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What is Location Data … and Why Should You Care? | Data & Me

We recently sat down with Gil Elbaz, CEO and Founder of Factual, a location data company powering innovation in product development, mobile marketing and real-world analytics. Gil shared his perspective in the video above on how understanding our physical world and its characteristics through massive data collection and utilization is vital to innovating and solving the worlds challenges.

But what exactly is location data?

Location data is a general term used to describe the databasing of information collected about a given place. This information is then used to inform anything from digital services such as maps and directions, to whether retailers will stock bathing suits or ski jackets. The more varied and plentiful the data, the more useful it is in creating efficiencies and convenience for end users.

Types of Location Data

Location data can include a variety of inputs that, when aggregated, gives us a clear “picture” of a given place. Examples include:

  • Demographics – Who is at a location at any one time? What are these people’s characteristics? How does this change over time?
  • Traffic – What kind of movement of individuals or vehicles is this location experiencing?
  • Weather – Hot or cold, rainy or sunny … weather is a significant factor for any location because it has a direct effect on how people and commerce operate.
  • Air Quality – Air quality affects individual health, as well as the economy, but it can also be an indicator for other underlying issues in a given location.
  • Zoning – Is the location a private residence, an industrial worksite, a retail store or even a public park?
  • Physicality – What are the measurements, physical characteristics or topography of a given space?

This information can be collected from a number of sources such as …

  • mobile phone Wi-Fi signals and sensors
  • sales, traffic and video data recorded at the location itself
  • independent datasets such as census or weather data

While any single data stream on a location might be helpful, the true magic happens when multiple layers of information are combined.

Location Data Bridging our Physical and Digital Worlds

It’s soccer night, and you’ve just picked the kids up from school. You’ve got thirty-five minutes to feed and get the crew to practice. Your mind starts racing … which route will be best in rush hour traffic? What can I grab along the way for dinner?

An alert dings on your smartphone, “Soccer Practice at Park Field, take Jackson Street for the best route.” You agree to the route in your favorite maps app and quickly search along the way for some food. Your first choice is experiencing unusually high traffic at the location which may result in increased wait times. Don’t have time for that! You click on your second choice and are offered the option to order online so it will be ready when you arrive. You place your order and off you go.

How many of us actually stop and think about all the data that goes into helping us make daily decisions?

The ease with which we are able to move through the world, find what we want, and solve problems are due in major part to the massive collection and databasing of information about our physical world that is then integrated with the digital services we access regularly. This information is equally as valuable for businesses to innovate and optimize their offerings to customer desires and needs.

“The companies that have a deep understanding of our world, these are the companies that will shape our lives for the better.” — Gil Elbaz, CEO and Founder of Factual addresses the importance of location data in the video above.

Retail stores and restaurants are one example of businesses utilizing massive, combined datasets to create efficiencies in everything from how to make sure customers find what they are looking for to having the right food at the ready based on time of day, traffic, weather and other factors. This can reduce waste while simultaneously increasing availability of the products customers want. And they’re not just streamlining at the customer encounter end of the chain, many are re-thinking their entire supply line and how they can use data to more safely and efficiently move product along the supply chain.


Read more about how Data is Creating a More Responsible Food Supply


Next Gen Technology Will Depend on Location Data

Convenience aside, there are plenty of reasons why everyone — from individuals to government to companies — should care about location data.

The technologies that will re-shape our world in the next thirty years, like autonomous driving, artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR), will depend on a deep understanding of the physical world in which it operates. This means massive amounts of dynamic, real-time data being collected, processed and applied at the “speed of experience.”

Gil Elbaz and his team at Factual are on a mission to make location data accessible to more innovators in our world. His vision is for a near-utopic future fueled by understanding through location data’s collection and use.

“My biggest hopes are that we get to work on some of these great challenges around helping to build up economies, educate people, improve healthcare, solve city problems such as traffic, poverty and crime. I feel that the solution to so many of these problems are hidden in the data.”

More insights from Gil Elbaz on Data Makes Possible:

Data & Me: Exploring data's impact on our everyday lives


 

Gil ElbazGil Elbaz is an accomplished entrepreneur and pioneer of natural language technology. In 1998, Gil co-founded Applied Semantics Inc. (ASI) which developed contextual advertising products, including ASI’s AdSense. He is currently CEO and Founder of his second startup, Factual.

 

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