IBM, Mapbox Add Geospatial Analytics to Watson, Cognos

IBM and Mapbox have teamed up to bring geospatial analytics to the Watson Analytics and Cognos Analytics platforms.

IBM Watson

IBM announced that it has joined forces with Mapbox to bring geospatial analysis or mapping to business users.

Together, the companies are integrating the Mapbox scalable vector graphics-based maps with IBM's Watson Analytics and Cognos Analytics. Mapbox offers an open-source mapping platform for custom designed maps. The company's APIs and SDKs are the building blocks to integrate location into any mobile or web app, IBM said.

Watson Analytics, IBM's data analysis solution in the cloud, is designed to enable business users to easily access analytical insights without complex software or expert assistance. IBM refers to the solution as an on-ramp to the cognitive era and says it empowers a new generation of "citizen analysts." The solution provides data discovery and predictive analytics with automatic visualizations.

IBM's Cognos Analytics is an IBM business intelligence solution that provides users with self-service data discovery and reporting. It has been redesigned to resemble Watson Analytics.

The addition of Mapbox's capabilities opens up a new level of analytics to business users, IBM said.

"Business users will be able to get insights into patterns in their location-related business data that apply to the world, its regions and all the way down to levels such as street, zip code and points of interest," David Clement, portfolio marketing manager for Watson Analytics, wrote in a blog post.

IBM's agreement with Mapbox is the foundation for Big Blue's investment in geospatial analytics. With this integration, Cognos dashboards and reports will be integrated with advanced mapping capabilities enabling the design and publishing of highly visual maps.

Moreover, Watson Analytics will offer the ability to create custom maps that solve specific business cases with the possibility of adding natural language processing to geospatial insights, IBM said. For example, users could get quick analysis on the top sales territories per volume for a specific region. Also with the new geospatial analytics capabilities, users will be able to easily access information such as product sales by store.

"We've chosen to work with Mapbox because they are revolutionizing the mapping industry with high-performance, highly scalable vector graphics-based maps and a global cloud presence," Clement said. "The partnership will enable IBM to give our customers nearly unlimited opportunities to quickly categorize and identify key insights for retail, defense, insurance, utilities, natural resources, social sciences, medicine, public safety and more."

Meanwhile, IBM is bringing geospatial capabilities to on-premises and on-cloud deployments of Cognos Analytics. The capabilities are scheduled for release in December 2016 in Cognos Analytics 11.

"These capabilities will enable the design and publishing of highly visual maps alongside existing Cognos dashboards and reports," Matthew Mikell, portfolio marketing manager for Cognos Analytics, wrote in a blog post.

Mikell added that geospatial capabilities place a new "lens" on existing reports.

"Data from smartphones, GPS devices and social media has organizations anxious to factor in customer location, origin or destination, with time or day," he said. "Cognos Analytics, combined with the open data movement and Mapbox spatial analysis capabilities, reinvents the way you report and solve department problems in logistics, HR, supply chain, sale, and much more."

Clement noted that the Mapbox capabilities will be integrated with the existing Rapidly Adaptive Visualization Engine (RAVE) technology that powers visualization for both Watson Analytics and Cognos Analytics.

"By integrating Mapbox into Watson Analytics, we are opening up new opportunities for our customers who can use cognitive capabilities to identify new insights in geospatial data for more informed decision-making," Elcenora Martinez, director of product management for Watson Analytics, said in a statement.

Overall, the new collaboration between IBM and Mapbox should certainly benefit both companies, along with a wide range of enterprise customers, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT

"It's hard to overemphasize the importance of location-based information to private and public sector organizations of virtually every kind," King said. "The geospatial information provided through IBM's new partnership with Mapbox will be used to identify insights and analyze key points for companies."