A Beginner’s Guide to Points of Interest

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Humans are mobile creatures and a lot can be understood by tracking how and where people migrate. Additionally, modern business relies on smart data to create market insight. Capturing the right information leads to better decision making, more efficient workflows, and higher rates of customer engagement.

Data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to acquire customers. This starts with looking at behavioral trends like location data — specifically, points of interest (POI).

What are Points of Interest?

A Point of Interest is a location that lots of people visit either routinely, seasonally, or based on certain events.

Examples of a POI include:

  • Arenas and stadiums
  • Civic centers
  • Retail stores
  • Restaurants
  • And more…

So, why are POIs important?

POIs give us important reference points for assessing, planning and decision-making. How people move around a location provides critical insight for a variety of projects, business strategy and intelligence efforts, and industries — providing valuable datasets for data scientists, retailers, city planners, commercial real estate investors, healthcare providers, and lots more.

How Does a Location Become a POI?

The simplest way a location becomes a point of interest is to attract a lot of attention. A large number of people congregating in one place indicates activities like socializing, commerce, and the performance of services.

When an area is experiencing a sudden change in how people interact with it and move through it, it can become a point of interest. Human foot traffic is drastically affected by changes in consumer behavior or demographics, transportation and infrastructure changes, national emergencies, and other sociological factors. This leads to locations evolving over time — sometimes new POIs pop up while older ones decline.

Another way a location can become a POI is changes in the population. Consider a sleepy suburb that experiences exponential growth as people move out of the nearby city. Even a few hundred people changing a migration pattern can alter the economies of a neighborhood.

A location is also recognized as a POI when representing similar locations in a given area, industry, or category. McDonalds is a good representational POI of foot traffic in any area where one is located. It sets a benchmark for performance and provides a quick test of general mobility for that region.

Other representational brands include:

  • Walmart
  • Home Depot
  • 7-Eleven
  • Starbucks

Everyday Applications for POI Data

So how can you use a POI database in real life? POI data can be applied in many different aspects from research to business, real estate, and government development.

Here are a few examples:

Data Scientists

Add more depth to your research by connecting different data sets across the entirety of your country, state, city, and neighborhood. Use this connected data to track things like human mobility, emerging areas, and population migration patterns.

Probe insights already connected to the American Census Service. Assess and benchmark performance from 2018 to current day. Unacast offers both free and paid data as a service to help you plug in and get started.

Journalists and Media

Provide a local angle on the bigger picture by using powerful, location-centric tools to get a clear picture of human mobility and migration in your hometown and on your beat.

Long weekend coming up? Look back at historical foot traffic patterns to predict which POIs will be bust and which brands will win.

Covering an urban exodus at the state level, or a local small town boom? Select an exact POI or address to start, then measure and visualize foot traffic and population flow. You can even make changes in total net income— right down to the neighborhood level.

Retailers and Restaurateurs

Use foot traffic analysis to plan staffing levels for different shifts. Study changes in local consumer population to determine ideal sites for new locations. Assess cross-visitation patterns to inform partnership marketing and advertising spend.

Businesses can easily identify where visitors originate from and if they are locals, workers, or tourists. Layer POIs and location data with your marketing stack to better inform web, mobile, and email campaigns. POI data can be especially useful for small businesses in developing markets.

Commercial Real Estate Investors

Commercial Real Estate (CRE) investors can use location data in many different ways. Research areas with increasing foot traffic to identify possible investment and/or development opportunities in potential areas of need. Accurately measure population flows concerning points of immigration and emigration.

POI data can help quantify the total income flow. This will inform other data points, such as current lease rates, projected sales, etc. Quickly augment and/or validate knowledge from other CRE data sources.

Government Agencies

Measure changes in how people are moving around and using public spaces now and historically. This optimizes population density models and needs assessments for civic planners and engineers.

Common use cases that give a POI meaning in governance include:

  • Planning and operations for public transit
  • Real estate acquisition and development
  • Maintenance and security of public spaces
  • Location planning for essential services
  • Urban land use classification


Consultants use POI data to create a greater depth of scope for clients by connecting location intelligence to your existing datasets and analysis models. Drive business value by providing additional context to key decisions around location planning, property development, and community health.

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Top 5 Data Providers for POI Insights

Point of Interest data is a hot commodity in the world of location intelligence — but not all data providers are created equal. It’s important to leverage a source that integrates well with your existing intelligence efforts and provides the coverage and features that are important to you. Here’s a quick look at the top five POI data providers or companies that provide visitation data for POIs, including ourselves:


With a focus on privacy-maintaining mobility datasets and migration patterns, we leverage multiple sources (device GPS data, weather, demographics, industry trends, and specific property data) to provide visitation data for POIs. We then clean and stabilize the data using machine learning to provide focused, curated datasets.


US Only

Data Integration?

On top of our API-based integration, we can also help you process the location data you’ve already gathered while maintaining security and privacy compliance

API Available?



SafeGraph’s Places dataset empowers firms with robust point of interest data. Their POI data is accurate and built to power modern applications.



Data Integration?

Via specific partners

API Available?

Places API fetches POI data


Designed for modern location intelligence efforts, Carto is a cloud-native GIS product that was designed to integrate with a modern tech stack.



Data Integration?

Integrates with major cloud and big data platforms

API Available?


Placer AI

Placer AI gives you visibility into foot traffic to POIs. The company harnesses mobile data and applies tools to generate insights and behavioral predictions for stores or locations.


US Only

Data Integration?

Via API or automated bulk download feeds

API Available?

Integrates via the API and customer-built apps


Focused on gathering, curating, and delivering high quality mobility data, they provide raw and pre-processed population movement datasets.



Data Integration?

None, delivers raw data regularly

API Available?


Why are Points of Interest important?

Researching points of interest provides key advantages in a competitive business landscape. This is especially prevalent in situations where foot traffic equates to sales and smarter investments. Understanding a POI definition is the first start to peeling back the layers of critical location data.

Location-based technology and POI data has great promises in developing markets. This has immense implications for global commerce and the future of business.

Assessing human behavior and mobility gives a business greater insight and more wiggle room for creativity. The more you study how people move around your brand, the easier it is to meet on common grounds.

Transforming POI Data into Location Intelligence

POI data is often the central lynchpin of any location intelligence effort as it identifies key locations to gather data around. But just like any other kind of location data — foot traffic, demographic, or environmental — raw data is just the beginning.

Unacast data is ethically sourced from multiple providers and then stabilized and cleaned by machine learning, and presented in curated datasets to ensure that the data is actionable and useful. By combining this data with your existing business intelligence data — customer data, sales data, competitor analyses, etc. — you can build a strong, insightful, and strategic location intelligence function.

This empowers your company to discover emerging trends, meet your customers where they are, and make smarter decisions. And it all starts with POI data.


By understanding how locations can evolve to become points of interest and how that data is critical to modern business decision making, it’s easy to see how including it in a company’s intelligence efforts is such a high priority. Still not sure? Explore all the ways that Unacast data can power your business. Or, if you’re ready to see it in action, schedule a demo and get started today!


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