On September 18th, we gathered a remarkable group of innovators and thought leaders in the location data space at Real World Talks 2018. The event was even bigger and better than last year’s conference, ProxSummit, with nearly 150 attendees, 20+ speakers and the most respected minds in the industry - all gathered to talk about the challenges and opportunities arising in our fast-evolving industry. Unacast set the stage for the event by talking about what Trust Through Transparency really means, where we are today, and where we’re going. Read on for a full overview of that opening presentation.
First Things First: The Location Data Industry Pyramid
Before we get starting we need to talk about how the industry as we see it: The Location Data Pyramid.
We have talked about his pyramid before, and now I want to focus on the layers that keep these three company types working well together: Trust and Transparency.
Trust through Transparency is also one of the core values at Unacast - as a Norwegian born company. Fun fact: Did you know that everyone in Norway can see the net worth and income of all other Norwegians? Talk about radical transparency. No wonder this concept is engraved in our DNA.
How Do We Build Trust Through Transparency?
It goes without saying that everyone at Real World Talks is hugely optimistic about the future of the location industry and the use of location data - that’s why we are all here today. It's such a valuable dataset when captured and understood right, for all companies and individuals
However, the main challenge as I see it, in capitalizing on this opportunity, is the trust we build with the consumers who provide data, as well as with the companies who use the data.
We can't treat location data as any other data source.
Yes, transaction data, household data, house record data and financial data has been used to create insights for decades. However, as an industry we have to acknowledge that location data is different. It's not “cold” facts, about ownership in companies, what we occasionally search for online, or our house and when we bought it. It's about understanding where our physical body is moving and where we are at any given point in time. That’s why for many individuals and companies, using location data is seen as a sensitive class of data - and rightfully so.
So, when we talk about sensitive data like this, which has great potential for game-changing use cases across multiple industries, we have to build trust. And we have to build trust early, while the industry is young with the first industry players contributing to its future. The online industry did this wrong. It took way too long before fraud, viewability and brand control became a focus.
Let's make sure we don't make the same mistake.
Two Trust Perspectives
Trust in data has to be seen from two transparency perspectives:
- Transparency into collection of the data (GDPR, consent/compliance, understanding data sources etc.)
- Transparency into what the data sets consist of - which is an important key to understanding how it should be best used
Transparency into Collection of the Data
In the last 12 months, we’ve seen an increased industry focus on understanding the sources behind location data. Previously, the industry “closed their eyes” and bought whatever was in front of them without asking questions.
Yes, it is important to understand if it’s bidstream, or GPS, or background vs. foreground, etc.. Just like it is important to understand the ingredients in what you buy and eat.
And this will constantly change as new data sources are introduced, and as we get smarter about how to use the data and the different benefits of the data sources. As an example, Unacast early on worked with beacon data, when everyone thought that was going to be big. In the end, it wasn’t. That said, we have always kept the vision of understand human mobility, but decided to change tactics on what data sources are the most important to capture that mobility. As location data sources continue to evolve, that might happen again.
What really concerns me is the lid the industry and companies are putting on the coming privacy challenges our industry will face. The other week, I attended a conference with multiple sessions on privacy, and yet it was clear to me that the industry does not want to talk about this in detail.
Personally, I see GDPR as the right direction for our industry. It is my strong belief, as the founder of a location data company and being from Norway, that users should have the option to opt out at any time. And we have to be clear with the user on what exactly their data is being used to do. Only in this way can we create the trust with the users we need.
So, what should we expect to happen?
- Let's not close our eyes - privacy concerns are real and they are affecting our industry. Sooner or later.
- It’s just a matter of time until the “concept of GDPR” comes to the US. We’ve started to see Oregon and California voting on this.
- Less data will be available in the market (this might be a good thing), but of higher quality.
- Smaller companies will go out of business as the complexity grows.
That said, privacy is not a product - it's not about having the best privacy. Either you are privacy compliant or you are not. Period. And we should not allow any shortcuts.
Transparency Into What the Datasets Consist Of
The second piece of the trust equation is about the data that gets passed on to companies and organizations who use the data to make better products and take better decisions - most often GPS data. First, we need to understand the origin.
GPS is a global public service overseen by the U.S. government. The system, started in 1989, requires a constellation of at least 24 satellites orbiting the earth, which transmit radio signals to users.
There are currently 31 operational GPS satellites in orbit; they circle the Earth at an altitude of about 20,000 km (12,427 miles) and complete two full orbits every day. Our smartphones use this GPS signal, minimum of 4 satellites, to determine our location and find a restaurant nearby, track our morning run, or provide turn-by-turn directions.
That’s pretty mind-blowing: 12k miles per hour communication with tiny GPS chip in our phones moving between tall buildings. No wonder GPS data is not always accurate.
In addition, when location data is processed most companies hide it behind a black box - only showing the conclusions but not how those conclusions were made. What happens behind the black box is hidden from view.
This has far reaching consequences, like companies misunderstanding what places users are actually visiting - which renders all products based on that data essentially useless.
Needless to say, the lack of transparency and understanding the capabilities and limits of data sources is limiting the growth and use of location data in different industries, as they don’t know the full story of the data. Some examples are:
- Attribution - measuring the wrong visit
- Retargeting - wasting tons of money on the wrong audience
- Finance - betting on the wrong stocks
The only solution is transparent location data - that we can all trust.
Our Data Pledge - We Encourage the Industry to Join Us
The Unacast Clear View Data Pledge includes a greater effort to educate buyers about the questions to ask and information to request when they’re shopping for a location data vendor. As part of this pledge, Unacast makes the following promises to its customers, prospects and partners. Join us in this pledge!