Using Contextual Awareness, Qualcomm Labs Targets Tokyo

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Japanese ad agency Dentsu has teamed up with Recruit Co., the company that powers the Japanese equivalents of Groupon and Yelp, and Qualcomm Labs to create a massive location-based marketing campaign in Tokyo. The campaign builds upon the technology provider’s newly released contextual-awareness software development kit, Gimbal, to dynamically distribute offers to consumers by synthesizing a user’s location and social graph without draining a product’s battery life.

Launched earlier this year in beta, Qualcomm Labs’ Gimbal offers application developers a way to synthesize the various sensor inputs collected by a mobile device — everything from location to camera — into actionable insight into the context of a user. A big part of that sensor stack is an always-on geofencing solution that can leverage the location while an application is turned off without killing a user’s battery — one of the major technological barriers in location tech. The software development kit then synthesizes the current location with historical data (where has the user gone in the past) and that user’s social graph to determine a user’s relationship with a location.

“You might be on the street in Tokyo and near the Ginza, and there’s a sushi offer geofenced close to where you are, and they do the analytics to understand if you’re close to the store; that’s the first step,” said Ian Heidt, director of product at Qualcomm Labs, about the campaign. “Recruit then takes another wrinkle off location by only surfacing the offer if you’re close to a place where you go frequently.”

Heidt said adding indicators like habit into the targeting mix has more than tripled the normal response rate of the existing targeting technology for Recruit’s campaign. In addition to historical data, the campaign also layers in social data to determine, say, whether a user is at a restaurant as a patron or employee.

And while Japanese consumers notoriously live on the bleeding edge when it comes to mobile, Heidt believes that the geographic and signal density of Tokyo served as one of the hardest use cases for implementing an an effective location campaign. Recruit plans to bring the campaign to China in January.

Gimbal is one of a handful of contextual awareness tools built around a dynamic approach to data that looks at a user’s entire data footprint, rather than just a single point, to create unique experiences around context. On the consumer side, that includes features like Google Now showing a different card if the person is at a restaurant or an airport. And for developer-facing tools like Gimbal and Placed (out of Seattle), that means helping marketers serve up ads that take in location based on personal, rather than third-party context.

“You’re going to start to see the way in which people think about how services should be delivered transform from a static to dynamic, real-time model that just doesn’t fit the interest at all,” Heidt said. “The Internet is ‘I request a web page and it returns to me the same content I’m used to.’ Context, as a category of grouping all these inputs so that you can make all these dynamic personalization, is the body of work that will enable a windfall of new products and experiences.”

Contextual awareness offers hyperlocal marketers a rare opportunity to again solve an information problem. The emergence of the local web crushed marketers’ basic value proposition for consumers by essentially providing transparency at cost. But as information delivery once again centers around “push,” marketers have a channel to help connect the dots for consumers.

Steven Jacobs is deputy editor of Street Fight.