Local Data DJs Can Spin Their Own Around Locationary’s ‘Saturn’

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You might recall our discussion with Grant Ritchie from the place-data corp Locationary a while back. The company has since landed a couple million dollars to hire developers in an effort to produce a “powerful new local data management system,” MobileBeat reported at the time.

Seems the wait is over and Locationary is now unveiling Saturn, its shiny new beta product referred to as a “Federated Data Exchange Platform.” I queried Ritchie recently about what the system can do, and how location-based startups can use it.

Remember, Locationary’s motto is “Managing the World’s Local Data.” They help publishers (companies that build Web sites and mobile apps) “manage their local business profile information, and make it more detailed and accurate,” Ritchie said. “Our community also acts as ‘boots on the street’ to help participants find and fix business profile errors.”

Things get a little wonky here, but bear with us — Ritchie’s new release might actually have something for everyone.

What does Saturn mean for the future of Locationary?
Saturn is a new technology system that acts as a universal translator for local business profile information. It helps participants exchange business profile information even when they use different systems and formats that couldn’t otherwise “talk” to each other. As a result, Saturn helps local businesses update a participant once and automatically distribute their authorized updates to all Saturn-connected publishers.

Locationary is also working with Neustar, the Local Search Association (LSA) and others to create a national industry standard to manage and distribute every business’ “official data” (meaning, the information authorized by them). The Internet has a standard for sending email from any one to any one instantly, but there is no such standard for broadcasting official business information. Saturn’s success will bring about a new Internet where businesses can update their products, prices, coupons, deals, events, job postings, etc. and all mobile apps and websites will have access to the latest details in real-time.

Current local search state of affairs

Are you sort of laundering other people’s data?
Saturn does two things: 1) it makes it easy for participants to exchange this information with each other in real-time (currently updates can take 3-6 months to take effect), and 2) it identifies data that complies with the Official Data standard that the LSA is implementing, so that participating publishers can instantly recognize which data was authorized by the particular business’ owner.

It’s important to note that Saturn is only the exchange platform. Participants control what they share or receive, and with whom. Participants own and control their own data (and set their licensing prices) as they do now. Saturn just makes it easier to deliver data from one participant to many others.

Who is Saturn targeted at primarily?
Saturn is targeted to companies that wish to distribute or receive local data. These companies include the various Yellowpages publishers, search engines like Google and Bing, social networks like Facebook, mobile apps like Foursquare and Yelp, marketing agencies like ReachLocal, navigation products like Garmin, etc.

Typically, these companies are either using local business profile information in their websites or mobile apps, or are working with local businesses to help them with their online marketing. They’re typically integrating dozens of separate feeds from different data providers.

How many providers are delivering data to Saturn? How much is available (via API) to startups looking for clean feeds?
Right now, we’re running a beta trial, integrating various customers of Neustar, and members of the Local Search Association. We’re in the process of on-boarding their various data-sets and testing out the system. Neustar’s customers include practically every major search engine, large publisher, telco, and mobile operator (across 19 countries). The LSA has about 300 members, representing about 5 million local businesses (including all of the major Yellowpage publishers).

Please keep in mind that Saturn isn’t intended to be an API replacement for systems provided by Urban Airship (formerly SimpleGeo), CityGrid, or InfoChimps). These companies specialize in helping startups access and search local data information, and to incorporate it into their apps.

Saturn, rather, helps large publishers merge 10s or 100s of different feeds, containing hundreds of millions of places, and creating composite profiles for each local business containing the best information from the various feeds. These publishers will get back from Saturn a composite database of tens of millions of deep profiles that they’ll integrate into their production environments like they do now. Most startups would be ill-equipped to deal with this data in this form. Startups will still want to work with providers like CityGrid (who’s participating in the Saturn beta trial).

Ritchie explaining Saturn’s value

For publishers, Saturn will help them get access to official updates from the various LSA members, including the latest products, pricing and other details that change quickly. As a result, the publishers’ apps and websites will be more engaging for their users. Users, likewise, will be able to make better decisions, and save money by having access to accurate real-time business information at their fingertips in any app, and through any device.

Businesses will regain control over their business profiles across the web, and on mobile apps. They’ll have a system to distribute their info to reach more potential customers. Presently there’s no way for these businesses to fix misrepresentations, or to distribute their marketing or commercial details to every publisher that displays their profiles. They won’t have to re-verify themselves across various publishers, or worry that their data will be tampered with. Businesses will be able to update an LSA member once, and have these official details be instantly synchronized across every Saturn participant.

 Like data DJs, publishers can mash-up data to create a unique composite based on their needs, from the highest quality data…

Is competitor data merged or co-mingled? If not, how are you enabling a singular clean data creator?
Think of Saturn as a type of Dropbox for local data. If you’re a data provider, you can put your local data in a private cloud storage area and decide which publishers you want to distribute some or all of it to. Whatever you authorize others to access becomes available to them, in the format that they use. You update data in your format, and Saturn automatically translates the data into the formats of your various recipients, matched to the place IDs that they use.

For a publisher, you can subscribe to data feeds from various data providers and merge this data into a composite based on your preferences. For example, you might prefer telephone numbers from a particular feed that you believe has higher quality. Like data DJs, publishers can mash-up data to create a unique composite based on their needs, from the highest quality data from across all the various feeds that they have access to.

Where does the money get exchanged? Subscriptions to use Saturn to ingest data or to access data?
Data providers might charge publishers to have access to their data, and Saturn can help facilitate these premium feeds (by tracking usage, and collecting and remitting fees).

Participants pay to use Saturn like publishers pay to use Amazon’s cloud services like EC2. Saturn’s model is that “data in” is free, “data out” has a small delivery charge. In addition, for publishers that wish to reduce their data cleaning costs, or who don’t have a call center or existing staff to track down and fix or verify data errors, they can use Locationary’s trusted community. There is additional data cleaning / collection fees for publishers that take advantage of this integrated service.

The company noted those wanting more information could ping [email protected] or hit the Public Beta button on the homepage.

Rick Robinson’s Turf Talk column appears every Wednesday on Street Fight. Follow him @Loclly