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A Mobile App’s Data is Changing Urban Planning – and Businesses Should Pay Attention

by Lorena Hathaway | June 16, 2014 | No Comments

Oregon's DOT is doing city planning with location intelligence.It has been notoriously difficult for city officials to really learn how residents move around major cities, particularly when taking into account the routes of joggers, walkers and cyclists.

They take unique paths to get to work or their homes, and many of those routes aren’t tied to paved road. Maybe they’re cutting through parking lots or running alongside the waterfront. Maybe they’re weaving in and out of bike lanes.

Without knowing exactly how many people are traveling between different points, city planners are forced to make very rough estimates when planning new roads or renovating infrastructure.

That was the challenge that faced the Oregon Department of Transportation. The organization was trying to figure out where and how to build bike lanes, but the data just wasn’t there.

“We were really deficient on the cycling and walking side of data,” Margi Bradway, the active transportation lead at the Oregon DOT, told Wired.

But that didn’t mean no one had the data. Oregon is just one of a growing number of cities turning to the popular cycling app, Strava, for location intelligence that could offer new insight into how people work, travel and enjoy urban environments. This innovative use of geo-data is a great example of how businesses could also potentially overlay data – such as customer purchasing patterns, demographics – onto a map to plan new strategies, engage customers and create customized marketing campaigns.

Mobile Planning for Social Businesses

For the past few years, Strava has been used primarily by cyclists to record bike routes, whether for recreation or commuting, on interactive maps. Now, Strava is partnering with cities in the US and the UK – from Portland to London, Glasgow to Florida – to give city officials the data they need when planning new projects that help residents get from Point A to Point B.

Strava’s data shows where people may speed up or slow down, where they ride in the road or on the sidewalk and displays different traffic patterns throughout the city, providing comprehensive maps to accompany these routes and behaviors.

This is all more proof that location intelligence, is becoming a cornerstone to any kind of intensive urban planning. The more mobile data that’s available, the more informed decisions cities and agencies can make. As Strava shows, the real battle is visualizing and organizing all of that data into an intuitive, user-friendly model.

Bike routes aren’t the only thing that can be overlaid onto maps to better visualize the future. Businesses can benefit by analyzing demographics, income ranges, customer behaviors, purchasing patterns and more. When those data points are aggregated with location intelligence, it’s possible to create a crystal-clear picture of past, present and future opportunities, all on an easy-to-use, interactive map.

The best part is that many companies already have a lot of this customer data available. All that’s needed to get started is the right GIS platform to make sense of it all.

Companies can use MapInfo Professional to plan new retail locations, marketing offers, events, shipping routes, inventory and much more. If you’re interested in finding out how location intelligence and GIS technology can help your business, join Pitney Bowes & Directions Magazine for our free webinar on June 26!   

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