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Location History, "Footstreams" & Aggregated Check-in Data Will Transform LBS

Google recently announced a Location History dashboard that allows users to see where they’ve been, based on their Latitude activity:

Today we’re launching an experimental new view in Beta for Google Location History to visualize your location history in a different — and hopefully more interesting — way than just a string of locations.

If you’ve already chosen to enable Location History, the new dashboard view will try to highlight interesting trends from your existing location history, such as trips you’ve taken, places you’ve visited, time spent at home vs. out, and more. Ever wonder how much time you’ve spent at work recently compared to six months ago, or where it was that you stopped on your last road trip? Just check out Location History for some of the answers.

Google has various privacy controls built into the system so users can disable Location History entirely if they like. And Location History is opt-in so there are no worries about passive tracking.

As an aside, I would expect Google Buzz and Latitude to merge, because mobile is where Buzz is going to get traction if at all. Google in fact is making Buzz available on more mobile devices. So Buzz check-ins and Location History will probably marry at some point.

However Google is just one of several firms offering a similar view of location history or individual movements. Foursquare recently enabled location history:

Pelago’s Whrrl offers something similar, called “footstreams”:

Location infrastructure provider Skyhook wireless has an interesting product called SpotRank, which uses all the location data gleaned from millions of phones and apps to show movement of crowds and populations throughout the day in many urban areas:

SpotRank is a new data intelligence service from Skyhook. SpotRank predicts the density of people in predefined urban square-block areas worldwide at any hour, any day of the week. Developers and advertisers can use this groundbreaking behavioral intelligence data to serve location-based content and ads in cool new ways never envisioned before. To explore the areas covered by the SpotRank measures please visit our Coverage Map.

SpotRank is based on data from Skyhook’s Core Engine. The Core Engine powers the location on tens of millions of devices, including every iPhone and Dell netbook, and leading Android apps like ShopSavvy and Flixster. With this reach, the Core Engine network processes 300 million location requests daily. Skyhook has developed SpotRank by continually mining this anonymous location data to predict human behavior.

Sense Networks is doing something quite similar: “real world location data for predictive analytics” — in other words, human movement in cities based on aggregated device tracking.

Twitter will have similar data about collective moments and individual location history, and so will Facebook when location launches. I would also guess that opt-in privacy practices will be the norm.

And while the individual location history is interesting to review, it’s the aggregated information — such as being collected by Skyhook — that will provide fascinating and valuable “real world analytics” to retailers, restaurants and numerous other types of businesses and marketers.

Making sense of this data and making it “actionable” will create its own cottage industry for agencies, brands and maybe eventually even SEMs. Companies like Locomatix and the not yet launched PlaceIQ are well positioned for this.

Indeed, all this location and movement data will bring much greater local and “contextual” sophistication and targeting to marketers trying to reach consumers “on the go.”


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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