Data Catalyst - InnovationHere at Data Catalyst, we are strong supporters of data exploration, utilization and innovation. That’s why, every few weeks, we profile an organization that is using data as a core part of their business.

Startups in the innovation economy are prime examples of companies using data in more and more interesting ways to deliver novel services and products. This month, Maps BI shares some of the philosophy behind their product.

Tell us a little bit about your company and your product/service.

Maps BI is a new startup being incubated by Inovex—a software development and consulting firm located in Oakville, Ontario. Inovex has a history of developing custom business intelligence and information management systems for the government, healthcare and energy markets. We’ve created a geospatial business intelligence platform that converts data from spreadsheets or line-of-business applications (e-commerce, ERP/CRM, telematics and others) into interactive geographic business intelligence maps. Maps BI is available on-premise and via the cloud (public or private) depending on the preference of the organization.

Tell us a little bit about you—the people who make up your company.

We’re led by co-founders Mike Branch and Bob Bradley who are University of Toronto computer engineering graduates. Their technology backgrounds are in enterprise software development, information/data management, geospatial business intelligence and analytics. The team behind Inovex and Maps BI has a history of developing core information and business intelligence systems in the areas of patient management and regional energy management.

Explain the intersection of data and the work that your company does. How is data important to your work?

Data—specifically, location-based data—is at the very heart of Maps BI’s offering and plays a fundamental role for our organization. Maps BI is a platform that allows you to very easily derive insights from your location data in a highly visual manner; therefore, without data, Maps BI as a product simply would not exist. Any piece of data that can be tied to a geographic location is a useful piece of data in Maps BI that can be harnessed to produce a set of dashboards that allow colleagues and clients to collaborate and really understand their business at a deep level. As Maps BI continues to grow, so too will our repository of location-based data. This allows us to provide an unparalleled level of highly relevant, rich data for our clientele to support their business decisions.

What are you doing with data that others may not be doing? What kind of impact are you having on Ontario’s (and Canada’s) data landscape?

Maps BI is a unique blend of mapping, business intelligence and community. We hope to revolutionize the way people and businesses alike interact with their location data. Typically, this data has been locked away and inaccessible to the masses. And if it was made accessible, it was usually in a very silo-based manner where correlations between datasets could not easily be derived. At Maps BI, we are building a community of location data that consists of both public and private data that can be leveraged by all members of our community. The types of public data we house can range from locations of contributors and amounts of contributions toward mayoral campaigns, to power plant emission data. The real power of Maps BI is allowing the data to be easily layered on top of each other using an interactive dashboard—all from your web browser.

To give you an idea of the impact that this could have in the Canadian public health sector, we are currently working with Osteoporosis Canada on a case study using Maps BI to provide perspective on how the location of suburban patients relative to clinical access points plays an important role in determining whether a patient can/will follow up with prescribed treatments. As one might imagine, failure to follow up can also lead to a more long-term burden on the healthcare system. In the past, this type of analysis would have been quite laborious and retrospective, but Maps BI provides the power of real-time visualizations for Osteoporosis Canada in an interactive dashboard that gives them insight into effective program placement to optimize patient care. In a nutshell, in the public health sector, data plus Maps BI yields increased productivity and quality of care.

What are your thoughts about the emergence of data as an important part of decision-making?

Data has always been an important part of the decision-making process. So the use of data in and of itself to make decisions is certainly not a new idea. That being said, data alone (and especially location data) can be very difficult to draw any type of conclusion from. So, even if you’ve got your hands on market data from millions of customers segmented by postal code, how do you turn this data into information that you can use? That’s where Maps BI comes in and lets you very quickly make sense of your data without having to be a “tech guru.” Your tool of choice for analyzing your data is no longer a series of Excel spreadsheets; it becomes a highly visual, interactive map that lets you explore and analyze trends, and overlay these trends against data from the community. And this data from the community might comprise free data provided by trusted community members, or even premium data that has been harvested by domain experts. So, from an economic perspective, we see a growth in opportunities for data harvesters to drive home economic returns in a more open environment that fosters collaboration and connectedness between disparate sets of data.

With an explosion of data taking over the business world, there will also be an increasing need for people who understand how to link this data together to provide meaning and insight into this data using tools like Maps BI. More and more businesses are starting to understand that intelligence from their data can help boost revenue, and they need people who can help them navigate the tides of this sea of data very quickly and nimbly. So, we believe that data scientists will become even more specialized in their fields to provide that deep level of understanding to businesses where they understand not only how to link the data together, but also how and where to find these complementary datasets, and what tools to use to provide their stakeholders with the data in as salient a manner as possible. At Maps BI, our goal is to be that tool of choice for any location-based data.