A brand new era of powerful yet affordable, intuitive and interactive mapping for business applications is ushered in with the launch of GeoXploit, a complete mapping software and data package from UK company MapMechanics.
GeoXploit takes users far beyond existing budget mapping and software and "prosumer" mapping products, introducing powerful presentational, thematic and analytical capabilities more typical of a high-end GIS (geographic information system). Yet it does all this straight out of the box, using a range of inclusive, pre-configured digital map data and supporting business and demographic data – enabling users to bypass the learning curve that would usually be involved in using such a refined product.
Moreover, GeoXploit brings users all this power and capability at an unprecedented price point. For £3,495 + VAT, users gain a sophisticated mapping software application, plus ready-to-use UK street mapping and licensed access to aerial photography from some of the big names in the mapping world, along with a range of map-related data such as population and social class data, postcodes and business delivery points. Training and technical support are also included.
Users frustrated with the limitations of their existing mapping products can take a leap forward in the power and range of their capabilities by switching to GeoXploit; yet since all the components are configured to work together from day one, it will also appeal to users with limited previous experience of mapping on computers.
Because GeoXploit is so quick and convenient to set up and start using, and includes so much mapping and data as standard, for non-specialist users in particular it offers a much faster return on investment than classic business GIS.
"People expect mapping in business these days," says Chris Greenwood, MapMechanics’ managing director. "It’s no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ add-on to presentations and analysis, it’s an essential feature. But basic web-based mapping has many limitations – you can’t easily incorporate your own data and do your own analysis on it – and established budget desktop mapping applications put a ceiling on the range of capabilities they offer to users."
He adds: "GeoXploit breaks through that ceiling, whilst keeping faith with users who are accustomed to an out-of-the-box approach. It takes everyday business mapping to a new level, but its pricing and usability keep it within everyday users’ reach."
The secret of GeoXploit’s balance of usability and power lies in the combination of elements that make it up. The underlying software is powered by GeoConcept, one of the world’s most widely-used and advanced mapping and GIS products. Users who become proficient with GeoXploit’s pre-set features can go on to take advantage of GeoConcept’s more advanced capabilities – all within the standard price. No features have been suppressed in the GeoXploit version.
Hand in hand with the mapping engine is an inclusive range of mapping and other data from well-known names such as Royal Mail, NAVTEQ, Microsoft Bing, GfK and the Office of National Statistics.
MapMechanics has used its twenty years’ experience in computer-based mapping to combine all these elements in a package of unbeatable value – and has pre-configured them to work together without the usual set-up and learning processes typical of high-end GIS. As a result, users without deep experience of mapping software can quickly reach the point of displaying their own data on maps, colour-coded where appropriate, in order to plot, review and analyse information with a geographical element.
The UK street-level mapping is highly detailed (including for instance railways, counties and water features), and allows users to zoom in closely enough to create walking-range catchments as well as drivetimes (both of these are among many pre-configured functions).
A special feature of the street mapping is Smart Label, which ensures road names are repositioned dynamically to avoid overlap and prevent part of a name disappearing off the edge of the screen.
No fewer than 2.3 million UK postcode locations are included – current and past, full or partial – to enable GeoXploit to position data appropriately on the map. Users can see instantly where they have clusters of customers / complaints / late deliveries / high-value orders / patients with special needs and so on.
The demographic data, which includes Census data, makes it possible to produce ready-made shaded maps showing UK population distribution by age at postcode sector, district and area levels. GeoXploit allows users to calculate their own market penetration within each age band. Boundaries at all these levels make it easy to undertake analysis and create franchise areas, sales territories, store catchments or depot delivery areas.
Not only are social class maps supplied read-made; the data has also been pre-linked to postcode sectors, districts and areas, making it a simple matter for users to identify trends and new opportunities according to social class.
On the business front, the package includes Royal Mail delivery point classifications, which indicate number of businesses by size in each sector, district and area – ideal for quick business-to-business market penetration analysis.
The inclusive aerial photography allows users to display locations and business information against a vivid graphical background – something increasingly expected by customers familiar with online mapping. It is easy to spot pedetrianised or industrial areas, highlighting instances of strong or weak demand, and growth opportunities.
A whole range of other commonly-used mapping processes are pre-configured, saving users from having to set them up from scratch. There are pre-set queries to find specific groups of data such as "select all my customers that lie within…". There are many ready-made analytical maps that display instantly (for instance, postcode sectors shaded by social class or the distribution of the user’s own data). There are ready-made drivetime catchments around towns, together with a simple pre-set dialogue box to enable users to make their own driving or walking catchments. And the built-in "redistricting" tool enables users to help balance deliveries or visits between territories.
GeoXploit supports drag-and-drop importing of users’ own data from spreadsheets, databases or text files via an "import" wizard, and automatically finds the location of each item from its postcode and plots it on the map. This is where the unique GeoXploit postcode location file is so important, ensuring that the system is able to allocate user data to the most appropriate location even if the user’s information is out of date or incomplete.
GeoXploit includes 90 days’ technical support via email, phone or online, and the period can be extended to a full year for a modest fee. Online access to training is also included, and is offered in a range of formats and levels of detail to suit anyone from beginners to more experienced people. There are pre-set levels to make it easier to use.
Who can use GeoXploit?
GeoXploit is designed to appeal to a broad range of users, from small private businesses and consultancies to personnel in large organisations who may be specialists in their own field, but not GIS experts. Typical examples include:
A sales manager: balancing sales territories, planning efficient routes for sales visits and analysing trends, using colour-coded mapping to identify areas that are likely to include more prospects with a high propensity to buy.
A transport manager: identifying gaps and overlaps in delivery areas, calculating prices on the basis of journey length, finding nearest depot to each customer, balancing depot coverage.
A retailer: analysing store location, calculating drivetimes to stores, mapping competitors.
A market analyst: mapping response to offers and surveys, measuring return on investment, identifying correlation between response and demographics of each area.
Chris Greenwood sums up: "GeoXploit fills a major gap in the digital mapping market. It’s an entry-level geographic information system with a built-in upgrade path. You can start off by using the supplied data and pre-configured processes, and achieve a lot just sticking to these. But if you want to import you own maps and explore the full potential of the underlying mapping engine, there’s almost no limit to how far you can push the system."