Powering Smarter Market Decisions™     Toll Free 877.944.4AGS

The Curse of Interesting Data

Posted by on Sep 24, 2020 in Blog | No Comments

Over the years, AGS has created a number of data products which have been widely commended as being as interesting and sometimes even fascinating. And many were commercial failures.

These days, we are often asked “do you have mobile data?” The GPS enabled mobile telephone has led to an explosion in geographically referenced data, and a growing range of diverse products. Those of us who have been on this rodeo circuit have seen this before – each successive marriage of geographic data with technology able to process it has over the past few decades resulted in a level of excitement that just verifies that a career as a geographer was the right choice.

The COVID-19 shutdown has spawned a great deal of articles and newsletters that look at how people have responded to the safer at home mandates in terms of their daily movements. Not a day goes by when I don’t see at least a couple of LinkedIn articles on how the lockdown has affected retail shopping patterns.

I fall for it almost every time and read the article – even the ones that try to scare me off with the “8 minute read” (is it me or does it seem like these times are for really, really slow readers?). Why do I fall for it? Because they are often fascinating and always interesting. Looking at an animated time series map showing how trips to a local grocery store have changed as the crisis unfolded is to a map nerd better than watching the Netflix series to find out if Carole really did it (come on people, of course she did). There is nothing so beautiful and dare I say, interesting, as a thoughtful map presentation.

And therein lies the problem. A reasonable person would assume that when you shut down opportunities for human interaction, that the map of those interactions would look considerably different. And it does. Interesting. Fascinating even. So what? What do you do with this interesting data to turn it into valuable data? After all, many of us will indulge in interesting data if it is free, but if you want me to pay for it, it had darn well better be valuable.

Every major advance has resulted in the same dilemma – the early commercial GIS systems, aerial photographs, satellite imagery, just to name a few – how to turn interesting into valuable. The interesting uses fade away over time leaving only the valuable ones. With the latest craze, one of the most valuable applications is looking at foot traffic by retail chain in order to predict in advance the quarterly numbers to front run the market. Brilliant.

But for the most part, the use of mobile data in site analysis is still just at the interesting phase.  The value proposition however has always been in turning interesting into actionable, and that transition will come from adding to, rather than replacing, traditional methods and data sources. If you find yourself in possession of interesting mobile data for your sites, let us show you how to turn interesting into valuable using our thirty thousand or so attributes and advanced trade area delineation techniques.

%d bloggers like this: