#LDS15 Gil Elbaz: Location Isn’t Just Where You Are

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Some of the most interesting opportunities being utilized in business today are enabled by an ever-growing, ever-changing entity: the data stream. Local data — information about the real world — can offer a small business a chance to redefine their strategy or help a global brand reach consumers in new ways.

“Location isn’t just where you are,” Gil Elbaz, chief executive at Factual, said during a fireside chat with Street Fight co-founder Laura Rich at Local Data Summit in Denver last Thursday. “It’s also what’s happening, who else is there, events, what are people buying. There’s a lot of information to synthesize.”

Elbaz, who came to prominence as founder of Applied Semantics, the technology behind Google’s AdWords product, defines “local data” broadly. Data, he argued, gives local businesses the opportunity to be more strategic. It empowers even the smallest of businesses to optimize their decisions. It gives companies value and places them in positions to grow, by providing them with information about their customers.

“There’s much more that a local search application can do to know you better,” Elbaz said. “Companies are still taking this slowly because there has been so much privacy backlash. You have to decide if it’s too creepy if a system can predict what you want before you ask for it.”

Mobile context specifically is almost endless, he said. Local data can be almost anything, which contributes to the huge amounts of it that is being created and, increasingly, analyzed by companies like Factual. But the process of aggregating and analyzing data is still in its early days, Elbaz and Rich agreed, especially in terms of fully leveraging a person’s desire and intent.

As the industry advances and technology is slowly integrated into social norms, the privacy issues will need to be addressed to consumers’ satisfaction. Elbaz predicts that every app will have to adopt those predictive analytics in order to meet the needs of the consumer.

“Users are starting to expect the apps know them better,” Elbaz said. “You shouldn’t have to take the time to explain what you want.”

The shift is already happening, especially with location data, said Elbaz. For instance, mobile devices with a fixed location automatically know that a user search for “coffee shops” means “coffee shops near me”

Even people who are intentionally not sending signals all the time – by shutting off their GPS, for example – aren’t able to completely opt out of providing data points, Elbaz said.

“There are systems watching,” he said. “Some retailers have devices they can stick on a window to count the number of people walking by, their dwell time. But that’s not personalized or identifiable.”

Some of the most creative, innovative people in the world need access to data to capitalize on their ideas. Whether it’s supporting marketing efforts, using data to help customers engage or become aware or proving a return on investment, data accessibility means innovation for developers.

April Nowicki is a contributor at Street Fight.