What to watch this year for location technology and location-based services
2019 promises to generate large strides in location technology and adoption. The market has been primed with rapid technology advancements (especially within mobile phones) and consumer demand for frictionless, personalized experiences.
It’s an exciting time to be working in the location tech industry. My experience at Bluedot, combined with my work as an advisor to the Location Based Marketing Association, gives me a unique vantage point of the location industry and the evolution of its technology, market, and ecosystem.
Here are the top location data issues that brands, businesses, and developers should pay attention to in 2019.
Prioritizing Privacy Is Non-Negotiable
The location data and services industry is under siege as more stories surface, such as this article from NYT, of companies collecting and selling location data without consumer consent.
While 87% of consumers are willing to share their activity data in exchange for more personalized rewards and engagement, privacy isn’t an afterthought. It’s now a mainstream concern as consumers demand more privacy and greater transparency around what, how, and when their data is being used.
For example, suppose an app uses your location to identify when you get to a quick-service restaurant drive-thru so your order is ready and waiting for you. The only location data the app should collect should be related to your drive-thru experience.
However, companies often collect and use location data for purposes other than what’s stated in their app description or user license agreement. If I, as a consumer, agree to give you access to my location data for the express purpose of improving mobile ordering and pick-up, you should not be identifying my personal residence.
While it’s never been okay to track users without their consent, these shady practices are now being publicly denounced and companies are being held accountable for their actions. This is forcing the industry to think carefully about the consumer, the value they receive, and innovative ways to deliver frictionless experiences without compromising their privacy.
For businesses, the key is striking a balance between being transparent, gaining insights to deliver better customer experiences, and using the data responsibly. Location technologies and platforms that understand this balance and strive to prioritize privacy will emerge as market leaders in 2019 and beyond.
Got Data, Now What? The Rise of AI and ML
As a technologist, I love watching emerging trends and trying to combine our technology with other areas of research and technological advancements to see how we can drive deep structural progress in our field.
To date, much of that energy has been spent translating data and numbers into an actionable strategy. What does the data say? What’s the story? What patterns might there be? Can we predict churn or future loss to competition based on today’s real-world visits? However, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
I’ve spent significant time looking into the emerging applications of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). AI is being applied to everything including analyzing insurance claims, predicting when to email potential sales to close a deal quicker, and even analyzing wifi router data to measure the heartbeats of nearby human beings to identify their emotional state.
In our industry, AI and ML have currently focused on data collected, providing patterns into consumer behaviors. But much more is possible when AI and ML are used to make the collection and location triggering process even better.
This is where artificial intelligence and machine learning make things exciting. We can use AI and ML to increase the quality of location data gathered at key locations. This will help to drive deeper and more advanced use cases across industries beyond the typical retail space, in areas such as transport, tolling, drive-thrus, unattended retail, and more.
Companies can implement cutting-edge experiences that wow customers. These innovations are happening around us — currently in small scale but will become the standard over the next few years. For instance, Amazon Go is a cashier-less convenience store powered by location. Or consider a nationwide automated payment for bridge and toll crossings.
Location can also power human capital management for field services such as pharmaceutical visits by reps, security personnel routing, janitorial services, or even dog walkers.
Battery Performance: the Ongoing Challenge
And last, but not least, a word on battery performance for our industry. Over the last several years we’ve seen an increasing focus on battery performance within mobile operating systems and mobile device manufacturers.
While smartphone batteries are getting better and better, the increase in size, brightness of screens, and the power of cameras are offsetting the gains made in battery technology. This means consumers are not seeing the outright advances in battery life.
Operating systems and manufacturers have introduced battery saving measures such as Google’s Doze mode. These new frameworks identify battery hungry apps and warn consumers of their battery consumption. These frameworks also shut off apps’ abilities to access sensors, data, and memory on the phone.
Battery performance will continue to be an ongoing struggle for app developers and location data providers alike. This is why it’s imperative to understand location-based battery consumption for the end users and how location providers address these issues now and in the near future.
Just because you can have “always-on” location doesn’t mean you should. After all, you may risk brand erosion or worse yet, app deletion if you haven’t properly thought through the tech and strategy.
Ready, Set… Locate Excellence
It’s an exciting time for location technologies. Bluedot stands at the forefront of innovation within our industry while balancing the wellbeing of end customers.
I firmly believe it’s possible to deliver excellent consumer experiences without compromising privacy or battery life. Part of the challenge (and opportunity!) for the location industry is making the most efficient use of all the latest innovations — whether for battery performance, OS, AI, or other related technologies.
My job is to ensure Bluedot walks this line. I wake up every day excited to do this work. Bring on 2019 — I’m looking forward to what’s in store for Bluedot and the location industry as a whole.
PS. Have you thought about geo-conquesting?
And for our marketers, let me share one of the more exciting trends I’ve noticed for 2019: physical store conquesting, aka geo-conquesting. Conquesting is no longer just about digital ads. Marketers are executing this in the real world. Some call this store competition, billboard competition or even trolling competition. Nonetheless, the takeaway is that it’s engaging, actionable and effective.
Some brands — like Burger King — have run seasonal campaigns to not only draw customers away from their competitors but also to boost app downloads. Brands and business have a massive opportunity to dominate the market by developing and executing competitive strategies such as ongoing geo-conquesting.
Geo-conquesting: n. a marketing strategy to win over competitors’ customers using location — engaging consumers when they are physically in or around your competitors’ store.
This might involve geofencing competitor billboards, recognizing when a customer passes the billboard and then retargeting customers at the right time, whether now or later. Brands could also gamify the customer’s experience based on competitor locations.
Geo-conquesting could be the next big move for businesses.
Filip Eldic, Author
Filip is the Chief Product Officer at Bluedot and a Board Member of the Location Based Marketing Association (LBMA)
Bluedot helps brands and enterprises understand their customers’ physical behaviors. We deliver precise, first-person location data, via the brand’s mobile app, to compliment digital profiles and wow customers.