Then and Now
The Power of Zoom
|Posted by Matt Gentile, Principal, Deloitte FAS LLP|
In 1854, a severe cholera outbreak hit the Soho district of London. Between August and September of that year, 500 people died of the disease and three-quarters of the remaining residents fled the city. Physician John Snow, who would become the "father of epidemiology," set out to draw dots on a map by hand to indicate cholera deaths in order to find the source of contamination. With only a basic understanding of the illness, he relied on chemical and microscopic examination of water samples and disease patterns to perform his analysis. Snow created a dot map to illustrate the cluster of cholera cases and used statistics to evaluate the city’s water quality. In this way, he narrowed down the source of the outbreak to the public water pump on Soho's Broad Street.
In many ways, Snow’s research represented the advent of the power of zoom. Yet today’s geospatial analytics could have allowed him to easily and more rapidly add the context of timing and location to his existing data, creating dynamic maps that showed changes over time. By uncovering these “spatio-temporal” patterns, he could have uncovered the culprit of the outbreak faster and more accurately.
Today's policy makers and researchers are unencumbered by limitations such as scarce data. In fact, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction and now some believe that there is too much data. The challenge today is determining leading indicators from the more than 600 billion geotagged daily transactions. The prospects are tantalizing with geotagged social data connecting health experts directly with patients to understand symptoms and disease progression first hand. Environmental sensors allow measurements of water and air quality in real-time, allowing health officials to identify containments and alert government officials -- and the public – in advance.
For businesses, geospatial analytics lifts patterns off of spreadsheets to create visual representations of the facts. Decision makers can use "geo-referenced" time-and-place-specific data to zoom in on patterns occurring within small communities or clusters. Or, they can zoom out to identify trends at the regional, national, or global level. This flexible level of detail allows for organizations to anticipate and prepare for changes in customer behaviors and preferences and better understand broader trends.
Whether it’s revealing disease patterns to save lives or harnessing time and location data to build better customer relationships, geospatial analytics is supercharging analysis and decision-making with a new layer of knowing.
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