Tapping mobile location data to power supply chain oversight

Mobile location data is soaring in demand among enterprises hoping to understand consumers and improve their supply chain.
22 October 2021

Despite the concerns around privacy, mobile location data or geospatial data is becoming highly sought-after not only by governments but businesses as well. Location data provides them with a deeper understanding of footfall patterns — an increasingly important metric following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Indeed, the global health crisis saw soaring demand for location data for contact-tracing purposes. Most governments introduced various applications to track citizen movements, or required them to mark their entry at locations in order to collect data on citizen movement patterns. While most of these were done via mobile devices, some were also issued tokens for location tracking.

For businesses, geospatial data helps in the expansion and contraction of physical outlets. Points-of-Interests (POI) data – the digital representation of places in the physical space — are becoming outdated, as retail outlets shut down or moved to digital operations.

In fact, the global location intelligence market size is valued at US$10.6 billion in 2019 and is pegged to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.2% by 2027. Factors, such as the growth in portable navigation devices, web-mapping services, and smartphone applications that all consume and track vast quantities of real-time data, are significantly contributing to the market boom. And according to GSMA, the total number of IoT connections accounted for 9.1 billion in 2018 and is expected to surpass 25.2 billion by 2027.

With demand for location data on a steady rise, Quadrant, a mobile-location data startup founded in Singapore, came up with a solution by building a new, proprietary data collection platform. Geolancer, a custom-built smartphone app and the corresponding backend infrastructure, can add POIs manually on the ground via a mobile app and periodically verify them, while the user is physically present in the neighborhood.

Quadrant leverages blockchain technology across all its services as it’s ideal for bringing transparency to the data economy and gives organizations confidence in knowing that the data that they use is accurate from the time it is stamped. Mike Davie, the founder and CEO of Quadrant, says that as millions of mobile devices interact around the world, the amount of data generated begs the question as to the origins and ownership of that data, as well as who has the rights to said information.

Quadrant’s data collection application includes a blockchain-enabled data privacy consent management platform that tracks consent to use, store, manage, and share data. “Understanding the supply chain can be a murky process. Blockchain enables transparency in the supply chain. We built a platform to help understand when data points are created and where do they go,” Davie informed TechHQ.

As mobile data location is their main product focus, Davie explained that people want to be compliant these days. And one of the best ways of ensuring compliance is via immutable blockchain-powered data. Blockchain traces the supply chain, and when people give consent using the data or even when they opt-out, blockchain harnesses it to offer visibility of the supply chain.

mobile data

Mike Davie – CEO and Founder of Quadrant, an Appen company. Source: Quadrant

Improving the supply chain using mobile location data

With blockchain as a vital component in its solution, Quadrant’s mobile location data service Hydra enables location pins to be placed on a map. Businesses can use this real-time info to understand their consumer movement patterns and related behaviors better.

For example, a vending machine company can use the data to understand customers’ foot traffic in a crowded public space such as a stadium, to identify hotspots that can be used to place their vending machines. Another example would be fast food restaurants harnessing mobile location data to pinpoint where and when customers visit their competitors’ restaurants.

Davie highlighted how governments in Latin America are using mobile location data to understand bus routes better. With some communities only able to afford public transportation, a government might use mobile locations to study the movements of their citizens in a town or community to decide where to build bus stops, routes, and even implement affiliated government services.

Hence when it comes to the supply chain, enterprises will be able to use mobile location data to understand their consumers’ habits better. This includes knowing how to target consumers and how to drive the demand for their products as well as keeping tabs on specific locations. The data will enable them to make better supply chain decisions which in turn assures there is no disruption or supply shortage for their products.

Covid-19 accelerated demand for location data

“As soon as Covid-19 broke out, everyone was looking at location data. It wasn’t just government and healthcare. Businesses, sales, marketing, etc all needed location data to understand the real world. The new normal changed habits and enterprises need to understand this,” said Davie.

At the same time, POI data was pretty much wiped out as a consequence of the pandemic. With habits and lifestyles forced to change, past datasets were no longer relevant. And this was where Davie felt the Geolancer app would come in most helpful.

What the app does is collect data from individuals who go outdoors and then ‘check in’ to various locations. The information is then used to remap that area. Davie pointed out that this data is what everyone is after today. To ensure that the user-uploaded data is current and available, users are rewarded with cryptocurrency whenever they check in.

“This is the future of geolocation. The need to remap with mobile GPS to understand what’s going on in the real world. Ride-hailing, logistic companies need this data. And Geolancer captures the POI data,” added Davie. He also pointed out that as mobile location data is adopted across many industries, an additional layer of POI is vital right now. Enterprises and industries are spending a lot to get this data, which is why people will be incentivized via cryptocurrency to provide it, again highlighting the reliance on blockchain applications.

But with data and privacy concerns increasing, should everyone provide their mobile location data?

To this, Davie believes that it all comes down to usage. It’s not just about data being harnessed and collected, but about how it’s being utilized. Using a knife as an example, Davie said the utensil is meant for cutting and is normally used during meal prepartions. However, others might use the same knife for illicit reasons like committing a robbery.

“We don’t ban knives just because people use them for wrong reasons. We just ensure the law ensures that it is not used for the wrong reasons. The same can be applied to data. Regulators need to ensure data is not used for the wrong reasons,” concluded Davie.

Quadrant was also recently acquired by Appen Limited. Quadrant and Appen’s unified business will be strongly positioned to deliver high-quality data to organizations that rely on geolocation for their business.