If you stop and think about it for a few minutes, the amount of information the internet has about us can seem terrifying. On the other hand, the collection of all that data allows for the creation of technology that can vastly improve the way we do things.
One such technology is a GIS, or geographical information system, essentially a data management tool that plots geospatial information on a map and analyses the relationships between the data.
Sydney startup Rüppells Griffon is a company at the forefront of geospatial technology in Australia. As the concept of GIS is still quite new in the business world, co-founder Ana Ouriques uses an interesting example to explain it to people.
“Tracking serial killers using geographic profiling is usually the example that gets people understanding the technology. You know those crime shows or movies where the detectives crack the case by plotting all the victims on a map and figuring out where the killer is hiding or likely to strike next? That’s a simple example of GIS in practice,” she said.
“Picture the typical maps interface, such as Google Maps, but information like customer demographics, product distribution and store locations plotted on top of the map as additional layers.”
Through analysing this data, GIS highlights insights, patterns, and trends that would not be apparent when viewing the data in isolation on a spreadsheet, Ouriques explained. GIS merges and visualises this data to help businesses find insights that can help them work more effectively.
Before launching Rüppells Griffon last year, Ouriques spent over 15 years working in the public sector and private consultancies around the world as a geospatial analyst. She then became an independent GIS consultant.
“Given GIS expertise is usually buried within departments in large organisations – typically government, engineering, and environmental consulting – independent GIS consultants are quite rare, and I was quickly flooded with more work than I could handle. This was my ‘aha!’ moment, when I realised that there was a massive untapped market for GIS services with companies that couldn’t afford a full-time GIS specialist,” Ouriques said.
“I was keen to break GIS technology out of its niche and make it available to any type of business. It’s such a powerful yet little-known decision-making tool that I made it my personal mission to educate the market on its potential applications through Rüppells Griffon.”
As well as Australian state and local government departments, the mining industry was quick to catch on to geospatial technology a few years ago, with GIS helping to evaluate mining conditions, targeting mineral exploration, and keeping track of existing infrastructure.
As the technology develops and competition in every market becomes fiercer, non-traditional industries are now starting to catch on.
“We’re currently developing a web map application for one the biggest real estate companies in Australia to help them manage clients, properties and agents, as well as visualise assets and demographics to compare sites geographically and demographically,” Ouriques said.
“This tool will give the company some valuable intel on which areas are doing better for sales, how well their branches are spread out to accommodate demand, and manage rental and sales properties most effectively.”
With the Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information predicting a mass shortage of qualified geospatial specialists in Australia by 2017, the Rüppells Griffon team will certainly be busy over the next few years.
Ouriques said, “We’re very excited about the prospects of geospatial technology in Australia. We’re a bit behind compared to other markets such as the US, but Rüppells Griffon is keen to do its part in helping to promote and grow this technology down under.”