The Value of Where

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Geographic information has many facets but the value for business today is the location, or position on the earth’s surface.

Location is meaningful in many ways, such as:

  • The location of assets enables operations, management and planning.
  • The location of events facilitates the same and can predict future events.
  • The location of customers can enhance marketing and sales campaigns, insurance risk management and retail outlet planning.

When location is incorporated into the data of Information Systems, these systems are empowered to provide much more powerful decision support. In fact, location often highlights trends, risks and opportunities that would otherwise have been hidden.

The latent power of location and the business possibilities are what appeals to Natalie Newman. She entered the world of geographic information more than 30 years ago, working with land surveyors fixing the position of trig beacons. This understanding of measurement and geodesy has led to many interesting roles in the world of geographic information.

Natalie established the GIS (Geographic Information Systems) in two local authorities in South Africa. Then the opportunity to don the uniform of the South African Air Force tempted her to take up an exciting role in the Directorate of Geospatial Information. This directorate collected imagery, mapping and hydrographic information for all 3 arms of the forces. This insight into the world of defence could only broaden the view and understanding of the important role that geographic information and location can play.

The turn of the century raised the profile of the telecommunications arena and Natalie joined South Africa’s Telkom, where the use of location was utilised for demand forecasting. After moving to the UK, she joined Hutchison3g as their Global Co-ordinator for Location Based Products prior to the launch of 3. She then moved to British Telecommunications where she raised the profile both inside and outside the organisation by establishing a GIS Focus Group right across the whole BT group.

Working as a Spatial Consultant with Netezza reinforced her belief that wonderful opportunities exist for location to add substantial value to all levels of information. Operations are empowered by knowing where to function. Management is informed with reporting that shows where the successes exist and where improvement is required. Strategic Planning is supported by intelligence that reveals where trends occurred and predicts where the next activity could happen.

This small piece of information, describing the location, has the potential to be a major contributor to the value of both Information and Business Intelligence.


1 Trig Beacons – A term describing control points with a fixed position (calculated with trigonometry) and used by further surveys as an accurate reference point.

2 Geodesy – The science that deals with the measurement and representation of the earth.