AURORA, Colo. – March 16, 2012 – It isn’t often that managers can look to law enforcement for clues on how to more effectively do their work. But police are delivering an important lesson on the use of geographic information systems (GIS) by utilizing geospatial predictive analysis to find meth labs before criminals establish them.
Researchers Max Lu and Jessica Burnum have described how methamphetamine labs in the city of Colorado Springs between 2002 and 2005 didn’t pop up in a random distribution. Rather, their positions are clustered “in neighborhoods with a young and predominantly white population, small household size and low education levels.”
What the researchers did was correlate socioeconomic data with the locations of seized labs and sites of toxic byproducts of the chemical processes that create meth. They used basic geospatial predictive modeling theory: Things don’t happen in random patterns in the world. Instead, various environmental factors come into place. Or they may be socioeconomic, like the data Lu and Burnum used and could also represent other factors, such as geography or various elements of infrastructure.
Law enforcement’s use of geospatial analytics has moved far beyond a couple of researchers or the fictional exploits of the television show Numb3rs.
A growing number of police departments around the country find that they can use the techniques to identify “discernable geospatial preferences associated with a perpetrator’s conscious and unconscious activities leading up to criminal behavior, a gang action, or a terrorist threat.”
It’s statistical prediction of the future based on associating relevant factors–sometimes thousands of types of measurement–with geography. Experts sift through past crimes and the characteristics of the places they occurred.
The result isn’t a giant arrow pointing to the guilty party. Rather, geospatial predictive analysis gives other locations where similar crimes might likely take place.
Geospatial Predictive Analysis Applied in Business
Applying geospatial predictive analysis to business uses the same fundamental concepts.
Instead of crimes and the people that commit them, a company looks for things relevant to its business strategy: customers, neighborhoods where marketing campaigns were particularly effective, areas that a competitor is relatively strong, locations for new retail outlets, parts of a supply chain that have problems that could disrupt the flow of goods.
Companies can use the techniques to identify situations that aren’t directly related to their businesses, but that could adversely affect them.
“GIS-skilled technicians are prepared to create, manipulate, edit and present representations of geospatial information to an often non-technical audience to solve problems and overcome business challenges,” says Devon Cancilla, Ph.D., dean, business and technology at American Sentinel University.
It takes little wondering to see how predicting areas that see terrorist activity, political instability, labor strikes, transportation disruptions and the like can help a company plan for potential disruptions.
“Geospatial predictive analysis is just another reason why managers should advance their knowledge of GIS and failing to do so might give a critical advantage to competitors who adopt it,” says Dr. Cancilla.
American Sentinel University’s GIS degree programs prepare students to analyze, interpret and effectively communicate spatially based data to a wide audience.
From the professional user of geospatial data to the common consumer of mainstream media, American Sentinel’s B.S. GIS program provides the tools necessary to prevent complex concepts as meaningful and useful information for business and consumer solutions.
American Sentinel’s GIS programs prepare students for entry into the GIS field and also provide training in information systems that benefit other business areas.
About American Sentinel University
American Sentinel University delivers the competitive advantages of accredited associate, bachelor’s and master’s online degree programs focused on the needs of high-growth sectors, including information technology, computer science, GIS, computer information systems and business intelligence degrees. The university is accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), which is listed by the U.S. Department of Education as a nationally recognized accrediting agency and is a recognized member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.