Location data company PlaceIQ today released the results of an independent, third-party analysis of location data accuracy in 150 locations across five U.S. cities and also announced the launch of its Dynamic Distancing technology, which it says offers comprehensive, “reality-based” data for use by brands and marketers.
The report, conducted by global tech company Findyr, is the first of its kind, PlaceIQ CEO Duncan McCall told Street Fight. Many location data companies claim their data is the most precise in the marketplace (with some asserting that their reported locations fall within seemingly implausible accuracy ranges like two meters of the mobile user’s actual location) — so PlaceIQ commissioned the study to “bring some clarity to the market” and help marketers and brands understand how accurate location data really is.
Study participants stood at specific locations with known latitude and longitude coordinates and accepted location requests on their mobile devices. This provided a “record of truth,” according to McCall. The data showed that, when averaged, the locations the participants’ iOS or Android devices recorded were accurate to about 30 meters from the actual locations of the participants.
This accuracy range varied from 38 meters in Chicago, a city whose density and high average building height hinders location data accuracy, to 21 meters in Boston, which presents a relatively ideal environment for location data.
Overall, location data accuracy comes down to an interplay of several factors, including “signal source (GPS signals, Wi-Fi, and cell tower triangulation), environment (area density, skyline view, and indoor or outdoor location), and personal use (location data access enabled, type of mobile app used, and operating system usage),” according to a release.
The range in location data accuracy demonstrates that companies cant’ accurately say that the data they offer marketers on mobile users’ locations is accurate to the meter, McCall said. Therefore, companies interested in providing marketers with an accurate representation of location data need to acknowledge “the realities of the inaccuracies of mobile location data” and compensate for it — which is what PlaceIQ’s Dynamic Distancing technology aims to do.
McCall said that what makes Dynamic Distancing distinctive in the location data space is its real-time adjustments to consumer movement, the complex picture it paints as to the multiple locations a consumer might actually be, and the past technological advancements PlaceIQ can offer to buttress its latest technology.
On the whole, Dynamic Distancing is simply the next logical step PlaceIQ has taken in its mission to provide businesses with a “reality-based,” nuanced representation of location data, McCall said.
While many companies might identify a single location for a mobile user, PlaceIQ uses Dynamic Distancing to assess the probability that a mobile user is in a given store as well as the probability that the user is in other stores located within a certain accuracy range determined by “the environmental factors we see and the known inaccuracy of devices,” McCall said.
McCall admits that Dynamic Distancing provides a more complicated look at location data, but he considers this its greatest strength, saying it provides a “detailed understanding” that marketers aiming to understand how many people have visited their stores and their competitors’ stores need.
PlaceIQ’s recent technological innovations are supported by a six-year history of advancements in the location data industry and in particular by its base map.
“From day one, we were focused on building a map layer that could build a new understanding of consumers,” McCall said. “We sought a tremendous diversity of different sorts of data … [and] we built our own very high-quality, first-party data set, which means we have a high degree of confidence to assign dynamic distance.”
This confidence, the foundation on which Dynamic Distancing functions, is essential for marketers who look to location data for answers on how to best understand and reach consumers, McCall said. “If you don’t have a confidence-based understanding, you can’t make reality-based decisions.”
Joseph Zappa is Street Fight’s news editor.