I’m sure most of you are aware of the past and present issues that 3rd party data has with accuracy. 3rd party data created an ecosystem that chases scale, and therefore incented the production of inaccurate data. Predominantly the data is being bought and sold in black boxes with no way for a buyer to investigate its validity. Even when data is being validated (by another company), it's done via the validating company’s own black box. The real kicker is you have to pay both companies to try and buy quality data. Now, there are both good and bad reasons for this that I won’t go into here, but at the end of the day the data ends up suffering a severe lack of trust.
Recently I’ve been watching the location data ecosystem fall into the same trap. They’ve created reports, segments, business recommendations etc., with little or no ability to understand how the data led to those conclusions. It’s a case of history repeating itself and causing wasted dollars on data that again tries to achieve scale instead of accuracy.
When I joined Unacast a little over a year ago to lead product development, we said "not here".
What it Means to Open the Black Box of Location Data
At Unacast, we are opening the location black box and investing heavily in transparency. There are all sorts of things that you need to consider to be able to make a determination on the location of a device. Understanding if a device is in an urban area or a rural area, what time of day is the visit taking place, how long did the device spend at the location, how often is it seen there, how many data points make up the visit, what was the technical source of the data (GPS, WiFi, Beacon etc), what other venues were nearby, what was the horizontal accuracy for the data the created the visit. I could go on.
The data attributes above (and more) are important because they give insight into how confident you can be that a device was at a place, especially when it comes to GPS location data.** Any company that tells you they mastered GPS and you should trust them, needs to be questioned. If you question them but they aren’t willing to actually give you the ability to inspect and understand the data on an ongoing basis, you need to question your long term relationship with the partner.
As a cure for this, Unacast believes in giving insight into the attributes of every visit to enable you to "create your own truth" based on your business needs. It enables you to see and understand the black box.
Create Your Own Truth
What do I mean by "create your own truth"? What can be considered as truth depends on what you are attempting to achieve. Our clients know their product needs better than we do, and we know location data better than they do. We see Unacast’s role as training clients how to understand location data so that they can improve their products based on our expertise in location data. This relationship sets up both Unacast and our clients for success.
One of our most valuable “create your own truth” windows is that we don’t switch our answer based on the question. To understand this, let’s use an example. Let's say that a device is at a specific lat/long on Saturday at 10am. That lat/long is 20M from a Walmart and within the walls of a Staples. Most location data providers will tell you that the device was at both places, depending on if you are asking for Walmart visits or Staples visits. Now because of varying collection methodologies, GPS data being potentially imprecise, etc., it is possible that the device was at Walmart. But in any case, the problem is that with most other solutions on the market a client can’t understand this.
Maintain Control, Make Smarter Decisions
At Unacast, we look at a host of factors (ask us and we'll talk to you about them) and only ever assign a visit to one location. However, we do know that some clients may want to have that visit be at both a Walmart and a Staples. So to enable that we provide you with the list of nearby venues. This way you are in control of your definitions of where a device visited, with the help of Unacast giving you the best starting point.
Unacast is enabling clients to make decisions that are best for their products. It's important for our clients to trust us to deliver, but it's even more important for them to trust their own expertise and understanding of what they need.
**Other data signals tie a device to a location with little or no need for more information. A check-in at a restaurant is a great example, in that you don’t really need to know anything else. A device deterministically told you their location. Case closed. However, generally there is very little scale in that data and you are mostly using GPS data.