The declassification of the government's Global Positioning System (GPS) in 1983 cracked open the door to commercial development of geolocation data. But it's only been in the past few years, with the rise of the social web and mobile technology, that the business possibilities around geospatial data have blown that door off its hinges.
Simply put, geolocation data locates a person, a computer, or a point of interest on a map. It is generally determined through GPS, IP address, Wi-Fi network location, cell phone location, or self-reporting via location-based services (LBS).
The rollout of Google Earth in June 2005 provided the first mass market glimpse of what incorporating geospatial data with other data could achieve. Andre Doumitt, CEO of Geosemble Technologies, which provides automatic techniques for extracting and fusing geospatial data sets, says, "Google Earth was the electromagnetic pulse that shook everyone up. People were saying 'Holy cow! We can use maps like that?"'
We can, and we will do more of it. Gartner anticipates that by the end of 2011, more than 75% of devices shipped in mature markets will include a GPS that will enable information providers to pinpoint the user's location at any given time. According to Gartner's March 2010 forecast titled "Mobile Devices, Worldwide, 2003-2014, 1Q10 Update," mobile phone sales will return to growth in 2010, after remaining flat in 2009. Much ofthat growth will come from smartphones, with year-over-year growth projected to reach 43%. Those projections, taken together, point out just how critical it will be for information providers to tie digital and real -world data together for their customers on-the-go.
The emergence of consumer-oriented LBSs such as Gowalla, foursquare, and Brightkite garnered plenty of attention, thanks to meteoric growth rates. For example, foursquare clocked its 40 -millionth "check-in" in May 2010, an instance in which a user voluntarily reported his or her location as a means of staying in touch with the social network and in return for points, badges, or special offers. This is impressive for a company that just recently celebrated its first anniversary.
But there are plenty of reasons why geolocation data will bring value to vendors and consumers of business information. Improved personalization, decision support, and license administration are only a few areas in which geolocation data can play a larger role.
Helping Personalize and Segment Markets
The initial response to the early days of LBSs, with such companies as Loopt, could have been characterized with a headscratching, "Why?" Why would someone want to report on his or her movements from dry cleaner to bar to gas station, and what possible business applications could ensue?
Retailers figured it out first: implement highly localized ads through geotargeting. For instance, a taquería can award customers a free taco after four visits, or a boutique can offer a discount to users who check in at the front door. These types of offers not only reach a highly targeted market but they also build loyalty and repeat business, both of which are also desirable outcomes in the B2B space. An obvious application of geotargeting would be tailoring special offers available on a website based on the visitor's geographic location.
The Financial Times (FT) is rumored to be working with foursquare on a program to reward users who check in at certain locations, all near university campuses affiliated with top business schools. By checking in at specific locations frequently enough, users will receive a code that lets them unlock premium FT.com subscriptions. The FT initiative builds brand awareness among a targeted set of users likely to look to the media company for their professional information needs once they have graduated.
A corporate or academic library could experiment with LBS incentives to encourage in-person visits during which additional library resources could be highlighted. …