Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Are Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp, Loopt, and other geo-location ‘check-ins’ accurate enough?

The geo-location ‘check-in’ LBS technology has recently grown more popular thanks to the introduction of services such as Brightkite, Gowalla, FourSquare and other applications that utilize GPS. These geo-location ‘check-in’ platforms are proving to the marketing and business world that geo-location services can be used to help drive foot traffic to brands, which is very healthy for businesses. It’s becoming a complete goldmine for marketers. One of the major benefits for businesses is that they are able to target their advertising based on check-ins. So, if you check in at a Starbucks, their advertising messages would pop up on your mobile. In addition, these LBS apps collect data about customer’s daily routines. It can track their taste in food, fashion and music; very valuable analytics. It is a marketer’s dream.

As it stands, however, geo-location check-ins will succeed in marketing in the long run only with more precise location positioning technology and a cleaner venue POI/pin database, because businesses will realize they need to reward users who actually check-in physically to a venue differently from those that check-in virtually without actually being there inside the venue.

Many critics say that Gowalla and Foursquare users “cheat” with their check-ins and rip off the rewards when in fact, for the most part, they never were actually inside the venue.

Every time someone checks-in, their GPS coordinates are recorded. The problem with that is GPS has limitations; GPS accuracy is not good enough, especially indoors where the GPS reception is poor or none at all. A venue like a mall is one of the biggest problems for location check-ins for the reasons described: a large, indoor, multi-level shopping mall is going to be a horrible place to get a true GPS satellite signal. Users inside the mall will be relying on cellular or wi-fi triangulation for positioning -- which means the Foursquare system would have no clue as to how accurate the users' location are. Even wi-fi geo-location positioning technology provides 15-30 meter accuracy, which in many cases will not validate the user’s actual physical location (i.e., inside or outside of a store.)

The solution? There are next-generation mobile positioning technologies that can pinpoint the user to a business’s entrance door. Contact us to learn more.

The other problem with location-check-ins is the venue POI databases are horribly inaccurate in many places, which we will discuss in our next blog.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Wi-Fi Geolocation - the Navizon Crowd-Sourcing Approach is a Proven Success

Just like Web 2.0 is the subject of much attention, and the Social Web is a proven reality, the crowd-sourcing approach has been proven successful. Moreover, the open source software movement proved that a network of passionate, geeky volunteers could write code just as well as the highly paid developers at Microsoft or Sun Microsystems. In a similar way, crowd-sourcing can lead into a high quality product or service. Similarly, Wikipedia showed that the model could be used to create a sprawling and surprisingly comprehensive online encyclopedia. And companies like eBay and Facebook have built profitable businesses that couldn’t exist without the contributions of users.

The Navizon crowd-sourcing approach and technology has been validated by the market, with partners and customers such as Microsoft, Yahoo, Absolute Software, and others. There are over 1 million registered Navizon users all over the globe that have build and keep maintaining the location coverage database consisting of Wi-Fi access points and cellular base stations. In addition to having North America and Europe covered, places in Asia and Middle East are also covered and used.

The Navizon crowd-sourcing approach has proven highly successful because:

* Relying upon the users is an adequate method, because of its unique characteristics that are fostered by the Internet and users’ cell phones which are technologically-capable to collect and transmit the data needed to build-out and maintain the Navizon database. As a result, there is no need for a professional crew with specialized and expensive equipment to perform war-driving.
* The location database is build out organically, including in underserved regions, as users spread to new areas and need the service. In fact, the best Wi-Fi access points and Cell tower submissions are done by the users who want to use them in the first place. This way, the location database is build and maintained in the areas where users actually want and need the service.
* The location database is updated dynamically everyday so it remains fresh and accurate. This dynamic updating is essential for capturing changing conditions (i.e. new Wi-Fi access points, existing Wi-Fi access points being moved/relocated, Wi-Fi access points being removed.)
* Also, the database gets updated dynamically in a much more efficient manner: instead of carrying the burden of mapping the entire world, Navizon leverages its user base to do the task. The result being that users collect information on their own neighborhood and the coverage is always refreshed.
* In addition, Navizon’s coverage reaches all major metropolitan areas of the world, and especially Asian, Middle-Eastern and South American cities, which are regions/markets that would have been harder to penetrate should the work have been carried out with full-time drivers.
* Crowdsourcing has become a common method of trying to extract the wisdom of many people who know something. Navizon taps a wide range of talent and passion that is present in its own user base; the users help capture large amounts of data that is then systematized and analyzed. The users sort through the missing coverage areas, finding new Wi-Fi access points and Cell towers and submit it to Navizon for all to use.
* Crowdsourcing this type of information is an intelligent thing to do. Apps that use Navizon do a great job of gathering this information. But much of Navizon’s data is collected passively, making it easier on the user (i.e. driver). The Navizon crowd-sourcing is done by users while they are on their way to work or in their spare time, or from expert war-drivers or small businesses. Users just need to have the Navizon software running to scan the area automatically without any intervention from the user to perform routine tasks.
* The Navizon community feels a brand-building kinship with the Navizon, which is the result of an earned sense of ownership through contribution and collaboration. The winning individuals in the crowd are rewarded with the Navizon Rewards Program.
* By listening to the crowd, Navizon gains first-hand insight on the users’ and customers' needs.
* The costs of building-out and maintaining the location coverage database are reduced substantially. It externalizes the risk of over-spending on war-driving and it only pays for submissions that meet the demand, i.e. underserved regions or areas with changing conditions.