What is GIS?
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are a framework that enables spatial data to be created, edited, managed, processed, and stored. Spatial data refers to the location dimension of data and includes attribute information (the “about” information). The designation “spatial” comes from its (x,y) dimension concerning a coordinate system or framework.
Since every problem must take place in a particular location, the application of GIS is enormous. GIS is a powerful tool influencing the frontiers of technology in our world today, with government, engineering, business, health, safety, and environmental applications. GIS technology is utilized as a decision support tool in many business areas where spatial information comes into play, such as logistics, delivery, real estate, insurance, health, and utilities.
The marriage of GIS with business and machine learning software is one of the tools within the range of Business Intelligence (BI) that offers visual insights, based on current data, into an organization’s state of affairs. Geo-spatial data is commonly represented in the following forms:
- Choropleth Maps
- Heat Maps (which we will look more closely at in a later blog)
These visuals streamline the process of analyzing data so that trends can be more easily discovered. Business Intelligence enables a company’s executives and managers to make more informed decisions about necessary changes to business strategy.
For example, to study the buying distribution patterns of customers, the customer location may be cross-referenced with attribute information such as frequency, total number, and kinds of products purchased. This information helps expand business services. Agencies can utilize this data to plan the establishment of new branches with the highest potential for revenue and productivity. Equally essential in determining viable locations for new business sites is suitability analysis through GIS, which accounts for data such as topography, slope, competition from surrounding businesses, land cover, protected green areas, and public areas.
Business Intelligence’s effective of use GIS technologies is particularly noticeable in various industries’ use of physical tools. Roads support the mobility of goods and services, and their condition is an integral part of the transportation industry. The decline of both funds and labor force for maintaining roads is a growing cause of accidents today. However, GIS (through geospatial analysis of drone images) studies, computes, and understands the current condition of roads and can detect sections that require maintenance, saving time and labor in this process. Construction firms can utilize this form of business intelligence to understand the spatial trends of roads, increasing the capacity to predict which sections of the roads will require maintenance before lack of it leads to accidents. This information is also crucial for implementing EHS management procedures designed to mitigate the prevalence of road accidents by more accurately planning to position workers where and when they are needed, leading to less time spent in hazardous areas on the side of the road, increasing worker safety.
GIS also assists workers in fulfilling business operations by mapping assets. Recorded assets can be studied in real-time and information on their functionality and type can be connected to their location. This function is helpful when a business has numerous pieces of machinery and variables such as condition and predicted life span must be tracked. Creating visual insights into these factors makes it easier to maintain assets and create replacement strategies, boosting safety, productivity, and revenue. Peak performing machinery is essential to an organization’s successful operation and just one part of creating an optimal work environment.
Another part of an optimal work environment is workplace safety, which can also be contributed to by GIS. When GIS is combined with empirical evidence through hotspot analysis and spatial interpolation, EHS professionals can more easily analyze the spatial distribution pattern of injury and incident data. GIS pinpoints the placement of specific types of injuries and incidents, where they occur most and least frequently, and where preventive measures would be most effectively administered. The additional factor of time periods can be added when tracking the prevalence of certain types of accidents and injuries, enabling management to better forecast their rate of occurrence in the future and informing more effective health, safety, and control measures. As Todd Conklin simply put, “safety is not the absence of injury but the presence of controls.”
Business Intelligence can facilitate enhanced decision making, improve functional and employee performance, reduce costs of investments, and save time through automating much of the analytical process. GIS, when employed as a tool of business intelligence, enhances industry through optimization, automation, and spatial-temporal analysis. The advent of geospatial tools and technologies combined with business software has simplified many business processes, including supporting EHS management functions. Even though GIS stands at the forefront of development in businesses today, potential uses continue to be realized alongside technological advances.
The SafetyStratus Research Advisory Group (RAG) brings together thought leaders from the global environmental, health, and safety community to promote best practices and provide key insights in the profession and the industries they serve. The Research Advisory Group also advocates, where practical, the intersection of and advances with the use of technology, such as the SafetyStratus enterprise EHS software platform. Group membership consists of representatives from across varied disciplines and market sectors as well as select members of the SafetyStratus team.
The primary objectives of the SafetyStratus RAG partnership are to:
- Build a strategic partnership between EHS practitioners and the SafetyStratus team.
- Provide engaging and practical content to the global EHS community.
- Provide discipline and market feedback specific to SafetyStratus products and services.
While the objectives of the RAG are varied, the primary public-facing outcome will be available through engaging and practical content found on the SafetyStratus resource pages. Various articles, papers, and other valuable resources will be produced and shared as part of an ongoing effort to cultivate a robust community. Ultimately, the SafetyStratus RAG will expand to have a broader reach and provide opportunities for more inclusion by all interested EHS professionals in a collaborative community environment.