Location Data in 2022: What You Need to Know

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The past two years have proven that spatial intelligence is crucial for business, government, and urban development. Reliance on location data for strategy and analytics is only set to grow in 2022. We’ve gathered the latest updates and trends on the future of location data - its sources, market size, and increasing power as a resource for good.

Key Points:

  • The global market for location intelligence set to reach $29.90bn by 2026, with a predicted CAGR of 16.1% for 2022-2027
  • Increased connection to 5G network driving up supply of real-time mobility insights as number of devices connected to 5G forecast to hit 1.34 billion in 2022
  • Location intelligence is growing more versatile, driving success in diverse use cases: “We’re just an ingredient in any one solution. It’s like selling high-quality butter to pastry chefs. The end consumer of the croissant may not even know that there’s butter in the pastry. But the chef knows how important the ingredient is,” - Auren Hoffmann, CEO, Safegraph, leading geospatial data provider.

Why Location Data matters

Location data is one of the most important external data categories available. 80% of external data collected in today’s data ecosystem has a location component. This is largely because it’s so versatile - it has an endless number of use cases and market applications. Understanding the physical world and how people are moving around it provides the core analytics for a plethora of industries and organizations. International corporations, emerging startups, as well as governments and NGOs - all are investing in location data to shape their strategies around movement. And by ‘movement’, we don’t just mean how the individual gets from A to B. Location datasets also cover the flow of transport and goods through the supply chain, across seas, airspaces and territories. These data points enable users to monitor mobility trends and map POIs (points of interest).

Here’s just a few examples of how location data is underpinning decision-making in commerce, urban planning, and government:

Location Data for commerce: from price-pointing to geo-marketing

Location data enables companies to shape effective strategies throughout the sales cycle. Retailers rely on location data to identify where to build brick-and-mortar stores, taking local demand, footfall, and competition into consideration. Analyzing average consumer spend and affluence metrics in a given area, businesses can optimize their price points from location to location. Airbnb deploy pricing algorithms which determine rental property prices based on local amenities and transport connections. And they’re not alone: some of the most successful online and app-based retail and hospitality startups are utilizing location data to drive ROI. US food delivery service DoorDash built its product around customer hotspots, restaurant availability and driver routes in a targeted location. It’s a strategy which has earnt DoorDash over 56% of the market share.

Location-based marketing is becoming increasingly innovative. With location data, digital marketers can build customer audiences and segments according to real-life visits, as opposed to digital footprints alone. Geofencing and geo-triggered advertising allow marketers to time the delivery of ads and pop-ups around the consumer’s physical location and POIs. Combining offline and online behavior, location data means marketers can deliver a more relevant and cohesive brand experience.

Location Data for urban planning: making cities smarter

The number of smart cities globally will increase in 2022. Last year, Germany invested €790 million in improving quality of urban life. Smart cities use real-time mobility insights to shape urban infrastructure around the movements of citydwellers via connected device networks. This intelligence allows planners to produce digital landscapes which are updated according to mobility trends.

Aside from smart cities, developers are building more accurate population density models based on GIS insights. Census records only provide data every decade; economic reports tend to be published once a quarter. Mobile and satellite location data overcomes this information lag. As a result, companies in the urban development, civil engineering and real estate sectors can make informed geospatial decisions based on ultra-timely information.

Location Data for government: optimizing crisis response

COVID-19 demonstrating the importance of location intelligence. Understanding foot traffic patterns underpinned policy-making, with location data provider SafeGraph sharing their data with the CDC to improve the governmental response to the public health crisis. Location data is also helping fight the climate crisis. Scientists rely on ultra-precise satellite imagery to track the movements of polar and monitor changes in spatial conditions, from expanses of rainforest to individual crop fields. The same satellite data is also used to prevent humanitarian crises by predicting natural disasters.

So location data is a tool with many uses. It’s only going to become more versatile, as the information in a location dataset becomes more varied. Let’s have a look at the location data attributes of today, and the new attributes being added to datasets.

What Location Data looks like now, and the new attributes it’s acquiring

Of course, the basic attribute of any location dataset is geospatial information. This is given in various units: lat/long address, visual heat maps mapping foot traffic, or IDs, placekeys and geocodes specific to the provider. Other attributes include metadata about a location, such the building height, local amenities, and consumer footfall in the surrounding polygon

Across the external data industry, location data services are becoming increasingly tailored to each data client’s needs. Though unstructured, generalized mobility datasets are still available and valuable to many clients, most data providers now offer custom location intelligence, with attributes of the client’s choosing. For example, vendors will compile data points according to a specific geography, whether a country or ZIP code. This saves time in data cleaning and analysis.

To enable clients to unlock value from location data, providers enrich it with other data points. Connecting location intelligence to demographic data points, for example, enables marketers to build more detailed customer profiles. Similarly, location data providers are connecting sources of mobility intelligence and offering them as one unified service. Spatial intelligence businesses are enabling their clients to access insights into car movements, flight patterns, and consumer mobility via one integrated data platform.

On top of this, location data is becoming more accurate, granular, and faster to access. This is largely because 5G networks detect device movements spooner and to a greater degree of precision. The signals produced by 5G-enabled devices correlate to movement between individual POIs from locations as small as an ATM or bus stop.

Lastly, location data is becoming digestible to the everyman, not just the data scientist. It’s crucial that location data can be put to use by all organizations without the need for resource-intensive data analysis teams. To democratize the value of location data, providers are unifying attributes of mobility data sets, and ensuring that datasets are ready to be integrated into the client’s existing technologies. This way, startups can reap the rewards of location data just as readily as companies with big data budgets.

On this note, let’s have a look at trends in the location data market: who’s buying, who’s selling, and how much location data costs.

The market for Location Data in 2022: supply, demand, pricing

As ever, tech companies are leading the pack when it comes to driving demand for data and AI. The same is the case for location data. Nonetheless, others are catching up. CPG companies like Burger King are harnessing location data for location-based marketing, including a geofencing campaign against rival McDonald’s in 2018.

In terms of supply, startup provider companies are leveling the playing field. High-quality, privacy-assured location data is becoming available open source for the benefit of all. External location datasets are available to buy at more affordable prices. This is thanks to the rise of the data marketplace, which has seen companies join data commerce platforms to turn their proprietary location data into a viable revenue stream.

To understand location data supply, it’s worth taking a deeper look at today’s location data providers to find out the ones you need to know about.

The Location Data providers to have on your radar

There are several big players in the location analytics market, including Microsoft Corporation, Google LLC, IBM Corporation, SAP SE, Cisco Systems, and Hexagon AB. These companies have sophisticated data collection and storage technologies, so have a wealth of location intelligence.

However, most suppliers of location data are younger companies, found on data commerce platforms and data marketplaces, like Datarade’s Data Commerce Cloud. Here, you’ll find mobility data leaders like Lifesight, SafeGraph, and Geolytica. These data vendors specialize in delivering location intelligence at scale, on-demand, and tailored to a specific use case. Many location datasets and APIs are instantly purchasable, with datasets varying in cost according to data coverage and recency. Providers with products available to buy instantly and effortlessly are disrupting the location data ecosphere, making location data commerce more transparent and accessible to all.

If you’re still with us, it’s time to get a bit more technical as we look at methods of location data sources and collection - the traditional, and the up-and-coming.

Location Data sources & collection - what’s changing in 2022?

Mobile location data is continuing to be collected as SDK, Bluetooth and cellular signals are emitted by devices and received by beacons, satellites, cell towers, and wifi routers. However, these traditional methods of data collection are getting more advanced. As 2022 welcomes the next generation of Wifi connectivity, AKA Wifi 6, each router’s capacity for connected devices will increase 4x. Wifi 6 will deliver faster, more stable connectivity and communication, and for location data, will enable device tracking and positioning to operate faster and at higher capacity.

Additionally, as more connected devices are added to the IoT, more location signals are collected. Bluetooth-enabled devices, from health monitors and smart speakers, are constantly producing location intelligence. This information forms the basis for real-time POI mapping and footfall attribution. The greater the quantity of connected devices, the clearer picture of mobility becomes.

The job of the data provider is to take this mass of location information and make it integratable and digestible for the non-data-scientist user. Which leads us to our final topic: how can you make sure that your future investments in location data are high-quality?

How to tell the good Location Data from the bad

When you’re looking to buy location data or run a data sample through your quality checks, the following criteria are needed to assure you’re getting a quality product:

Relevance

Diverting resources into interpreting and converting raw location data which isn’t readily relevant to your use case means this incredible resource becomes a false economy. For location data, obviously, this means getting the data covering the region you’re interested in. Scale and structure also come into it - how much data coverage do you need? Do you want the data in aggregated or raw, unstructured format? Always define your data requirements in detail and ahead of purchase so that you can ensure your prospect provider fulfills your needs.

Range

Here, we mean both spatial and temporal range. Certain providers only provide location and POI data for specific geographic regions, whereas others provide worldwide coverage. Some vendors specialize in given locations, buildings and landscapes, so can provide the most granular spatial insights in these areas. Temporality is important, particular for measuring footfall. Depending on your use case, you might require a real-time data feed, or historical records of movement. What’s most important is that, whether your temporal requirements, the data provider delivers the product needed.

Responsibility

Location data is a force for good. As we’ve seen, it can tackle health and humanitarian crises, and improve our natural and urban environments. Location data collection must be ethically-sound so as to not overshadow its amazing applications. Quality data providers will make privacy a priority. Sensitive data should be anonymized and all data collected from mobile devices must be opt-in. Before buying location data, always check that a provider’s collection methodology, privacy procedures and company mission statement are in line with relevant legislation and ethical guidelines.

Roundup - mapping the future of Location Data

Datarade is partnered with hundreds of leading geospatial data providers who are driving the innovation of location intelligence. Using our data industry intelligence, we’ll keep this guide updated with market insights and emerging use cases. Going forward, it’s clear that location data is set to become more important, more valuable, and for more people in 2022 than ever before.