Natashainagearrows03The word “occupy” has taken on new meaning in the last two months with the momentum building globally around the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. On November 15, 2011, the United States sadly lost the moral high ground when federal, state, and municipal authorities sanctioned the violent suppression of the movement by raiding the N.Y. encampment at Zucotti Park, pepper spraying protesters in N.Y. and Oakland, and using sound canons against peaceful protesters.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement is about much more than greedy bankers and blaming them for the global economic recession. This is perhaps what is scaring the Michael Bloombergs of the world. OWS is fundamentally about what is insidiously wrong with the short-sighted view of business and government today. More importantly, it doesn’t have to be that way.

The history of the world, rightfully or wrongfully, has been about the exploitation of resources – land (and water), labor, and capital. As much as I hate to characterize human beings as an inanimate resource, unfortunately such is the case amidst the human resources departments, human capital consulting practices, and the all-too-referenced “spreadsheet people.” The OWS Movement is raising fundamental questions about sustainability – the effective and viable allocation of resources – and about trust and accountability.

This issue of LBx Journal is focused on sustainability and how location- based technologies are used to support sustainable businesses and business practices in the effective allocation of resources. In this issue, we look specifically at utility-scale solar facilities, aquaculture, insurance, and the open standards and software that enable the development of location-based systems. Why are location-based systems so important? Because when you can connect all the attributes associated with a place, you can answer not only the what, why, where, when, and how questions, but the should question. And the should question gets to the heart of the OWS movement.

I have a personal motto of “just because you can doesn’t mean that you should.” Often times when people ask themselves whether they can do something, the questions revolve around:

“Is it legal?”
“Do we have the rights to do it?”
“Do we have the means to pull it off?”

These are the easy questions. But answering the should question requires
a lot more information than the usual inputs of the can question, such as:

“Who will it impact?”
“What are the long-term costs?”
“What are the true costs of the product or service?” (For example the cost of producing a product must include what economists call externalities such as pollution, healthcare costs, resource depletion, toxic mortgages…).

The should question requires a lot more deliberation, and consideration of multiple variables. Location technologies connect the dots that have been previously difficult to connect, especially on a large scale. Examples include interactive maps that enable you to see the connections between things and places, to GPS-enabled sensors that broadcast information about things in places.

Location-based technologies create much-needed transparency into the ways of business, the methods of production and manufacturing, and the distribution of resources that enable people to see into and understand what government and businesses are doing. Transparency has been a double-edged sword for many years for many businesses. However, it is time for businesses to embrace transparency at all levels and rekindle the badly damaged social contract with employees and customers.

Sustainability requires a system of functioning checks and balances and critical thinking. Neither has been part of conventional vernacular for years. Every check and balance institution has been co-opted and corrupted from the media, to Congress, to the courts, to interlocking boards of directors. But thanks to the Internet, that is hopefully starting to change. With location information, checks and balances can be restored, because location information provides context for practically everything.

We depend on location technologies for so many basic everyday communications, emergency response, and navigation needs such as e911, directions, crisis management … In my opinion, location technologies combined with social and mobile technologies are the basis of a new paradigm in thinking that will promote trans- parent, accountable, and sustainable private and public sector practices. Google Earth, Bing, Twitter and Facebook have democratized the distribution of information and have brought attention to errant business and government practices.

Therefore, I have a call to action: #OccupyLocation. Incorporate location awareness into everything that you do. Get educated on location – the platforms, the data, the applications, the technologies, the services. Know your satellite imagery providers and request imagery of what’s happening around you and impacting you and your business. Bring location thinking into your organization; make it an integral part of strategic planning and forecasting, risk management, asset management, customer service and experience, marketing, and finance. #OccupyLocation.