intelligence from terabytes of data and deliver it in an easily digestible, incisive format that works for all parties, from the chief superintendent in the command centre to the police constable in the town centre.

Avon and Somerset Constabulary use GIS to predict the top ten most likely locations for burglaries and make detailed maps available to officers, on a daily basis, so that they can focus their efforts on preventing these crimes.

4) Westminster City Council finds the best locations for schools

With the continued growth of the UK’s school-age population, councils need to think hard about the best ways to meet this growing demand for education. Matching supply and demand to ensure more children can attend the schools they want is a location based challenge which needs to be viewed from multiple perspectives.

Westminster City Council has gained a much deeper understanding of the challenges it faced by visualising patterns in pupil numbers, drawing on ward-level population growth projections from the Greater London Authority. By taking into account both future demand and the limited availability of space to build in central London, the council used GIS to help it make the best decisions about where to site new schools.

So far, the use of GIS has helped the council approve three new primary schools and one school expansion, creating the much-needed extra capacity in its borough.

5) South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive improve public transport services

South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) is responsible for driving the development of the public transportation network in South Yorkshire and making information about bus, rail and tram services available to over 1.3 million people.

By including GIS technology at the heart of its customer relationship management platform SYPTE has centralised all of the organisation’s customer data, systems and processes. Named MyTSY (Travel South Yorkshire), the customer portal now allows passengers to find their nearest public transport stops, the best routes and service times. They can also click on a map to initiate communications with SYPTE, such as to report damage at tram stops or request new bus stop locations. These examples not only show how important accurate information is when making impactful decisions but demonstrate how a wide variety of datasets all add a different perspective to solving a complex challenge.

Data holds great insights that are bursting to tell a new story, but can often be hidden away in spreadsheets and reports making the data difficult to interpret and therefore to know what decision to take.

GIS enables you to convert data in layers on interactive maps to see where things happen, analyse why things happen and understand what actions to take.

Shaz Qamar, Marketing Campaign Manager, Esri UK

Image source: Shutterstock/Artem Samokhvalov