A look at how big data visualization tools are providing further insight for information professionals.
Business directories of decades ago were in print form and evolved to become online, sophisticated databases with tagging, indexing and filtering capabilities. Now, many tools are providing mapping technology that not only shows where businesses are located, but shows entire business clusters and industry ecosystems. These mapping business tools allow the user to see insights and patterns that a simple list of companies may not convey.
Tools That Map Businesses and Industries
Most people are aware of services like Google Maps and Yelp, which provide location details of companies. More business-oriented tools, however, have started to address the needs of the information professionals audience, in providing sophisticated tools for mapping businesses and startups. Below, are some business and industry mapping initiatives that are accessible on the Internet.
Factual Places is a large data set of aggregated business directory information from various resources like Foursquare, Yahoo! Local and even Instagram. By searching for a type of company, such as manufacturing entities, listings of businesses are provided with addresses, websites and plotting of locations on a colorful map. Real-time metrics of a given search are provided, such as searching for digital marketing agencies in Florida and immediately seeing counts of agencies in Miami, Tampa and Orlando – all mapped. This resource can even be helpful to map service professions like mapping the location of dentists in Dallas, Texas or finding all the florists within a 100 mile radius Albany, New York.
Focusing on the startup ecosystem, Startup Blink offers a colorful map of the hubs for upstart companies. A global map immediately shows colorful circles that show the number of startups in that particular geography. By putting in parameters such as type of business and exact location, the map will zoom in on that area. This resource can map the startups involved in 3D printing in Germany, for instance.
Niche mapping tools are also available, such as the Pennsylvania Life Sciences Ecosystem map. This resource shows a multi-color map of Pennsylvania with a side bar for navigation to find life sciences companies. Each type of business has a count of firms and also has a unique color. By selecting an industry such as devices, the map will show the exact locations of over 100 medical device companies in the state. When clicking on the particular company, the resource shows a brief description of the firm’s activities.
The U.S. Cluster Mapping site, an initiative by Harvard Business School and U.S. Economic Development Administration, provides visualization of the nation’s ongoing business ecosystems. A researcher can search by industry or geography. An example of a search would be to select “Wood Products” and then the tool will show vivid infographics about that sector, such as a bar graph of the top states that produce wood products. Employment levels are also displayed visually. The tool can pinpoint clusters by metropolitan statistical area or by county, as well. The site even maintains a list of other organizations that are maintaining their own map clustering initiatives.
As online business and industry databases continue to develop, even more sophisticated technologies may develop. Such innovations as 3D mapping, geospatial imaging and even indoor heat mapping are already underway by some vendors. Visualized big data business insights may soon be able to be in the hands of even the casual Internet researcher.
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