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Contextualization of location data vital for drawing insights

Point of Interest data can help companies and people navigate the world effectively by knowing information about the places where they are going. Raw location signals are just points on a map without context, says Tyler Simmons, Managing Director APEC, FourSquare, in an exclusive interview

Tyler Simmons, Managing Director APEC, FourSquare

How has location data evolved over the past few years?

Over the past few years, the evolution of smartphones has driven a surge in location capabilities for app developers and technology providers. Where phones used to be very remedial in their location collection capabilities when smartphones first came to market, phones can now detect location with very high precision, leading to opportunity for apps to engage with their users in thoughtful and contextual ways like never before. This technological development is not without issue as many apps and software collect location data without proper functional reasons or permissions in order to monetize data. The increase in overall collection and in bad actors has pushed the industry to focus on regulation and adherence to GDPR and other privacy regulations is pushing the industry in the right direction around location collection and proper user opt-in.

The increase in adoption of location and the increase in scrutiny and regulation have led to a greater awareness of how location can and should be used, and I believe it will make for more innovation and more creative use of location services in the future.

With the onset of the Internet Of Things (IoT), 5G and other technologies, where do you see location data moving in the future?

As more devices become connected to the internet, the power of location will only grow. Now that you can have a watch or a set of glasses that can triangulate their location, the place of a developer becomes less about creating smartphone apps and more about creating location-based experiences independent of device. Imagine walking into a mall and having your watch know that you’re near your favorite store and directing you there or going to a museum with smart glasses on and learning the history of the building or artwork without having to look it up. This will all be available in the near future when 5G and connected devices that can operate on their own become more and more common and smartphones become less central to IoT function.

What exactly is Point Of Interest (POI) data? How is that different to ‘normal’ location data?

Point of Interest data refers to information about specific places in the world – businesses, offices, public spaces and more. Point of Interest data can help companies and people navigate the world effectively by knowing information about the places where they are going. Raw location signals such as lat/lon are just points on a map without context. These data are only as useful as the context known about them because people generally don’t know their lat/lon or the lat/lon of their destination and thus need POI context to navigate the world; they would more likely know the address or even more useful, the business name of where they would like to go. Using location signals without POI context would be like using a ride hailing app and only being able to verify where you are going with a string of lat/lons: You could end up with a lot of riders and drivers going to the wrong places vs. having POI data to point you to a local restaurant, business, or attraction to get you to the right place.

What kind of services does Foursquare provide in Asia at the moment?

Foursquare provides the location recognition technology that you will find in some of Asia’s most popular and well-used apps, from ride hailing apps to messaging apps to phones themselves. The next time you share your location in WeChat or LINE or have your photo tagged to a location on a Samsung device, it’s happening thanks to our location technology.

Furthermore, we also offer accurate and targeted POI data to advertisers and ad agencies. For instance, we work with Quadrant, a location data and technology company that provides tailored, location data, providing POI data for their Quadrant Audiences product. We provide Foursquare Places POI data to Quadrant who then merge that with their own location datasets – over half a billion mobile devices – to allow advertisers to create audience segments to whom they can target with relevant ads. Quadrant Audiences can be segmented by industry, so they can create audiences who are interested in vehicles, or even audiences that are partial to local Singaporean ‘Kopi’. It is easy to access as Quadrant Audiences is available on leading independent Data Management Platforms (DMP) and Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) including Lotame, The Trade Desk, Google Marketing Platform, AppNexus and TubeMogul.

Can you provide some examples of how you work with advertisers, social media, apps and government?

With social media, a good example is Twitter. We provide technology that allows you to geotag your location within Tweets, so you can say you are at the ‘Petronas Twin Towers’. This provides much more localisation and is more contextual, it also allows us to improve the experience for the user. For ride hailing apps we provide highly-accurate locations that allow riders to be dropped off at specific places, such as a certain lobby of a mall.

We also work with governments. We have partnered with the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) to provide location information for their OneMap application which enables users to locate individual shops, day-care centres, hairdressers and other places.

Advertisers are also able to use our POI data via a number of means including the aforementioned Quadrant Audiences. Our POI data will provide a much richer and deeper understanding of the built environment and people’s behaviour within this environment and is highly effective especially when merged with quality location data.

 How can location and POI data help create smarter cities?

Understanding human behavior within the built environment is key to being able to improve it. Location data helps city planners know where to build train stations, hospitals, schools and more. Good POI data can offer even more relevance and detail, it will allow planners to understand exact movements of people and their behaviour and be able to plan around that. Clusters of children’s centres would suggest more young families are located in a certain area which will then help to inform where schools and other services are located. Being a Smart City is not just about high-tech gadgets and Artificial Intelligence (AI), ultimately a Smart City is one that make lives easier for its citizens, and this is what POI data can help with.