The field of geospatial data analysis is relatively new, but it is rapidly growing and employs many people across the developed world. Geospatial data analysis includes GPS satellites, as well as GPS equipment trackers in snow plows or GPS systems in a person’s car for navigation purposes. Work vehicles tend to use GPS for navigation, and many Canadian cities deploy snow plow fleets with GPS trackers in each vehicle. When geospatial data analysis crews are coordinating all this, a fleet of snow plows will perform efficient work. This is essential for clearing a city of snow, but GPS tracking is also quite useful for other vehicles, too. How might this work?
Using GPS for Snow Plows
All across Canada, cities and towns often get a lot of snowfall, as do northern U.S. states such as Montana and Maine. In fact, Canada’s top 10 snowiest cities report getting an average of 55 days of snow each year where two or more millimetres of snow falls. That is a lot, and too much snow will block both vehicle and pedestrian traffic, which can partially shut down a city. To fix this, cities such as Montreal and Toronto deploy snow plows, but some coordination is needed to make that effort efficient.
Without GPS trackers in vehicles, snow plowing may be inefficient work. A given driver may finish their area, but they won’t know where the other plows are and they might intrude on someone else’s work area. Or, a vehicle’s driver may not know where to find more work, so they sit idle. Sitting idle wastes fuel, and it also pollutes the air, which may be fined in many Canadian states and regional governments. To prevent confusion and wasted fuel, cities like Montreal will have GPS trackers in all vehicles, and hire geospatial data analysts to handle the software aspect of all this.
With geospatial data analysis, a city’s snow plow fleet will be coordinated from a bird’s eye view of the city. With each snow plow’s location being tracked in real time, it is easy to see where each plow is and which areas still need to get snow plowing done. Montreal alone uses 172 vehicles to clear roads and 188 to clear sidewalks, and it’s tough to coordinate a fleet like that with the naked eye. Instead, geospatial data analysts make sure that the snow plow vehicles cover every area in good time, and make sure that the vehicles don’t overlap with each other’s work area. This also makes it easy to tell an idle vehicle’s worker where they can go next to do more work. Thanks to such efforts, the city of Montreal can clear up all snow in under five days if seven inches fell, and if a foot fell, the city needs five days. Without GPS trackers, that work may be much slower instead.
Other Uses of GPS and Geospatial Data Analytics
It is clear that GPS trackers are very useful for snow plows, but that isn’t their only application. Where else can geospatial data analysis work? It does not even have to be in vehicles; many mobile electronic devices such as laptops and smart phones also have trackers in them, showing analysts where each item’s carrier is going. All of this data is compiled for tracking where consumers go, so that marketing efforts can be more effective. The Internet is often accessed through mobile devices, and all of this together is known as the Internet of Things. Geospatial data analysis certainly plays a role in that.
Meanwhile, many companies own their own vehicles such as jets and cars, and those vehicles are bound to have GPS trackers in them, too. One reason to do this is to ensure that a traveling employee is only going where they are supposed to, and not misusing the company vehicle for their own purposes. What is more, many private vehicles also have GPS trackers in them, and this is helpful for navigation. Those GPS trackers can also give away the vehicle’s location in case it is stolen. This can also save lives if a vehicle is stranded due to bad weather or a breakdown, and rescue crews can find the vehicle and rescue everyone there.