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What’s in a Map? Three Ways Local Governments Can Leverage Location Intelligence to Improve Cities

Maps have existed for as long as recorded history. The first world map was created by Greek geographer Ptolemy in the first century CE. Fast forward to today: We have robust mapping capabilities powered daily by five quintillion and growing bytes of data. But how can evolved maps, and the so-called location intelligence they contain be useful for cities?

Location intelligence is the ability to know more about the environment around us. What began as a 2D phenomenon has now evolved into a suite of capabilities that span functional areas, especially for cities. Location intelligence goes beyond the basic map by providing accurate, up-to-date views of a locality, inside views into building geometry, knowledge of street corner point-of-reference, real-time traffic patterns, and the placement of infrastructure nodes such as fire hydrants, stairways, and building exit points. Today’s mapping technology exists with levels of precision never seen before. This precision can enable a multitude of use cases to keep communities safe, enhance quality of life and improve the way we function. Improvements in public safety, traffic and urban mobility are a few examples of how location intelligence can enable cities to achieve bold objectives.

Public Safety

Local emergencies are often life and death situations, where mere seconds can make a difference in the outcome. Location intelligence can help local public safety agencies and first responders better prepare for, more quickly respond to, and more fully recover from emergencies and disasters with route optimization. Location intelligence also can help large, public safety vehicles avoid costly and unnecessary hazards along the way, such as other accidents, inclement weather and low clearance bridges, to name a few through route optimization.

For example, location intelligence would have provided firefighters responding to the 2018 “Camp Fire” in Paradise, California with the abilities to maintain real time situational awareness, conduct damage assessment, appropriately respond as situations warrant and manage public information, e.g. which communities to evacuate first and by which routes. With location intelligence, the firefighting community can answer in as close to real time as possible:

Traffic Congestion

In the U.S., nearly 85% of commuters use private vehicles, but rush hour traffic creates bottlenecks at points of congestion. Fundamentally, congestion is the result of road networks being unable to handle peak-hour loads without adding to transit times on limited road space. In addition to frustration and lost time, traffic congestion costs money. Some estimates put those costs at upwards of $305 billion. This is where location intelligence can help.

By having access to historical traffic, real-time analysis of road conditions, and a view of the quality of roads, governments can use location intelligence to route traffic intelligently using measures such as variable red light management, smart tolling, and lane segregation. Other measures include building more off-ramps, ring roads and park-and-ride stations at regular intervals on a freeway to encourage the use of less-taxed modes of mobility such as public transportation.

Location intelligence can also inform what traffic patterns may look like in the future. As new forms of mobility emerge, governments must think carefully about pickup and drop-off points, charging bays, temporary curbside stop-off areas and more. Local governments can and should be early adopters in these technologies and draft new lanes of mobility without building new lanes or highway overpasses.

2D maps have provided highly needed support for use cases such as basic navigability, turn-by-turn directions and high-level cartographic analysis. However, 2D maps often lack the detail needed to support burgeoning technologies that require a highly refined view of the environment. For example, an autonomous vehicle could not manage its speed based on variable weather or the placement of street signs with 2D alone.

However, high definition (HD) maps—or maps that capture multiple layered attributes on top of a base map—can enable these situations. HD maps power connected vehicle services that help regulate the safety of a vehicle’s passengers. HD maps also power safe navigation functions of autonomous vehicles, where the reliance upon multiple tiered inputs enables safe navigation.

Mobility has long represented a natural evolution of human progress. People move around in order to live more, do more, and be more. As paths of mobility cross, coordination is necessary to achieve harmonious passage while enabling citizens to achieve their boldest objectives. Local governments play a key role in facilitating this progress, and, by using location technology, can significantly improve public safety, traffic congestion, urban mobility, and overall quality of life for their citizens.

There are no strict parameters around what issue of public good a local government should tackle first. All it needs to do is ask, “Can we solve more problems by learning more about the environment around us?”

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