Location Data for Simpletons

By the time you’ve found this blog post you might be thinking, what in the world is location data? What does data optimization even mean? Why is there so much jargon?! Well you’ve come to the right place. This post explains the location data industry and what we do in a straightforward way. Just like you, I was very confused about the industry before I started working as a marketing intern at X-Mode. It took me two lectures, one Q&A session, multiple readings, and a group discussion to better understand location data. Don’t worry, though, you won’t have to do all that. Hopefully this blog post will be enough to give you an understanding.

Let’s start with the million dollar question: what is location data? Location data is information about your location that can be pulled from the device you’re using. That means devices like your iPhone can reveal information about your geographical position in terms of latitude, longitude, or altitude.

Okay, well who or what collects this data? The most common ways to collect location data are through 1) an SDK, 2) Beacons, and 3) bid-stream/exchange data. If you’re anything like me, though, those words probably mean nothing to you. So let me break it down.

1) SDK: SDK stands for “software development kit.” An SDK is made up of lines of code that can be put into an app. They tell the app to perform a task; in this case, to collect location data constantly and efficiently. Do you have the Facebook app? What about “Find My Friends”? If you’ve enabled either to collect your location, both use an SDK to do so 24/7. X-Mode itself has developed a high quality SDK.

2) Beacons: A beacon is a small Bluetooth radio transmitter that transmits a radio signal made up of letters and numbers that other devices detect. Compared to an SDK, beacons have a stronger battery life and better energy-saving capabilities. That’s why, in addition to collecting location through a SDK, X-Mode uses beacons to help optimize precision and battery life.

3) Bid-stream/exchange data: Bid-stream data comes from ads running on mobile apps installed by users like you and me. To get data on your location however, app publishers have to obtain express permission to use the data. The large issue right now with bid-stream is that it is much less accurate than a SDK or beacon.

Another term you might come across in this industry is “geofencing.” Geofencing is when an app uses GPS, Wi-Fi, cellular data, or RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) to outline a certain geographic boundary to collect data from. Once they have set up this boundary, a pre-programmed action will occur any time a mobile device or RFID tag enters that specified area. If you ever shop at Walmart and have the Walmart app, your device will respond to geofencing around stores and deliver coupons and e-receipts.

Now that you have a better understanding of our industry, let me explain what X-Mode does and how we are relevant in your daily life.

Right now, X-Mode maps 15%+ of the US population monthly with its location data platform. Our SDK is currently installed in 300+ apps, ad-free. Who knows? You might be a part of that 15%. We also help monetize apps(convert non-revenue generating assets into sources of revenue) when we integrate our SDK, help them trend on the app store, optimize their Google ranking, improve their email marketing, and get them featured within specific subs on Reddit.

Along with app monetization, we are also big on data monetization. This is all about making revenue off quality data, which is the location data we can provide via our SDK. Just how Walmart uses location data to send coupons to shoppers in-store, other app developers can use location data to advertise their brand and increase revenue.

Another area that X-Mode specializes in is advertising. Using our data, we can create a Facebook ad audience that consists of people who spend time in locations relevant to the industry one’s business is in.Say, for example, that you’re in the coffee industry and specialize in lattes. We can create an audience made up of latte lovers, espresso fiends, and other potential customers based on where they like to shop.

Now that you’ve gotten your feet wet in the location data industry, think about how it affects you personally. How many times have you allowed an app or device to track your location? The industry is growing and such data is being used at a rapid pace to improve aspects of your daily life like your shopping experiences, your safety, and figuring out where your friends and family are. Before working at X-Mode, I never thought about all the areas location data can cover, but now I see that it is rapidly becoming the future. So the next time you go to a department store, download its app to see if you get an e-receipt or coupon just by being in the store. For the next time you lose your cellphone, use a friend’s phone to find yours so you don’t have to buy a new one. As you can see, location data will always be relevant and our lives wouldn’t be the same without it.


By: Tala Ansari

Tala (pronounced like the “Talla” in Tallahassee) Ansari! She will be our summer marketing intern and has grown up in Ashburn, Virginia for most of her life. Tala is currently majoring in Economics at the University of Virginia where she is a rising 3rd year also hoping to pursue a minor in Entrepreneurship. She speaks English, Arabic, and Spanish and is currently a research assistant at the McIntire School of Commerce studying how CEO’s, such as Bill Nuti of NCR, use Twitter to speak about themselves and their businesses.