What Location Intelligence Means for the Workplace

The ability to quantify the contribution of place-specific experience to value is ours to leverage more than ever before, says Melissa Marsh. Here, she shares ideas that emerged from the annual Location Intelligence summit last week in Washington, DC.
Photo by Melissa Marsh.
Photo by Melissa Marsh.

A woman on a beach in Latin America opens a magazine, pulls a strip out of it – something that looks like those perfume samples – and attaches it to her child’s wrist. Then she downloads an app that will alert her if her child runs out of a set perimeter distance. She lies back down on her towel and applies Nivea sunblock.

A young man gets a text message from his favorite sneaker store – MeatPack – just as he is about to enter a competitor’s shop. The text message is counting down seconds, and if he makes it to the MeatPack store, he will get a discount based on how fast he has been able to sprint there. Crowds form at the mall as various shoe fans make a break for great deals.

This is the future of location based data collection and analytics, also known as location intelligence. It is likely that this kind of technology will be embedded in and shape the next generation of retail, hospitality, and eventually workplace environments.

A high-end woman’s clothing line notices that they are not drawing in the 18-24 year old consumers. Instead of calling in a traditional market research team, they turn to the team at Placed, who use a data set of more than 150,000 self-identified shoppers to discover that the targeted demographic is shopping in lower-cost stores, likely after browsing at the higher end shop.

What do these stories have in common? This is the future of location based data collection and analytics, also known as location intelligence. It is likely that this kind of technology will be embedded in and shape the next generation of retail, hospitality and eventually workplace environments.

Last week, from May 20-22, the Location Intelligence conference was held in Washington, DC. On the ten-year anniversary of this unique conference, the topic of the hour was Location Intelligence (LI) versus Business Intelligence (BI). Specifically, where does one end and the other begin?

What architects and interior designers should take note of: the GPS for your office is here, from interior scale handheld navigation, to real time live occupancy tracking. Many of the data collection mechanisms which have been one-offs in the past are very quickly becoming live features, useful for management and performance assessment. One panelist joked that “every three days a place-based technology company launches,” and the technologies themselves are evolving as fast or faster.

These technologies are so small (and cheap) that they can be embedded in any number of things. Disposable hardware that used to be a barrier to entry is now of negligible cost, or will be disposable by the end of a 6-18 month deployment period.

For clear reasons of monetization, the retail, entertainment, and leisure industries – where place making is so directly tied to revenue generation – are being impacted most quickly. An app paired with an experience, enabled by a device, and instantly tied back to a loyalty program becomes a seamless way to deliver better, more customized experiences, and most of us are prepared to trade this for collection of personal data. Consider it the EZpass of these industries. It won’t be long before the same technologies are leveraged for building management and an enhanced workplace experience.

For clear reasons of monetization, the retail, entertainment, and leisure industries – where place making is so directly tied to revenue generation – are being impacted most quickly. It won’t be long before the same technologies are leveraged for building management and an enhanced workplace experience.

The conference was surprisingly under-subscribed by those famous for saying “location, location, location,” who make the location of people their first order of business – namely the real estate profession. Rather, the primary constituencies were: mapping software and service organizations; academics from geography, ecology and urban design programs; policy makers for a few cities and towns; a mix of marketing, branding and retail analytics folks; and even a handful of companies that focus on logistics.

Nielsen’s Chief Research Officer, Paul Donato, opened the conference with “140 Characters to 140 TB’s,” a presentation that focused on the convergence of web-based and physically focused data collection. He pointed out that from car dealerships to fast food locations, we are rarely without our devices and increasingly using them to complement decision making. In a confession about the volume, speed, and increasing power of data and its top purveyors, Donato said that “we make [companies like Twitter] look legitimate, [and] they make us look young.”

Following the keynote, Donato was joined by a distinguished panel moderated by Summit Chairman Joe Francica. Geologist by training, technologist by nature, and passionate about place, Francica served as emcee of the main stage, and was instrumental in putting the entire program together.

Panelists including Asif Kahn, founder and president of Location Based Marketing Associate (LBMA); Bob Denaro, chair of the US DOT ITS Program Federal Advisory Committee; George Percivall, chief engineer of Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) joined Donato in a concise discussion of the critical issues in this topic area. Such issues range from consumer privacy and protection, to start up technology valuation, to the algorithms that make it all work. Kahn’s headline that “85% of all data [collected now] have a location element,” from the photos we take, to the purchases made has lasting implications.

The ability to quantify the contribution of place-specific experience to value is ours to leverage more than ever before.

At the Location Intelligence #LI2014 event, three conferences were running in parallel, offering a broad range from high level to highly technical. Some exceptional technology start-ups were a humble front and center, sharing openly the technology behind their work, their favorite visualization platforms, and even techniques for merging and cleaning data. The blend of big picture conversation and detailed technology (user conference) was effective and informative. It is always hard to decide which sessions to attend, and hopefully at a future conference we will actually be using some of the featured technologies, so that I can feed my ‘fear of missing out’ on what is going on in the lecture hall next door.

From geo-specific technologies like Jeanne Haverinen’s IndoorAtlas, which uses a magnetic fingerprint to locate users in buildings, to Manish Patel’s consumer centric Where2GetIt , which applies a Klout-like score to locations, the implications for our real estate and design industry are staggering. The ability to quantify the contribution of place-specific experience to value is ours to leverage more than ever before.

Tags from the story
Written By
More from Melissa Marsh

User Experience Design Revives Corporate Real Estate

Despite claims that the office is dead, it's not the end. But...
Read More

Emerging and Evolving Job Roles: Tech-enabled offices are fueling demand for new roles & skills

As technology trends drive major changes in the way we work, a variety...
Read More

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *