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MapInfo is one of the big beasts in the market for providing mapping and spatial information. However, most people still think of this market as being about geographical information systems (GIS). MapInfo, on the other hand, is very clear that Location Intelligence, which is how it describes its offerings, is very far from being about GIS.
So, what is Location Intelligence and how does it differ from GIS? The first and most significant difference is that GIS starts with geography and location intelligence doesn’t. Location intelligence starts with a business problem. For example, suppose that you are an insurance company trying to assign risks against burglary: what do you want to know? You want to know whether the house owner has a burglar alarm, a dog, windows that lock, and where he or she lives, amongst other things. In other words, knowing about location is part of answering your business problem.
Location-based intelligence also works around the other end of insurance: assessing exposure. Suppose that there is a flood in Sussex, a typhoon in Birmingham or any other sort of wide-spread catastrophe: how does a company assess its exposure unless it uses location-based intelligence? The same applies to your supply chain. If you have key suppliers that all deliver to you by driving West along the M4 then you could be in trouble if the M4 is closed because of an accident—but do you know where you various suppliers are located? How much exposure do you have to the motorway being closed?
Apart from functionality, the other big difference about location intelligence, as opposed to GIS, is that the latter tends to be departmental and localised: in other words, bought for a specific purpose that has something to do with geography. Location intelligence, on the hand, is being targeted across the enterprise, where the same sorts of facilities can be used for multiple purposes.
MapInfo is targeting Retail, Telco, Financial Services and the Public Sector but it is in financial services that it is seeing the fastest growth, precisely because companies in this sector have no pre-conceived ideas about GIS and don’t think “map”, whereas the other sectors are all traditional users of geographic data.
The company’s go-to-market strategy is primarily in conjunction with partners (both technology partners such as Oracle and SPSS and system integrators and the like), as well as its own consulting services. It also has a number of tools built around its core functionality to assist with the development of particular customer requirements and deployments. For example, the company has its own location-enabled predictive analytic capabilities.
The key question is whether MapInfo can establish location intelligence as distinct from GIS. It is using the same information but coming from a different perspective. However, there is no doubt that the distinction is a subtle one. On the other hand, there are far more applications that can usefully leverage location-based information than have ever been touched by GIS—whether MapInfo can get companies thinking in this way will depend, as ever, as much on marketing as technology.