On Location Intelligence: New Buzz, Familiar Players

By Joe Francica

When we at Directions Magazine started the Location Intelligence Conference six years ago, the original name was "Location Technology and Business Intelligence." Now it's recognized solely as Location Intelligence (LI). In 2004, we invited the top business intelligence (BI) firms to participate and they did so, albeit reluctantly. Companies such as Siebel, TIBCO, Group 1, Information Builders, SAS and Business Objects that offered solutions from customer relationship management to business analytics met for the first time to constructively discuss synergies. After that event, however, they ignored the geospatial scene, save for a few mentions of business partnering arrangements with GIS companies like MapInfo (now PBBI) or ESRI, and only when there was money on the table.

Fast-forward to today and the situation has changed. Through several acquisitions of BI companies, Oracle has now gone the distance toward spatially enabling much of its application stack. Its "fusion" initiative took software products from PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, Siebel and others, and put them on the same Oracle foundation, thus opening the possibility that any application could use Oracle Spatial. That initiative is nearly complete. The result is a full quiver of software solution arrows with which to target IT managers who want to leverage geospatial technology to deploy a complete LI/BI solution.

At the Oracle Spatial User Group meeting last month in Phoenix, true LI/BI integration was on display. From smart grid applications to vineyard management, Oracle tapped users to roll out their projects. But while it was obvious that location technology was central to each project's analysis, there was always a sense that Oracle looks beyond the "cool factor" of maps. Oracle is tackling major data management and enterprise computing challenges encountered by companies like Comcast and XCEL Energy. So, while it is important to know what's new in Oracle Spatial from a product development viewpoint, it is equally significant to see how Oracle Spatial is being integrated into products like Primavera, a project management solution, and the Oracle Utilities application suite. In effect, Oracle is "flipping the switch" and turning spatial into a product feature when such a capability is needed. It will be daunting to compete against this company.

Microsoft, beware… we haven't heard much about geospatial and SQL Server integration lately… you are in danger of becoming a non-player. And IBM continues to play with ESRI only, and resists striking out on its own in what could be a missed opportunity. But I digress…

Enter Rolta, a rather quiet, nearly $300 million Mumbai-based consulting company that, also through acquisition, has acquired substantial expertise in business intelligence that incorporates geospatial technology. In fact, TUSC, a consulting company Rolta acquired in 2008, is expert in Oracle database technology and has received several awards (1,2) for its work. Rolta is linking geospatial to BI through its Geospatial Fusion platform, which it has termed "spatial business intelligence."

While Rolta can't compete with Oracle on software solutions, although it is giving it a go with its OnPoint product, Rolta could enter the market as the "go to" vendor for enterprise systems integration services. This sets up an interesting competitive landscape between Oracle and Rolta. While Rolta/TUSC has become a great partner of Oracle's, there is now a clear competitive situation developing, one Rolta must play judiciously.

With Oracle and Rolta, the LI landscape is now finally unearthing some players that are aggressively attacking the market. However, Pitney Bowes Business Insight (PBBI) has been in the ballgame for quite some time, offering a different approach than either Oracle or Rolta. Historically, MapInfo Professional has been PBBI's flagship solution, but it has recognized that the future is in software as a service (SaaS) and that approach offers the best competitive advantage, according to Mike Hickey, president of PBBI. While Hickey thinks that even in five years, desktop and server or "on premise" solutions will still comprise the majority of its revenue, he believes SaaS solutions will not be far behind. This year, Hickey has given his team the goal of developing 10 new SaaS solutions within the next 12 months.

Will PBBI play in the systems integration (SI) space as well? While the company offers many solutions for the mailstream and data quality sectors, it is not in the SI business. Will Alteryx (formerly SRC), which also likes to use the same tag line as Rolta (i.e. spatial business intelligence), try to compete or position itself to be acquired? Alteryx will struggle for brand recognition having just changed its name and become associated with the location intelligence market segment.

We were in the position to help start this ball rolling, so we'll be watching the next developments unfold with great interest.

Published Friday, May 21st, 2010

Written by Joe Francica

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