Startups using geographic information to offer business support

November 09, 2020 08:40
Italian startup MobyPlanner provide tools to help companies manage their field workers’ itineraries based on geographic location. Photo: MobyPlanner

The Esri Startup Program (Esri Program) supports startups which use geographic information in their core business. The companies participating in the Esri Program have diversified business, they include American companies as well as startups from many countries around the world. SmartLoc from Russia is an example.

Finding potential customers

How many potential customers does your store have? Which district has insufficient retail facilities? How many shoppers can your mall attract?

SmartLoc, headquartered in Moscow, uses spatial data for market research, analyses location selection for real estate companies and retailers, and develops related IT solutions. The company’s major market is the Commonwealth of Independent States (“CIS”) formed by nine countries including Russia and the former Soviet Republics, such as Armenia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan.

For retailers who want to open new stores, the company provides information on population density and characteristics of each city, pedestrian traffic, the latest social and economic data, the composition and size of anchor tenants, as well as spatial data in the prospective environment, new buildings, real estate transaction and leasing which all affect the success or failure of establishing a business. For real estate developers, the company also analyses market factors of the areas to be developed, such as footfalls and traffic flows, the demographic characteristics of residents in the same district, and existence of competitors. It also uses Huff's model to measure the prosperity of the location, and uses machine learning algorithms to forecast investment returns.

As Azat Imangalin, Chief Executive Officer of SmartLoc said, “In the past, large companies might spend tens of millions of rubles on site selection, our company offers convenient and flexible solutions that do not require such investments.”

The company has been established for less than 10 years, but the list of customers is quite impressive, including the largest local retail chains, real estate developers, and internationally renowned brands such as IKEA, KFC, PWC, Domino’s, Pizza Hut, and more.

Facilitating trip planning for field workers

For companies with a big team of field workers, it is a headache to allocate every team member’s itinerary which is required to be efficient, cost-effective, and on schedule. Italian startup MobyPlanner thought of helping them manage their busy itineraries based on geographic location. Through an easy-to-use mobile application, it combines a large amount of data to provide the best travel route and avoid congested roads. In case there are any changes to the itinerary, the application will automatically update and check if it clashes with other activities. At the same time, the application keeps field staff in contact with the company, the company can also display both the whereabouts of each worker and the summary of each one’s daily itinerary on a dashboard.

Take claims management of the insurance industry as an example. It involves a complex process with many procedures, and requires relevant personnel to conduct on-site investigation. With the help of MobyPlanner, upto 200 activities can be arranged in five minutes, compared with a few hours in the past; and due to smooth travel route planning, it is reported to have saved an average of 15% of travel time.

In addition to the insurance industry, others like power, energy, entertainment, public works, retail and many marketing tasks could ride on this tool to smooth out daily operations.

The above two startups share the same characteristics: they make good use of huge geographic information data to solve problems in employee trips arrangement, or business development for corporate customers. These solutions are more affordable, convenient and user-friendly than the traditional ones. Although these startups had been established for less than 10 years, they already have outstanding achievements and have gradually transformed from Esri’s supported startups to Esri’s partners in recent years, enjoying the company’s geospatial cloud technology and facilitating their business development.

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Adjunct Professor, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering; Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences; and Faculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong