Maps have been a dream for treasure hunters, archaeologists, and geologists for centuries. We have all grown up listening to the stories of Indiana Jones on an adventure finding his path with the help of a map or Lara Croft searching for a hidden treasure whose location is marked in the invisible map that is visible only in sunlight, and maps have fascinated us ever since. In modern times, a physical map has been replaced with digital and more complex and advanced location systems. Spatial analysis is the study of a location or entity using modern location systems, data sciences and artificial intelligence based on the location’s topological, geometric and geographic properties. Spatial Analysis is the key to solve complex location-oriented problems and give us an understanding of where and what is happening in our world. It goes beyond just mapping an area but also helps you study the characteristics of that area.
Spatial analysis is based on the principle that there is some spatial component – absolute, relative or both, in data. The study of spatial analysis within geography, by getting into the analytical framework of the natural, social and physical sciences of that geography and influencing the information that space reflects, has led to the conclusion that geographic space is important and plays a key role in how the natural, social and physical processes evolve. In a way, we can call spatial data special because of the numerous questions it answers about physical space. This information then can be used in solving climate conditions, infrastructural problems, agricultural conditions, human health conditions and also in understanding a geographic location on a real-time basis based on its behaviour.
Today, more than 2.5 billion gigabytes of data are generated daily. We are connecting numerous data-generating devices, products, and assets to the internet every day based on specific needs, in such a context, the “where” factor is very important for our problem solving and decision-making capabilities. The more we know a place, the better we can access what can make the place better. Spatial analytics brings this location-based data to us with the help of the datasets related to a location. These data sets provide unique information on a location, from vegetation, soil type, water quality to construction, population, transportation and even crime, which allows us to analyze and map patterns and relationships to understand the potential of that particular area even better. Location-based data has always been critical for any kind of business, infrastructure and community growth. It gives you a better understanding of the opportunities, productivity, solutions, and risks involved with space. Spatial analytics brings crucial factors into an observation with regards to customer buying habits, supply chain management, operational benefits and competition in the area which reveals patterns, relationships, benefits, challenges, and opportunities and hence influences our decision-making capabilities supported by accurate data. Every industry is thriving on this data today. Education, transportation, military services, disaster management, telecommunications, media, logistics, technology, environment, retail, manufacturing, insurance, intelligence, all of these industries depend on location-based data.
The market for spatial analytics is not only diverse but also huge. If you are detail-oriented, data-driven, technology savvy and love analytics, this is just the field for you. The spatial analysis involves spatial modelling, which includes models of location-allocation, spatial interaction, spatial choice and search, spatial optimization, and space-time. Knowledge and basic education in either geography, geosciences, cartography, surveying, geomatics, anthropology, archaeology and mathematics is a must when you are looking at spatial analysis as a further study and career option. Your job description will vary according to the industry and firm you are working with. Producing maps, data layers, reports or charts using Geographic Information Systems, studying aerial photographs, satellite data, soil sample, water sample, other environmental samples, reading cartographic records, develop experiences using various software like ArcGIS, PostGIS, Quantum GIS, etc, are some of the tasks a spatial analyst is expected to perform in the initial days of their career. The whole field of Geospatial analytics is highly evolving. There are discoveries made every day and there is a lot of scope in this field to experiment and upgrade your skills as an analyst based on the unlimited data you have to your disposal.
Spatial analysis is growing every day in its potential and answering questions that change how a person looks at a location or geography. This field is very technical and has unlimited scope for anyone pursuing it. Only by understanding our surrounding space appropriately can we develop solutions for a better future and now we have the means to do so.
The views above have been shared by Dr. T.P. Singh, Director, Symbiosis Institute of Geoinformatics, Pune.