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Alter Everything

A podcast about data science and analytics culture.

Location, location, location! Spatial analytics is carving the way for business across the world. Luckily, Alteryx Location Intelligence has your back by lowering the barrier of entry to geospatial analytics and access to things like access to third-party data. Data is as frictionless and easy as possible to use for anyone! Listen in to hear sales engineer Samantha Clifton and product manager Jeffrey Van Rees take a deep dive into what makes Location Intelligence so special.











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Episode Transcription

Ep 145 Location Intelligence  

[00:00:00] Megan: Hey Alter Everything listeners! We know that turning raw data into insights can be time consuming and challenging, but we've got good news for you. Alteryx can transform your analytics. Alteryx drives positive business outcomes by enabling fast, data driven decisions. And you can try out our products today.

Start your 30 day free trial of Alteryx Desktop or the Analytics Cloud Platform at alteryx. com slash alter everything.

Welcome to Alter Everything, a podcast about data science and analytics culture. Imagine you have a ton of data about your potential customers. You want to open a store for your business and meet demand. But the question is, where? Enter Location Intelligence, Alteryx's cloud offering for spatial analytics.

which helps you answer the all important where question. I'm Megan Dibble, and today I'm talking with my colleagues Samantha Clifton and Jeffrey Van Rees about how Alteryx is putting spatial analytics back on the map. Let's get started.

Hi, Samantha. Hi, Jeff. It's great to have you on our podcast today. Could you both tell me a little bit about what your roles are at Alteryx and what your backgrounds are with spatial 

[00:01:17] Jeff: analytics? Uh, absolutely. Thanks for having us today, Megan. Uh, I'm Jeff Van Rees. I'm the product manager of Geospatial here at Alteryx that covers our current spatial functionality and designer desktop, our business and location insights data packages.

And what we're talking about today, location intelligence and the Alteryx analytics cloud. I am an internal hire. I was actually on the data products team before joining the dark side of product management. I have my master's degree, uh, in cartography and GIS development from the university of Wisconsin, Madison.

And previously I worked as a cartographer for MapQuest and before that I was a DoD contractor helping out with risk assessments on military bases around the country. Very 

[00:02:05] Samantha: cool. Hi everyone. I'm Samantha Clifton. I'm a sales engineer here at Alteryx. I'm actually a customer hire. I previously worked at Sainsbury's and Avon, which are retail organizations here in EMEA.

My background is that I've had a good 20 or so years working in data and geospatial on the customer side. I have an MPhil in geographical information science from Cambridge, and I previously worked in local government as a cartographer as well. So know exactly what Jeff is talking about. 

[00:02:39] Megan: Awesome. Two cartographers.

I don't know that I've ever sat down with two cartographers, so I'm excited. And we're going to be talking a lot about spatial data. So Jeff, I'd love if you could tell us some of the advantages of analyzing spatial data specifically in the cloud. 

[00:02:57] Jeff: Absolutely. You know, everyone is moving to the cloud.

According to Gartner, 75 percent of organizations say they're planning for their analytics environments to, to be deployed in the cloud, or they're already there. And Alteryx location intelligence, you know, is a cloud first self service and unified enterprise grade product. Cloud computing platforms are accessible from anywhere with an internet connection on any device.

That means you can access your data and analysis tools from anywhere, which can be very convenient for remote workers. Teams that are spread out geographically, or if you're just on a Mac. It's also where the growth of the industry is. Spatial data is becoming larger and more complex. Thus, we've really built Location Intelligence to be a cloud first geospatial solution, with a focus on data sources like snowflakes, and having a mapping experience that can scale to things like simultaneous users hitting the map, and also the ever increasing data sizes that we are seeing with spatial data.

But another theme of location intelligence is spatial for all. One of the biggest barriers to entry to spatial is ease of use and lack of user skills. Those were top challenges cited by organizations that were adopting location intelligence solutions. We tackled reimagining spatial in the cloud with the spatial for all theme.

We really want to lower the barrier of entry to geospatial analytics and location intelligence. And make things like access to third party data as frictionless and easy as possible for the user. 

[00:04:34] Megan: That's great to hear because sometimes spatial analytics can be intimidating. It was for me, even using Designer, it feels like a whole new world in some ways.

Like a whole new kind of analysis that I wasn't used to as a data analyst. So I love to hear that we're really trying to expand it to make it accessible for everybody. 

[00:04:53] Jeff: Yeah, absolutely. The spatial tools in Designer Desktop are great. But we're, we're trying to turn everyone into a spatial power user. You can't all be a Sammy or a Jeff.

Uh, so we want to upskill those users into being those geospatial power users like us. 

[00:05:08] Megan: And then, yeah, I would appreciate it if you could provide an overview of the current offerings for Alteryx Location Intelligence and. What some use cases could 

[00:05:19] Jeff: be. Let me talk about the, the features that we have available.

The data journey for any sort of data analysis starts with input. So we've recently launched new features like bringing in CSV files with latitude and longitude, in addition to supporting snowflake sources. So that can be either a snowflake table that has a geometry or a geography column, or you can also create points from that snowflake table.

We also have spatial file uploads like Geo Parquet, Shapefiles, and Google Earth KML files. And what we're here to talk about today is our latest and greatest feature, which is address geocoding. We're starting to bring that differentiating location insights functionality into location intelligence.

We've had a long standing partnership with TomTom for years. And we're extending that into the cloud. Uh, the only difference is location intelligence has global coverage. So whether you're geocoding distribution centers in Dubai, targeting customers in Buenos Aires, uh, selecting sites in New York City, you can do it all in location intelligence.

And once you've brought that data in, that's when you can really start solving your problem. So once you've geocoded those points on your map, uh, you can really explore the data with that highly performant interactive map. You can create a thematic choropleth map, or you can also style, create a bubble map by styling by radius.

And we've done this just in time for you to test out during the GIS 30 day map challenge. And of course, the, yeah, the core of the application comes with analysis. So you can aggregate data from one layer to another with Summarize Bay Area, or you can create areas of influence with our trade area analysis.

Now our core use case, I would say is really location analytics. So the first part of the site selection process is really site analysis and really understanding. What is your data and exploring it and then aggregating it together to understand what attributes are associated with your highest performing locations.

And then that can help you investigate what are going to be new locations that I can explore because you want to, you want your new locations to reflect your highest performing locations. That's really where we've started with location intelligence. 

[00:07:46] Megan: Awesome. Yeah. That's really exciting. All the new developments and new releases that are happening.

So I'm curious when you're actually using Location Intelligence, what's the experience like? 

[00:07:59] Jeff: We've described the Location Intelligence experiences almost like a Google Maps like experience. People are getting used to using mapping applications just in their day to day lives. So by going with a map first approach, we're really mirroring kind of this familiar experience that they have that you can visually see on the map and get that context for your data that can really lead to those aha moments that wouldn't be readily apparent with spreadsheet based analysis.

[00:08:30] Samantha: I love as a sales engineer, when I'm demoing location intelligence and I utilize the globe view. I love seeing their faces and their reactions because not everyone can go to GlobeView with the datasets and it's just nice to show a global dataset on a global sphere and see the reactions in the room. So yeah, you should try that out for yourselves 

[00:08:51] Megan: at home.

That sounds fun. That's 

[00:08:53] Jeff: awesome. One thing, you know, we're talking a lot about business value, but location intelligence honestly is just a very cool application. It is very slick and it has a big wow factor. So definitely go ahead and get your hands on it because we are definitely impressing people with how we've really brought Alteryx mapping into the 21st century compared to what we have in desktop today.

[00:09:19] Samantha: I agree with that, Jeff. I remember one of your early initiatives being the 80s called and they want their maps back. That made my day. 

[00:09:28] Jeff: In fairness, it was the 90s called. 

[00:09:30] Samantha: Oh, the 90s called. 

[00:09:34] Jeff: We're not quite that bad on desktop. Don't discount our old maps. Yeah, no, they still definitely have their place and have business value.

There's no easier way to create batch reports than the report map tool. But you know, location intelligence, it's a different kind of map. We're going for that. Yeah. Google Maps experience, highly interactive, incredibly performant, interactive back maps experience. We're really using the latest and greatest technology and the cloud first way of doing it.

That is how our maps are so performant and awesome. 

[00:10:06] Samantha: I also love the plan that you have, Jeff, around keeping the sort of desktop and cloud stitched together as well. You could be utilizing something in desktop with that pushing to cloud and utilizing location intelligence as that map first application, just proving as a business, how great we are at connecting our products and I just love that vision that you have.

[00:10:28] Jeff: Yeah, location diligence is definitely an, what we call internally an and proposition. It's, it's meant to be additive, not like just replace everything for like that desktop user, but there's definitely features and functionalities that our current customers would get from using the cloud and for using desktop.

So, you know, cloud, this is future state, but you know, you'll get things like sharing that frictionless access to data. But it's important to know that we are a spatial company and we have lots of spatial functionality as well. So it's not necessarily replacing those things and the spatial tools and designer aren't going away.

[00:11:07] Megan: Thanks for giving us an overview of that. Now, Samantha, I would love to hear how you've seen customers use spatial analytics and what users could gain from using location intelligence in the cloud. 

[00:11:22] Samantha: Personally, working at previous customers using spatial analytics, it's been really interesting using that within designer desktop.

It's always fab to get hold of the data and update the data and see what's new. The difficulties that we had in terms of a on premise deployment was that we were limited to updating our data to once a year. And so, although using the sort of spatial stuff and being able to really maximize that and get the most out of it, we were very limited in updating and seeing the latest features on our maps, really because we couldn't package that data more than once.

So for me, the movement to cloud is really opening up the accessibility to all of the users. Because they're not going to have to manage the data for themselves, but we are going to manage that data for them and give it a more timely presence. So they're not going to have to worry about packaging software.

They're not going to have to worry about packaging the data and deploying that internally because they're opening a browser that accessing that location information and the geocoding address information at the click of a button. So I see massive possibilities with location intelligence I swear that were on.

[00:12:41] Megan: Yeah, that's exciting that it's, I mean, I guess we mentioned this earlier too, like lowering the barrier to entry for this kind of analysis. Do you have any examples of the types of facial data that customers would analyze? 

[00:12:54] Samantha: Yeah, we've got loads from my, from my background. The analysis was very much about where are the people, where are we going to put our store, where's the friction, if we're talking about accessibility and things like that.

So yeah, there's a lot of data that's going to be available through this that's going to support users spatial analysis functions. 

[00:13:17] Megan: Awesome. So then for both of you, let's talk about some exciting developments for location intelligence. Could you share what you're looking forward to in the next six months?

[00:13:29] Jeff: Absolutely. Thanks for the great examples, Sammy. I can talk about the first one. We'll be expanding our integration with TomTom. We're starting with geocoding now, but we'll also have your time based trade areas, including drive times and also walk times. In the future, we'll have things like point to point routing in solving that traveling salesperson problem with optimized routing in location intelligence with a nice, easy to use one step solution.

Thank Super 

[00:13:58] Samantha: excited to hear about those walk drive times or walk times as they're called in location intelligence, Jeff, because you had to be somewhat of an expert to set them up in the on premise product and know the ins and outs of all the files underneath the hood to be able to achieve that. So I think our customers are going to really enjoy getting their hands on that one.

[00:14:17] Jeff: Yep. It's a little bit tricky to do today. But also, how we're doing it in cloud, it'll be able to take into account things like paths and trails. So, it'll be even more accurate than what you can do in the in market products today. In addition, we are going to be bringing our most popular spatial functionality from desktop, that really, any spatial application needs.

And that includes FindNearest and SpatialMatch. So, while we can do a join via an aggregation with SummarizeByArea today, something like SpatialMatch allows you to really query, like, who are the individual customers within my trade area. And of course, Find Nearest is bringing that distance based analysis to Location Intelligence.

[00:15:02] Samantha: Absolutely, they are the most common tools I think I used on a day to day basis as a customer. I don't think I could live without those, Jeff. So I'm pleased to hear they're coming soon. 

[00:15:12] Jeff: We'll also be bringing the foundation of our company into Location Intelligence and that's Census Data Enrichment.

Before Alteryx was even Alteryx, we had our first big success with a product called Allocate. Allocate still powers the demographics analysis tools in Alteryx today with its revolutionary block centroid retrieval methodology. And we'll be bringing that functionality with a brand new user experience that's more searchable and more discoverable to location intelligence.

So we're really respecting the history of our company by bringing this feature into location intelligence. Yeah, that's 

[00:15:49] Megan: exciting. I'm curious to hear from you both on what that looks like. Like, why would a customer need to enrich their data with census data? 

[00:15:58] Samantha: Yeah, so if you think about from a retail aspect and you drop a point and create a buffer, say, five miles away from that point, That point could be potential future store, for example, and you might want to look at maybe a five minute drive time or a five mile radius and using population information that Jeff's talking about or deep census information on statistics, financial information, you can then have a real good understanding of the catchment and surrounding areas to know if that's a good situation for you to invest in as a business.

So it's, it's quite fundamental, really, for any business to understand and enrich their data with a sort of census demographics. 

[00:16:45] Megan: That's awesome. That makes more sense. 

[00:16:47] Jeff: And I can add, everything about Spatial is about context. So if you think about the base map, it has things like roads, cities, rivers, boundaries, et cetera.

That's giving you context, like visual context to your data. Enrichment just in general gives you more localized context, like what is here? So that's why third party data and spatial really go hand in hand with each other. And they will always have here at Altrux because every spatial question is a where question.


Enrichment allows you to better define those where questions to make smarter investments for your business. So it's all about context. Solving spatial problems is all about bringing that context. Into your analytics. 

[00:17:47] Megan: Definitely, that's a great way to put it and that makes a lot of sense. I know in the past I've done analysis where I have some points and some latitudes and longitudes put it in a dashboard and it's just, it means nothing when you just put those points on a dashboard.

It's like, okay, these are just some dots on my, on my page. It looks nice, but like, what does it mean? So having the context of the census data plus. The routing, the walk and drive times, that's really cool. I'm picturing like going on Google maps and it tells you the walk time and all of that. That's super valuable for analysis as well.

So. Really exciting things to come. So thanks for sharing. And I'd love to end on just how can listeners get started with location intelligence, how can they implement some of the exciting things we've been talking about today? 

[00:18:38] Jeff: What you can actually do today is you can sign up for a free trial and start using location intelligence right now.

That's the great thing about the cloud. You can fill out that form and get access to location intelligence and start bringing in your data. And then I think, uh, Sammy also has some other things that she can talk about. So what else can people check out with location intelligence today, Sam? Well, we've got a number of 

[00:19:05] Samantha: blogs on community that you can reference to help get you started.

We've also got a lot of links to some open geospatial data as well as, um, useful macros to help make geoparker to understand what that's all about in terms of web GIS. So, yeah, I think Yeah, there's, there's a lot of information out there at the moment to help everyone understand what location intelligence 

[00:19:28] Megan: is.

Great. And we'll definitely be linking those blogs in our show notes for listeners that want to check them out. 

[00:19:34] Jeff: Be sure to check out any, our interactive lessons on community and our documentation on help. altrix. com if you want some help getting started with location intelligence. Although we have made it very easy and intuitive, so maybe you won't even need those things.

[00:19:53] Megan: Hopefully not, but they're there if you need them. I love it. Okay. Well, thank you both so much for joining me on the podcast today. It was great to hear about this awesome product, how it can be used. And it makes me excited for future developments. 

[00:20:06] Samantha: Thanks for having us, Micah. 

[00:20:08] Jeff: Yeah, thank you, Megan. 

[00:20:10] Megan: Thanks for listening.

To check out resources mentioned in this episode, like our blogs and interactive lessons for location intelligence, head over to our show notes on community. alltricks. com slash podcast. And if you liked today's episode, leave us a review. See you next time.

This episode was produced by Megan Dibble (@MeganDibble), Mike Cusic (@mikecusic), and Matt Rotundo (@AlteryxMatt). Special thanks to @andyuttley for the theme music track, and @mikecusic for our album artwork.