Blog: 8 February 2016Would you buy a house without checking the shower pressure?

Seems an odd question to ask, but bear with me. Few people would buy a house without considering the fundamental details of location, price and condition, before moving onto similarly important issues like transport links and local schools.

The reason we consider these related factors is to give us the sense that our decision-making process has incorporated the information most relevant to our goal – in this analogy: happiness in your new home.

But what if your happiness depended on the tepid dribblings of your newly acquired shower? What was possibly only a small consideration, or more likely no consideration at all, in the early decision-making process, could now become a daily annoyance, drip by drip diluting your satisfaction with your otherwise acceptable abode!

Apply this to our industry and by failing to acknowledge the significance of some seemingly irrelevant, incidental or unconnected data to your larger goal, and despite your best intentions and due diligence in coming to your ultimate decision, your pre-planned outcome has been compromised.

As a spatial analyst, part of my job is to pore through and understand location data, to examine the relationships between disparate datasets and determine how these can underpin key development and investment decisions. By using Geographical Information Systems (GIS), I can ensure that these decisions are truly evidence based, as accurate as possible and take into account all the possible information.

Over the past year, I’ve worked closely with our Research Team to develop our ‘location intelligence’ offer, leading to a more streamlined and tech-led approach to spatial analysis and, in particular, multi-scale site searching. Our method not only culminates in highlighting developable areas, but optimises this ‘white space’ through a series of spatial modelling techniques.

These techniques allow us to better understand how seemingly unrelated information can be relevantly connected for the benefit of our clients. By weighting different scenarios, we are able to develop a number of alternative, evidence-led options for their development and investment decisions.

As data becomes more accessible through various Open Data licences, the ability to visualise and analyse will be increasingly sought after. For instance, last year the Environment Agency released its suite of LiDAR data through Open Data Licensing. This allows us to make site-level terrain analysis a quicker and more accurate procedure, resulting in our ability to put forward more robust development opportunities.

Data visualisation techniques help convey this information to our clients and we are embracing this smart-tech approach. Alongside our site selection work, we have also been developing a bespoke product for clients in the form of interactive web-maps. The existing and widespread rogues gallery of slow-to-load mapping sites can be overhauled in favour of a speedier, better looking and completely customisable technology. They are capable of housing any of our design work alongside a wealth of socioeconomic and planning-driven datasets to ultimately deliver a level of transparency we would struggle to achieve with conventional reports.

At last year’s Prospex Oil and Gas Conference, we demonstrated our intelligent site selection tool in the form of a video. This helped us show that by using smart tech we can streamline site searches, whilst also provided a mouthpiece, for me at least, to begin evangelising about the benefits.

Having worked in the Spatial Information sector for so long I have seen the full range of mapping systems integration and unfortunately too few companies are using them to their full potential. Using GIS solely as a cartographic tool limits a company’s ability to unlock those relationships between datasets that enhance our understanding of the geographies that surround us.

The generating of an holistic view of many interconnected datasets, location intelligence, data visualisation and smart technology should be allowing companies to not just level the playing field but now skew it in their favour, with more accurate, evidence-based results.

Essentially, the ability to make better-informed decisions is now open to everyone – so long as they’re willing to use the tools available to check what considerations they really should be taking into account.

You can watch our GIS site selection video here.

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Oil & Gas, GIS, Location Intelligence, Site Selection