This week it was announced that Foursquare and Factual are planning to merge. Both use location data to improve advertising and overall business intelligence. But unlike Foursquare, Factual doesn’t have a consumer-facing app. So most of us probably haven’t heard of them before. But they are some of the data and tech behind many of the companies that we do all know, including Starbucks.
I have long been fascinated by location-based startups — like Foursquare — because they are inherently spatial. And how we move about our cities and spaces is rich with information. Companies want this data because, among other things, it is a register of intent. Me going somewhere signals certain things, including where else my kind might want to go.
But location data can also be used for many other things beyond advertising and retail analytics. Foursquare has started sharing aggregated and anonymized foot traffic data with local governments and public health officials in the fight against COVID-19. That data is currently powering http://www.visitdata.org. Foursquare is also publishing a regular insights report.
Here is a chart from them showing casino visits in Clark County since March 1:
In many ways this chart is fairly obvious. In fact, it actually mirrors my own journey into isolation. After the NBA shutdown on Wednesday, March 11, things started to feel pretty real and on Friday I was working from home. But there’s a lot more that can be done with location data and there’s a lot more that will be done going forward. I am confident that will help not only business, but also society more broadly.
Brandon, I often enjoy your posts. Thank you. Some months ago we had a short digital conversation about my concerns for a cashless society and the inherent loss of autonomy for the sake of convenience. Regarding (the inevitable) “location data”, are you not concerned for our loss of independence and freedom of movement? No doubt I’ve not thought this through and should leave it up to large corporations and the government to manage and “know everything” about me. Are there no negatives to this brave new world that we have all bought into?