Whether you want to find the nearest restaurant or advertise deals to shoppers who are in the neighborhood, or just locate your friends, location-based services (LBS) have become an inseparable companion of yours. They not only grant user access to relevant, up-to-date information about their surroundings but also allow businesses to provide current updates to their customers. Let’s understand how location is fundamental to all business processes.
In today’s world of mobile, wearable, location-aware, and digitally aware technologies, we are always “on” and always connected. In this ever-connected ecosystem, we have a deeper concept of location; one that is more refined, instantaneous, and even predictive in some cases.
Location intelligence is providing the powerful “where” perspective to businesses, and propelled by the innate ability to make the best of the technologies available, the service industry is effectively grooming a new kid in the block.
With more and more innovations happening in its realm, location technology is becoming the key differentiator to businesses to improve customer experience, drive revenue and increase operational efficiency.
Technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), autonomous vehicles and sensors are capturing information that has never been captured before, creating entirely new avenues for geospatial data collection. As a result, location-based analytics and platforms that can process and detect trends and provide intelligence are becoming more popular, points out Anthony Calamito, Chief Geospatial Officer, Boundless. “With self-driving cars and smart cities initiatives becoming more of a reality, it will be imperative to understand how all the location information can be used to make smarter decisions,” he adds.
As Santiago Giraldo, Director, Product Marketing, CARTO explains, location-based services provide a layer of insight that we simply didn’t have in the past. “This extra context about where interactions or touchpoints occur can help organizations make more informed decisions about where to invest in their own innovations.”
For example, better understanding of traffic patterns might provide insights about where to place sensors within a smart city. Or, identifying pockets of residential areas with repeated weather damage might help insurers make decisions about where to test out their latest drone surveillance technology.
Adding a layer of intelligence about where they could have the greatest impact could help protect that investment and increase rates of adoption, says Giraldo.
However, with fluctuating financial markets there is a need to build more security. “There is a need to have response to crypto currency that is coming up today as well as the large e-commerce platforms and payment platforms,” points out Peter Hawkins, Regional Director Digital Content, Asia Pacific, HERE, Singapore. To drive the level of governance, innovation and future development, location is important. More and more people are embracing location and it is rapidly becoming prevalent everywhere.
As users, we assume that most applications, especially mobile-based, embed location-based services. However, Joe Francica, Managing Director, Location Intelligence, Pitney Bowes feels that the use and popularity of location technology depends on how much it becomes embedded with enterprise computing. “Without it, organizations are blind to the impact location has on business. From insurance to banking to retail, every business is now a consumer and a creator of location-based data. Those that learn to think spatially, win,” he adds.
“The practical applications for location technology are endless. Big Data, touted as the new oil, provides a landing platform from which we have only just begun to see the possible innovations of the future,” emphasizes Dr Steve Marsh, Founder and CTO, Geospock.
Whether it is global giants like Uber, Swiggy, Grubhub, Groupon, or localized service providers like Grofers, BigBasket, Netmeds, UrbanClap, Jugnoo, or even the India government’s clean India initiative Swachh Bharat Toilet Locator, location technology is enabling the service industry to pamper the customers and thus garner brand loyalty. And did we mention, more smiling faces!
Power of ‘where’ critical to next industrial revolution
Location-based services are expected to reach a market size of $1.89 billion by 2022. With the advancement of connectivity, location will be at the core of many technology trends in the future from AI and robotics, to data analytics and quantum computing.
According to Guruprasad S, Sr. GM – Healthcare at Bosch, India, Director – Medical Screening Solutions, Bosch, Germany, “Location technologies are at the very core of a digital revolution. It will primarily be a combination of machine learning (AI more broadly) and Cloud and edge computing, which will be powering greater automation. Location-based services and technology will move from the rudimentary ‘static’ state to a dynamic ‘location aware’ state.”
Location-based intelligence is expected to infiltrate and revolutionize industries like healthcare, government, entertainment, etc. In times to come, in healthcare, location-based services will play a very critical role for epidemic mapping and planning, and will be a core contributor for the preventive component of social health.
In addition, the technology is radically affecting the automotive industry. We find news about driverless vehicles is everywhere — with automotive giants from Nissan to Uber testing new vehicle capabilities. In Asia, it’s no secret that automotive companies are working towards providing driverless fleets to complement an automated and robot-driven Olympic village. Adding to this Dr Marsh says, “The 2020 Games will see recent and evolving developments in automotive showcased to the world, not only impacting the future of automated vehicles but also the development of cities with truly smart capabilities.”
With petabytes of data collected every day from things like public transportations systems, drones and autonomous vehicles to more fixed assets such as air quality and building sensors; the opportunity to gather, process, and glean insight from location intelligence is ever increasing. “The implications of this technology will impact and mould how we live our lives in the near future,” he adds.
No wonder why Esri and Alibaba Cloud, the Cloud computing arm of the Alibaba Group, entered into a collaborative agreement and are working together to bring enhanced location intelligence technology to Cloud users.
Jack Dangermond, President and Founder, Esri describes the agreement as both a recognition of successful implementations and a shared belief that location intelligence in Cloud infrastructure is pivotal to address customers’ needs and solving real-world problems — especially those that need scalable computing, storage, and networking capabilities.
Even for developing countries, location will become more relevant with the uptake in technologies. “Urban migration is a huge part of what is happening in India. The consumers are moving from rural areas to bigger towns and bigger towns to metros. All of these are consumers for banks, FMCG and hospitality companies. They are using and leveraging location data to understand who these consumers are and provide them with real time access and extra value,” says Ajay Kelkar, Co-Founder, Hansa CEquity. His words corroborate the fact that Location intelligence is fast becoming a core asset to many sectors.
Location is the golden thread
The power of location data is being felt across many disciplines and industries, and following the trend, firms are actively combining footfall data with their digital advertising capabilities to provide the best possible location based service to the customers. Location technology is helping them to come up with more focused digital campaigns.
According to LSA’s Market Landscape Report on Location Intelligence, over the past several years the discussion surrounding location and location data has changed from a focus on “geofencing” and real-time purchase incentives to more compelling and brand-friendly talk about audiences and attribution.
Location targeted mobile advertising is expected to reach $32 billion by 2021. By fueling new services, enabling improved decision making and helping companies to better tailor advertising and marketing efforts, location intelligence is providing businesses with a competitive advantage.
A very good example is of PepsiCo introducing Foodicons in India. The company has taken 100 food items which are popular in India and put them on their bottles. It is the company’s first geocoded encrypted promotion where if you buy a Pepsi bottle and you are in a particular place for example place X you can SMS the code to your number and you will find 20 deals around the place X. Now you can go to the nearby eatery and get may be 20% off or 15% off and it will be within 10 minutes distance.
Elaborating on this Raj Rishi Singh, Director Marketing, Pepsi, PepsiCo India says, “Packaging is our strongest asset and the Foodicon bottles are an innovative take our usual packaging. The new Pepsi Foodicon bottles feature different interpretations of age old street food favourites and have helped us stand out on the retail shelves. We have created 25 distinct Foodicons, representing popular food from across India such as Bombay’s preferred vada pavs, Delhi’s beloved samosas and Chennai’s favoured dosas.”
So, it is great for Pepsi’s partners as they get increased footfall. It is also great for consumers as they get something for buying a Pepsi. It is something which is a long-term platform.
All big brands like H&M, Marks & Spencers, Lifestyle, etc. have jumped on the bandwagon and are using location-based advertising (LBA) to lure their customers. Now, imagine you are passing by a mall and you get a message of 40% off on H&M clothes. The probability of you visiting the store becomes much higher than you being at home or some other place. Thanks to location, advertising at the right place and moment is possible now. All this is done while you share your location with the apps in your mobiles.
Thus, location has become a kind of cookie substitute in the real world, a way to identify audiences and their affinities. It also provides, for the first time, an accurate and scalable offline attribution mechanism for digital campaigns and some traditional media (e.g., outdoor, TV).
“On B2C side, we are able to do marketing on the basis of location. For instance, there is a certain area in the city which has less demand compared to others, we run specific offers for that area. When our users enter into that low demand area, we can send out notifications of them about the offers,” says Sanjay Dhakar, VP Engineering, Jugnoo, a one-stop solution app for all hyper-local needs.
Apps – making LBS all pervasive
Location based services are driving innovation in diverse areas; be it retail or dating, LBS is helping all to get the right match at the right time. Location-based apps have really intruded in the day-to-day lives of people. Whether you want to buy groceries, medicines or commute from one place to another, there is an app to facilitate you.
These apps use map as an interface, and this makes location a principal component of status updates, photos, or other content, thus providing users more context as to what’s occurring in real-time. Along with this, there are push notifications that tell you about the latest deals, dangerous situations, upcoming events, etc. The suggestions that these apps come up with are mostly based on your social media profile, interests and who you follow.
Uber can be one of the best examples here. The ridesharing giant, which has millions and millions of datasets on where people ride, who these people are, where they live, what are their traffic patterns, where are their commuter patterns, etc. decided to use this treasure of data and location to provided food to the customers. So, this is how UberEats started. It was started first with limited portions and a delivering time of 30 minutes. But now the app has hundreds and hundreds of restaurant options.
“So for all the data that we have, it is based on how people use the app, how much time are they going to use the app, etc. Then we can be very geo-targeted in the way we talk to them about what are the promotions running, what are the restaurant s do they like, what time of day do they like to have their food, etc,” elaborates Manan Javeri, General Manager, UberEats India. When a company has such rich data, it doesn’t have to talk about advertising, but using that data to try to build a new business. “So we are not selling ad space but selling convenience and location is the backbone of all of it,” he adds.
Taking a step further is an app like Geme.io, which plugs us into our current surroundings — here and now. Another app that started with providing food services and has now expanded its reach and provides almost ‘anything from anywhere’ is Jugnoo.
“In applications like ours, everything is based on location. Whether you are ordering food, taking a drive, or ordering medicines, everything has location as a core component. It is the central part of the products we offer. These days majority of the applications has location as the central part,” explains Jugnoo’s Dhakar.
Another interesting case is Delhivery — an e-commerce logistics company that delivers shipments at the door steps — converts raw addresses to geocodes. As Dr Kabir Rustogi, Principal Data Scientist, Delhivery elaborates, “Delhivery converts raw addresses to geocode. At present the best way to reach customers is through addresses. Most of the work at Delhivery in the domain of location is done through machine learning. By converting these addresses to geocodes one can know the exact place and can deliver at exact time. You also know how much traffic is there is in the locality or what kind of roads you can find in the locality, etc.”
Even in healthcare, LBS has made a major mark. Taking example of a maternal and paediatric application suite, Guruprasad says, “We have a suite of mobile health applications. We call it the maternal and paediatric application suite which covers conception, pregnancy management, pre and post-natal, and infant care. Very personalized care is being delivered on a hand held device. Since the hand-held device has a particular location and coordinate, it really adds much more meaning to how we can deliver care to an expecting mother and later to the infant, at a time when they need personalized care the most.”
These apps are not just limited to providing day-to-day services or facilitating businesses in tracking their shipments, fleets, warehouses, etc., they are also used for social welfare like the trellyz’s Miniila app that tracks missing children and also finds nearest relief services. Shelley Taylor, Founder of trellyz and creator of the app says, “It is exciting to be able to put our technology to work to help this vulnerable population find more of what they need, when and where they need it. Knowing where it is safe to sleep or find food could prevent these children from going missing, being trafficked or worse.”
Kelkar adds, “To my mind, the data equity is starting to become more important than brand equity today. And location equity adds to the data equity by adding an extra layer of metadata, which accentuates information about you.”
Tapping this large market, many start-ups are using LBS to come out with new products or apps. Right from location-based social messenger like KahaHo, which tracks your near and dear ones, to an app like Get My Parking that provides real-time updates of parking information to commuters, enterprises and public administration firms. The list is serpentine.
The “power of place” is thus more important than ever, for businesses operating in the new age. With mobile devices becoming ubiquitous today, the amount of location data that they generate is enormous. And marketers around the world know the power of this data to identify audiences, gain competitive insights and observe offline consumer behavior.