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Finding the ‘Where' with Software
SpatialKey's on-demand solution boasts a geographic information system (GIS) that's both low cost and caters to the business user.
Posted Oct 28, 2009
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Data visualization and mapping solution provider SpatialKey, a business unit of rich Internet application developer Universal Mind, recently released its location intelligence software SpatialKey On-Demand and SpatialKey On-Premise. While the company admits it's not the only solution on the market providing geographic information systems (GIS), Tom Link, managing director at SpatialLink, says that the release is appealing to a "new breed of people"-that is, the business user-and "enabling location intelligence to be used more within the organization." 

Though Universal Mind has been around since 2003, the company launched SpatialKey two years ago to get involved in the location intelligence space. "SpatialKey was designed to pick up where [business intelligence] and GIS tools were lacking," Link says. In this sense, "lacking" refers to more to the user base, rather than the functionality. "You shouldn't need to be a specialist to take advantage of the tools," he says. Universal Mind's mission is, as Link puts it, "make hard things easier," which means taking expensive, complex legacy applications-such as data visualization and user experience-and making them more accessible through Web 2.0 technology.

Based on conversations with business users around the country, SpatialKey identified a few overarching concerns when it comes to implementing GIS. The solution must:

  • be able to be deployed and ready to go instantly;
  • be easy to use;
  • be collaborative;
  • be affordable; and
  • require minimal involvement from the technology department, if at all.

The SpatialKey product uses data that that is imported from Excel or simple database tables.  "A lot of existing GIS applications work with things like [geospatial data formats] shapefiles and KML," Link explains. "Those things are foreign languages to decision makers." The solution has an application programming interface (API) that can pull data straight from Salesforce.com into SpatialKey, but Link says that without the API, it's just as easy to export the Salesforce.com report into an Excel file and go from there.

Once the data is uploaded into SpatialKey, every column in the original Excel document becomes a data field in SpatialKey. Users can then use click and drag operations to sort, filter, and drill down to gain a deeper understanding of the data. According to the company, the technology automatically recognizes geographic data points to plot them in map form. Moreover, multiple data sets may be overlaid to create a single map view. Users can share the maps and collaborate with other SpatialKey users simultaneously, or capture the image and send the file as a read-only document.

Even if it's not the only solution offering GIS, Fran Halper, a partner at consultancy Hurwitz & Associates, was impressed by its visualization capabilities, adding that it's "a nice tool to have in your BI arsenal." However, Halper is hesitant to say that she sees a trend in the demand for location intelligence, or even a rush from BI vendors to provide this capability, at the moment. "It's sort of like, if you don't know what you don't know, you think you're doing pretty well," Halper says. For companies are exposed to the power of this type of technology, she imagines many will be able to see the value in seeing a spatial representation of their data. A tool like SpatialKey, she says, will certainly help companies save a lot of time trying, especially when it comes to overlaying various data sets.

SpatialKey On-Demand is currently offered at $125 per month per user, with a minimum of 10 users. Fees for the on-premises solution are structured on a per-server and per-user basis, in addition to annual support and maintenance fees. Both are available for a 30-day trial.

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