Archive for August, 2006

Business GIS / Geomarketing

August 2, 2006

The term geomarketing is not really used in english language. They use the term business GIS. Both terms nearly mean the same but are nevertheless different. Geomarketing means customer-oriented marketing of any products. Business GIS includes even aspects that are relevant for production. The origin of both terms is also another: geomarketing is originally used by geographical oriented economists, business GIS is used in economic geography. The both meanings are slightly but obviously different. F. Schüssler defines the term geomarketing like this:

“‘geomarketing’ means the planning, coordination and controlling of custumer-oriented marketactivities with a GIS; so methods are used, which create, analyse and present the spatial relation of the examined information” (SCHÜSSLER 1997, translated into english by M. Blazejak, 2006)

Maybe it all began with maps at the wall, colored pins and some fibres. In this way they defined areas on the map which show e. g. the catchment area of companies and shops. By means of this method they could find raw areas very good and could turn their special attention to them. But the abilities of this method are pretty limited. External information could only be badly presented in the maps and has to be analysed, collected in listings.

With the still continuing fast development of computer hardware since the end of the 1970’ies and also enhanced software the gap could be filled faster and more efficient today. In the late 1970’ies the first research supported by the available technology in terms of geomarketing has been done in great britain.

To be adequate for geomarketing, a GIS has to have only rudimental cartographic functionality. More important are the functions to intersect spatial referenced information, trace functions and tools for interpolation. The following fields can be mentioned related to the implementation of geomarketing:

  • retail industry
    • specific advertising with an optimised catchment area
  • distribution
    • improvement and controlling of the field service
    • optimised franchising
  • media business (e. g. newspapers)
    • improvement of the local news and ads
    • specific controlling of the inserts

The advance of computer aided geomarketing with some kind of GIS is clear to see. Only by collecting and spatial referencing information you can efficiently create complex maps with combined information in a short time (visualisation). The available information growth constantly in quality and quantity. Costs of computer hardware doesn’t play an important role anymore, because a desktop-GIS can be run on a nearly every standard computer. Real costs are produced by software licenses and external information. Because of the short times for calculating analysis and intersections you can go and find the best solution out of a lot of possible attemps (trial-and-error).

So, if you have most of your information spatially referenced and don’t use a GIS-like-tool to analyse them, you give away more potential benefit than you know by now. You should check all your lists, to find all information related to your objects and analyse them. You will be one step ahead of your competing company. Don’t waste them! 😉

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QGIS (I)

August 1, 2006

Like I mentioned before, QGIS (Quantum GIS) is a free GIS. It’s a Qt/C++ application (Anno.: it is NOT a Java-application, as I mentioned before! Changed April 4th 2007) and with that it is not depending on your pc’s operating system (as long as you can get a Qt environment for it!). I cannot promise that this is true for all the plug-ins. I use it on Linux and on MS Windows . You can fetch the binaries or th e source of QGIS from the QGIS-homepage (sourcecode is not recommende). There you can also find an english documentation and the usal forums where you can find additional help.

The installatio of QGIS on a Windows-machine ends without errors and after a few minutes you can start with some sampledata. Ideally you have some shape-files of your own objects already. If not, you can fetch sampladata out of the internet. Googling helps! After that I would advice you to “play around” with your sampledata to become familiar with the gui and the functions. The gui of QGIS version 0.7.4 ‘Seamus’ is available in many languages –even in german and shouldn’t make you any great problems. A german translation of the documentation (Install-/Userguide) will be available for version 0.8. For a detailed view on all the functions you should have a look at the userguide. Maybe I have a limited view on th e software, because I personally don’t need all the functions included. And by the way: this is not a product test.

I start -like I always do- by saving an empty project. Then I open some shape-files with roads, buildings and rivers. They are displayed by QGIS with a random color. I could change the color and save this with the projectfile. If more than one should work with the data you can place the projectfile somewhere in the network where it is avaiable for all and then you can make it readonly. Everyone can now open this project but cannot save any changes. If people should also change data you have to talk about alternative ways. At the moment only the administrator has the possibility to insert, change or delete layers from the project.

After a short time I cannot resist to test the connection to PostGIS. But I still have no data in PostGIS! Where can I get them? Nothing easier than this! 🙂
QGIS has an build-in importtool for shape-files. Someone has thought about it! After a short time I have added my three shapefiles to the importfilter and with the same high speed my files where imported into PostGIS. And now? Now I can access them in PostGIS instead of the shapefile.

The advance lays on the hand: I use the data to view them in QGIS and maybe change the geometry if neccessary. Maybe there are other tables in their, which are related to my data by some kind of ID. Because of that I can connect this tables with my data and can give them a reference in my maps.

An example:
I have a table with spatial information about buildings. This table is normalised – better say: as simple as can be. It contains no more information then the geometry and the unique IDs of the buildings. These IDs originally came from a table with a lot more information. Without having tested it before, you can now create a view (a kind of dynamic table based on a SQL-statement) which connects the geometrydata and the additional alphanumeric data with the ID of the buildings in both tables. If you now use the view to show you data in QGIS, you cannot only see the buldings but access the additional data, too.
The other way round, I would like to get the information about other objects and poi (points of interest) in a maximum of 500metres around my object. All these data can be found in my database so I can use them for a spatial analysis and put them together in a report. I’m sure that you can extend the report to get the detailed distanc of each poi. In an external application it will be easy to add another column with the time you would need for this distance walking. 🙂

Possibillities without end — if you just catch the importance of these information! Later I will give you more specifications working with QGIS, PostGIS and PostgreSQL … I promise! 🙂

PostGIS (I) – central datapool

August 1, 2006

Well, I know from my GIS at work, that just viewing objects will not satisfy people for a long time. For that we should create our environment in a lasting way. If data should be available in a company network why not doing it with all the data for our objects and why not ‘really central’. PostGIS is a free extension for PostgreSQL which includes geospatial objecttypes and functions related to them. PostgreSQL is as free as PostGIS. At the same time it is very powerful database system that can keep up with the great commercial products (e. g. Oracle). That means, you can use PostgreSQL as a datapool for all listings and other kind of information in form of a listing, that different people should access at the same time. Centralising information is always a good idea. And if you didn’t knew it before: that is the idea behind a buisness warehouse!

You can install the PostgreSQL software on a Linux- or Windows-machine. I prefer Linux, because you can than reactivate a much more older machine, that you maybe have sort out before. Even for a good database performance you don’t have to use a dual-core pentium somewhat. A machine with 1GB or more memory and a processor with about 1GHz will do. Maybe in your special case less would also do. Try it! The harddisk can be chosen by the amount of information you will store in the database plus the operation system and some clearance.

Finally we start! First of allyou should fetch the actual PostgreSQL sourcecode from their homepage. Depending on your operation system you should follow the according installation instructions. The sourcecode is needed to install PostGIS. So please don’t use binary packages. They won’t do. If all requirements are fullfilled, compiling and installing PostgreSQL should be no problem. After that we do the same with PostGIS. During the compilation I had a problem with a shared object (‘something.so’) that couldn’t be found. I searched for it and copied it into the PostgreSQL-lib-directory. After that it worked … If PostGIS is compiled, the SQL-statements to extend PostgreSQL would also be ready and you can run than like the installationinstructions tell you. Before you should have created a database in PostgreSQL, because you don’t extend the whole databse system, but a single instance of it: your dataspace. Now there is nothing more standing in your way, holding you from using your fresh created geospatial extension of PostgreSQL.

After that I had done the tests of the PostGIS FAQs to be sure that my database has got the extension and was amazed how simple you can access the geospatial data and functions. As a ‘help programmer’ there are a lot of SQL-statements coming into my mind, which I will test next time with my demo data.

An advice at the end: if you’d like to comfortably access PostgreSQL from a Windows-based machine, you should install PgAdmin III . It’s a kind of gui and admintool in one. And for all that cannot be devorced from MS Access there should be an ODBC-driver installed on their machines which can establish the neede connection to the PostgreSQL-backend.

And now you should do some first steps in QGIS connecting with PostGIS.