What is Location

Location data, also known as geospatial data, refers to objects present in a geographic space. It represents human mobility, or how people move around the world and to specific points of interest (POIs). It is collected via mobile GPS pings that are aggregated and contextualized into meaningful insights, such as how many people visited a location and for how long (i.e., foot traffic data); the work and home locations of your visitors (i.e., trade area data); where else your customers shop (i.e., cross-visitation data, and where people are moving to and from (i.e., migration pattern data).

Location data in business has the power to dramatically improve strategic decision making, customer targeting and business operations. Unlike static data sets that only get reviewed once a quarter during KPI analysis, location data is often based on mobile location data and geolocation technologies such as GPS data, which can unlock enormous insights into customer behavior, departmental successes (or failures) and competitive opportunities. The only remaining question teams have is how to activate it.

Whether this is new territory for your company, or you are relatively familiar with the process, Unacast, a location data company, has groundbreaking tools to help you leverage location data. Every organization, from retailers to government agencies, stands to benefit.  Ready to see it in action? We are inviting data scientists and analysts to a free, 7-day trial of our Data Portal.

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What is location data used for?

A Centuries-Old Practice: Location Intelligence

Disease tracking provides both the oldest and most current illustration of current location, location history and location intelligence. Earliest records of systematic area mapping for analysis occurred in London in 1854 during the cholera outbreak.

Now, a similar process is used, only refined and sped up: location analytics uses technology to visualize spatial data for business intelligence in supply chain logistics, real estate, retail, the public sector and many other industries. Building on geographical information system or GIS tools, analysts can optimize strategy by using intelligence from GPS systems, IoT sources, consumer behaviors and environmental factors.

One recent illustration of putting location intelligence to good use was visible during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Community Mobility Tracking During COVID-19

Large data gatherers that gather device ID from a smartphone user's mobile phone, including Google, accelerated data collection programs to track community mobility and consumer behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic. Migration patterns and even interaction points were of keen interest to public health officials. Crowd-sourced geospatial data was collected through the use of contact tracing apps active on a given area's mobile network. This real time illustration of the power and possibility of location-based data provided some compelling, positive proof of its potential use in other contexts.

Location Data Benefits

As more businesses than ever operate online, it's easy to forget the relevance of geography. And yet, most people live their entire daily lives in a very small radius, requiring a very finite location service. As most people rarely travel beyond 10-20 miles of home base every day, the importance of migration patterns cannot be missed. That small, defined and predictable circle is where people live, eat, shop, work and use a location-enabled app that pings a cell tower.

Strategists in any industry must understand the key benefits of this data, which include:

1. Identify areas with depleting populations

2. Find the best new sites for business growth

3. Form strategy & policy based on hard data

4. Predict future human movement patterns

While new tactics like geofencing ads have taken off, the vast array of industries that use this kind of intelligence are worth mentioning, below.


Foot Traffic, Competitor Visits and Competitive Intelligence

The migration patterns related to retail provide a valuable data set for competitive intelligence and strategic positioning. Knowing where customers are going with their mobile device - whether in your direction or straight to a competitor - should provide insights that drive decisions. In brick-and-mortar retail, foot traffic is everything. And with margins becoming thinner than ever, it's vital that retailers don't miss a single customer in store or via a mobile app. Peak visitation hours, local market dynamics and even emerging threats can all come into clear focus with geolocation data.

Real Estate

Emerging Areas, Risk Assessment and Site Selection

Real estate markets are ever-changing, and investors or firms who want a diverse and profitable portfolio have to tune in. The top data streams for location accuracy in the real estate industry shouldn't just include static content about population statistics or even urban to suburban migration trends. Building permits, construction spending, mortgages/lending and more all come together to provide a comprehensive picture of what is happening and what will happen next in real estate. Analysts and stake holders who get early access to game changing insights will lead the pack. In fact, big data in real estate is causing a complete transformation for how decisions are made. What's at the forefront? Location data.

Marketing Using Location Data: Macro Trends and Opportunities for Growth

Human mobility data for marketing can be collected from internal sources, like maps and POI, and external sources, like GPS and public map data. For instance, a pure data feed from a stream of GPS pings can illustrate to marketers device type, latitude and longitude, timestamps and more. This is like seeing a layer of relevant information superimposed over the rhythms of where and how people shop. When interpreted, this data can present real time feedback on all relevant metrics for marketing endeavors.

Leaders in the travel and tourism industry are launching innovative platforms and grassroots movements. Whether you are part of an established hospitality brand or looking to break into this $1.1 trillion U.S. market for the first time, you will need some kind of secret weapon. It isn't enough to see current climates, because trends change at lightning pace. Major brands and start-ups alike can attest to the unpredictability and disruption that can occur without warning. To protect profit and ensure operational stability, customer mobility data is essential.

What is location data used for?

Governments and Municipalities: Measure Impact and Improve Communities

Politicians, community leaders and government agencies have long used precise location intelligence to inform important decisions. The infrastructure that supports local communities must be planned or improved based on data about that geographical area. It's vital that decision makers at this level use data science approaches that provide the most accurate and timely information.

Understanding local and national communities, measuring the impact of planned or natural events, and improving people's lives can all be aided by locational data.

Telco: Unacast Turbine

In case you hadn't heard, the world is online, and raw data is being collected and stored by almost every business in almost every industry around the globe. The data analysts and experts at Unacast recognized this reality, and the fact that many businesses lacked a platform to make any use of location data. So, we set about to design a solution.

Unacast Turbine helps businesses around the world monetise their data. Already active with clients in Europe, Africa and Latin America, here's how it works:

Unacast Turbine is a location processing platform.

Businesses can use this data to understand human activity and journeys and implement innovative solutions.

This powerful solution alleviates the (often insurmountable) burden of processing data internally. There are some complex factors that exceed what your team is equipped to do. This platform uses new functionality to manage those complex factors in a safe cloud environment, controlled by the user. All proprietary data is still in-house, which keeps it in your hands at all times. Learn all about your customer's home and work locations, visitor origins, destinations and waypoints in between. This may be the solution you've been waiting for.

Learn More About Unicast Turbine

Location Intelligence

Location based intelligence can offer reliable, decision ready insights to everyone from digital marketers to policymakers. Location based insights allow people who literally live on the ground to zoom out, seeing more and identifying connections. Here are the basics:

 All devices, grids and geographic information systems are collecting data at all times.

This data is being stored, usually by specific companies that own it.

The vast body of data, which grows with every passing second, includes information about migration patterns and individual human mobility. This is the data about where people are and when. Because this is collected by devices, businesses that harvest this data also have insight into device type and user behavior.  This may sound like an ideal scenario, but a huge problem occurs: the sheer quantity of this data quickly outpaces most companies' ability to do anything with it. It is a relentless stream of potentially actionable data, but no one has time or knowledge to analyze and interpret it.

That's why Unacast exists. Our platform takes all of the potential and turns into actionable insights. A simple interface and streamlined solutions take what is completely overwhelming and make it achievable. We give businesses all of the power, keeping your data safe in your own company. The distinction is that, with Unacast, you can both see and make sense of the data that could make all the difference.

So, what kind of information are you possibly missing out on? Read on to find out.

Location Information

You may picture a “final product” or envision a spy movie where every human is a moving dot. But location information is sourced from existing information systems.

Many people never consider this, but the entire world is mapped. Cities, mountains, roads, bodies of water, highways, byways: all of it is recorded in geographic information systems. This raw data is then represented by two types of location data:

1. Vector data, which is a form of location data that uses lines, points and polygons as representations of land features and man-made structures.

2. Raster data, which is a type of location data that represents spatial features. Remote satellite data can be an example of this kind of data, which shows the relative nature and location of features on a map.

Data visualizations are simply interpretations of data and may include both of these types of location data. Here are some examples of data visualization types:

Choropleth, or filled maps

Heatmaps (sometimes called density maps)

Flow or path maps

Proportional symbol maps

Point distribution maps

All of these simply provide ways of seeing data, and are often delivered via location intelligence software.


Location Analysis

Location based analytics are the outcome of successfully collected location data. Here is an illustration of what this kind of analysis could look like: A measurement of hardware stores in New York, ranked by foot traffic recovery, estimated the following gains and losses year to date (as of April 21, 2021):

An example like this underscores the value of hard facts. Whereas owners of smaller hardware stores may not take the time to analyze big brand competitors, foot traffic gains and losses immediately indicate the success of some mid-sized brands, even against national competitors. Facts tell the right story, and one which can be used to make real decisions.

See More Unacast White Papers

Harbor Freight Tools

21.1% Foot Traffic Gain Loss

True Value Hardware

19.9% Foot Traffic Gain Loss

Ace Hardware

18.9% Foot Traffic Gain Loss

Do It Best

17.2% Foot Traffic Gain Loss

Surplus Warehouse

17.1% Foot Traffic Gain Loss


9.1% Foot Traffic Gain Loss

The Home Depot

9% Foot Traffic Gain Loss


You may have some questions about location data. We have answers.

How Can Location Data be Privacy-Friendly?

An individual's location data can be extracted from their mobile devices by many of the apps they use daily. We understand that the privacy of personal data is incredibly influential on consumers' purchasing decisions.

Unacast passionately believes every consumer deserves the right to maintain control over how their data is captured, stored and used. That's what we consider privacy-friendly data-information obtained with explicit consent from its owner. Just as experts predicted, consumers will always favor privacy-friendly companies with transparent data privacy policies.

How Does Unacast Ensure the Privacy of Data?

We gather data from millions of smart phones across the United States and beyond. We never collect or store any personal data without your explicit, opt-in consent. This ensures the confidentiality of user identity and personal information at all times.

How Does Unacast Use Location Data?

We aggregate mobility data up to the census tract level for the most accurate data possible. This helps to produce actionable insights that drive smarter decisions for a range of governmental, corporate and private organizations.

Location intelligence also helps a business understand migration patterns within specific neighborhoods, across state lines and in the country as a whole.

What is the Economic Impact of Location Intelligence?

Reduced incoming migration negatively impacts foot traffic. The more densely populated or heavily trafficked an area is, the more noticeable the reduction. Reduced foot traffic limits opportunities for retailers and restaurateurs, leading to store closures and increased unemployment rates.

For example, reduced mobility poses a challenge for CRE investors and operators because it lowers current and forecasted lease rates. With fewer people in a given area, the need for infrastructure drops. Fortunately, you can use location data for risk assessment, reducing the magnitude of that challenge.

Increased incoming migration boosts foot traffic. Since COVID-19 began, populations and foot traffic ratios in smaller cities and towns are rising. This is most likely due to a perception of safety in less densely populated areas. This inflow is often composed of former urbanites who relocate or temporarily resettle outside urban centers.

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