GPS Data on POI Factory and its Relevance for GIS


Today on reddit’s ‘Data is Beautiful’ subreddit, I found this gem of an image “The Geography of Coffee”. Along with reading the comments of which many brought up the point that clearly, America does not “run on Dunkin'”, other coffee brands and shops that seemed to be more regional were mentioned. It was interesting to see the chains of coffee brands and their regional locations, and I’m sure they would have added more to the map instead of the dichotomy of Starbucks versus Dunkin’ Donuts. One important factor I thought was missing were numbers attached to the hexes, since there was no scale provided to assess the data. Other redditors pointed out that Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts data was available, which is constantly updated by anyone using GPS satellites. Reviewing this, Starbucks currently has over 11,600 locations versus Dunkin’ Donuts at approximately 7,500.

After some more research, I noticed that Dunkin Donuts has been around 21 years more than Starbucks, yet has over 4,000 less locations than its competitor- at least within the U.S. and Canada. From my brief search I found that Starbucks has over 20,000 locations throughout 65 countries compared to Dunkin’ Donuts’ meager 11,000 throughout 33 countries. I’ve hypothesized some reasons for why Starbucks is clearly running the nation, but these are just strictly my opinions. One reason could be Starbucks marketing techniques, such as where they get their coffee from and its equitable and fair trade logos. Since they publicize their coffee brands based on the locations of where the coffee is coming from, as well as preserving their image with community partners, it makes them seem more “global” and I’m sure aids in their ability to expand locations across the U.S. and maybe internationally. They are very concerned about their image and relationships with their coffee providers from what I’ve noticed; you can even get a feel for this by visiting their site (they have an entire page for Global Responsibility). Another reason could also be that Dunkin’ Donuts started out as a small company based out of Quincy, MA and has opted to maintain its New England roots and profit from their expansion- hence why you sometimes see one Dunkin’ Donuts across the street from another. In my experience, people from the Boston area tend to have a lot of pride associated with their origin to the city, as well as their loyalty to Dunks. I’m not here to make judgements on coffee, but I did think the data was interesting and got me to research a bit about both companies, and question their images and ethics. You drink what you want to drink.

More importantly besides the coffee companies is that all of this data was reported through GPS satellite locations! When I looked at the map I decided to visit the website in the bottom corner which brought me to POI Factory. I can envision this site become extremely useful to me as I develop into a planner and especially after I learn GIS thoroughly this upcoming semester. Their About page states, “POI Factory is a web site where GPS users get together to share interesting locations and talk about GPS. We have friendly discussion forums and a growing collection of POI files, icons, and sounds for the United States and Canada.” They have a search bar which allows you to look up a multitude of data, especially for company locations and other points of interest. The front page displays ‘Most Popular’ Files and once you’re registered you can join in on the conversations or even contribute your own data.

Last week I finished a week-long introductory course to GIS, and I had the grueling taste of trying to find my own data, alter it, then add it to ArcGIS. Someone in the class asked “What if I wanted to map the number of ice cream store locations throughout Massachusetts, how would I find that data?” Though it still would not be the easiest task (I assume) since it may be difficult to find all stores which would include independent small shops as well as ice cream chains, a site like POI Factory could really be useful in finding some of that data. The community seems open to working on new projects, and usually someone is already working on it by the time someone has asked if it exists, and thus creates a collaboration! Much of the downloadable data comes in CSV files, so you can import it into Excel and then into ArcGIS (after modifying). I am very excited that I’ve found this site and I hope you give it a visit and that it is useful to you in future mapping and location-oriented data, or just making generalizations about why one coffee company is ruling more of North American than another.

For more information about the companies, see Starbucks here and Dunkin’ Donuts here and here.