A Wanderful Take on StreetFight's Local Data Summit

Being focused on bringing shoppers the best deals and savings at nearby stores with Find&Save, we at Wanderful Media have a real interest in all things local. A few fellow Wanderfuls and I flew out recently to Street Fight Magazine’s Local Data Summit to learn about all the latest developments in the local data space and talk to other companies who are connecting consumers to businesses at a hyperlocal level.

Many big players in the local data space were in attendance, including Esri, Qualcomm, and Local Corp, as well as some smaller up and coming startups. The superb lineup of speakers and panels talked about Local Data with a heavy focus on geo-fencing and geo-targeting technologies, touching on everything from the possibilities that this emerging technology opens up for business and consumers, to the challenges that companies focused on it are facing every day.

The opportunity is huge, and companies like us are in it to solve the local data “problem” together.

One thing came out loud and clear: The opportunity is huge, and companies like us are in it to solve the local data “problem” together. Below are a few key takeaways that stood out:

1. Geo-fencing and Hyper Local Data is still very much in its infancy.

Its hard to believe that the first GPS enabled cell phone was introduced almost 20 years ago, and we are only just now seeing its true potential begin to unfold with the rise of smartphones. As businesses are realizing the power of marketing to connected consumers, and the number of GPS enabled smartphones in the hand of consumers ascends at an unprecedented rate. While there are many companies hard at work to perfect the technology, it is still a long ways from perfect.

Placeable CEO Ari Kaufman spoke about how even today 18% of searches for directions to a business end up bringing the user to the wrong place. While part of the problem lies in the varying degrees of quality that exist in address to map point conversion, there are also unsolved issues with the technology itself within our phones.

Over 42% of ad requests coming from a smartphone with a latitude and longitude are off by over 3500 meters.

During his presentation, “Location Data: What You See Is Not Always What You Get,” ThinkNear/Telenav GM Eli Portnoy spoke about how because of issues like the battery consumption of true GPS — and the questionable accuracy of Wi-Fi, cell tower, and IP based location estimation — over 42% of ad requests coming from a smartphone with a latitude and longitude are off by over 3500 meters!

Thankfully, there are companies like Qualcomm working on new technologies like bluetooth iBeacons, and AT&T increasing the number and accuracy of cell towers to help address the issue. One thing came out loud and clear: Everyone realizes the power of location data, but the industry going to solve a few difficult problems before its true potential can be tapped.

2. Context is everything

Another common theme in the keynote sessions was the added value of location data when compared to more traditional targeting methods. There is something to be said about the effectiveness of bringing consumers content that is based on their interests, but it is truly another thing to be able to bring them that content at the right time in the right place.

3. The Awesomeness that is Calm Technology

One of the speakers whose thoughts I found particularly interesting was Amber Case, Director of Esri R&D. She spoke about Calm Technology, a philosophy that embraces the idea of technology requiring less and less direct input by a user. It includes using “invisible buttons” such as temperature, speed, sound, time, and location to create a ubiquitous computing experience that is more of a background process for a user than something that must be the center of attention to be useful.

A great example is how (most of us) interact with our homes. We arrive at the door, unlock it, turn on the lights, maybe turn on the thermostat, and heat up the oven to begin making dinner. A Calm Technology scenario would have all of those actions take place merely by the time of day, your presence, and the temperature of the air.

During her talk, Amber Case used Steve Mann, one of the pioneers of calm technology, and his wearable computer as an example of how this evolution is already taking place today.

Steve Mann

Imagine an app that recognizes any store you walk into and automatically shows you the best sales and coupons available instantly. I believe that as our phones become smarter, and the number of invisible buttons increases, we are going to see more and more apps embrace the Calm philosophy and become more seamlessly integrated in day-to-day life.

4. On Location Based Privacy Concerns

The issue of privacy is clearly something that providers of GPS-enabled technology have thought long and hard about. They approach the issue with a simple set of philosophies: 1. Consumer location data is a trade that should benefit the user to the extent that they feel is worth what they get in return. 2. Don’t be creepy. 70% of users enable location services because they feel the positives outweigh the negatives.

As long as app builders continue bring users compelling features, convenience, and things that make life easier, the number of users who are locally connected will increase.

Final Thoughts:

Street Fight Magazine’s Local Data Summit was an amazing event, and proved immensely informative as to the state of local data and geofencing technologies and where they are headed. There are a lot of innovative companies working to bring the desires of consumers and retailers alike to reality, and it was great to see even competitive companies putting their heads together with a common goal.

As time goes on we will see new location technologies bring local data to the next level, and Find&Save will be there bringing our users the easiest, most personalized, and timely sale data you’ll find anywhere.


Photo Credit (for Steve Mann photo): wearcam.org