Mobile Location Data: Why Accuracy Matters

Location Data Accuracy

Today, over 75% of marketers are using real-time, mobile location-based marketing techniques1. By 2019, the location-based services market is projected to exceed $43 billion2. As mobile location data is increasingly relied on for marketing campaigns, determining the accuracy of that data is crucial.

The challenge

Mobile location accuracy is still an emerging technology. Complex data and contradictory market claims have created confusion among marketers, their clients and the industry at large. A recent study found that of the mobile ad impressions that include latitude-longitude data, fewer than 34% were correct to within 100 meters of a user.3 Do these results constitute location accuracy?

The unfortunate truth is, there are no industry standards for the definition of accurate location4. As a result, the burden is on marketer to determine which claims are true.

The claim

Several mobile advertising providers state that they arrive at accurate user positioning, correct to within only a few feet. To make that claim, they use different combinations of the following sources:

· Global Positioning System (GPS)
· Assisted Global Positioning System (A-GPS)
· Wi-Fi Hotspot
· Wi-Fi Triangulation
· Bluetooth (BT)
· Indoor Positioning System (IPS)
· Cell-Tower Triangulation
· IP Address
· City Centroid Zip Code Centroid

Reality check

No providers are actually deploying any of these technologies. In fact, all any company can do is make use of the location information relayed by the operating system (OS) of a user’s mobile phone.

Both iOS and Android™ devices have onboard sensors collecting data. They actively share selections of that data with third parties, without disclosing any user’s personally identifiable information (PII). So ultimately, all companies are using the exact same collection technologies.

The real differentiator can be found in how, or even if, different providers filter the information provided by a mobile phone’s operating system. The greatest quantity of location information comes from the least qualified sources. Far too often, providers use most or all of the data, allowing them to sing the praises of their high quality location information while ignoring their far greater amount of low quality data.

At YP, we specifically look for only the data provided by A-GPS and Wi-Fi, which has been proven to be the most accurate and reliable (Check back next Monday for a deeper dive into why A-GPS and Wi-Fi have the highest accuracy rates.)

Bottom line

Accurate location data influences audience targeting, which greatly impacts mobile campaign results. While there are many potential sources of data, they’re not all equal. The most accurate location targeting available at scale has a median range between 5 and 8.5 meters.

With the potential value of mobile location campaigns as high as they are, an advertiser cannot afford to take claims of accuracy at face value. There’s a need to look beyond words and instead evaluate a company’s approach to working with location data and their commitment to scientific rigor.


1. Location-Based Marketing Needs Smarter App Development | Mobile Insider | August 21, 2014 2. Mobile Context & Location Services: Navigation, Tracking, Social & Local Search 2014-2019 | Juniper Research | August 13, 2014 3. Location Score Index: Mobile Advertising’s Guide to Location Accuracy | Thinknear | May 2014 4. Mobile Location Data Accuracy Panel | MMA | August 6, 2014

Categorized in: