Skyhook_logoMobile apps must continually seek new ways to differentiate in a competitive market that is only getting fiercer by the second. Brought to you by Skyhook, this post is part of a series called “Apptitude” looking at how app owners can reduce friction, boost user engagement, monetize, and get to the user’s home screen. See all the posts here.

The mobile ad ecosystem is a crowded marketplace of companies hustling to differentiate themselves and prove their value. So here’s the question: What have you done for your consumers lately to make their lives easier? Have you given them relevant content to improve their experience? Because nothing is more relevant to a consumer than getting the right message at the right place and time.

The adtech ecosystem has everything needed in order to deliver this personalized and relevant content, right? Not as often as you might think.

The fuzzy location in today’s adtech ecosystem

Much of location advertising technology was invented before smartphones, and at that time it was good to get location down to a region. But we now have the technology that allows us to be more accurate and precise, meaning we can make inventory more valuable and experiences more relevant. But the adtech ecosystem is not taking full advantage of being able to know exactly where their users are during the day.

Most adtech companies have fuzzy location at best. Today, 84 percent of location data gives us a higher-level view because it’s captured using an IP address. This method results in the location given to be the center point of the civic area, also known as a centroid. Remember, we’re trying to get the right message to the right person in the right place at the right time. If place is fuzzy, it’s the digital equivalent of dropping leaflets from a plane into that area — and hoping for the best.


Brands and agencies assume that location-enabled impressions include accurate and precise location. The concern is that some publishers may be providing inaccurate location data without even realizing it. If a company tells you that you are able to target all of the coffee shops in San Francisco, you assume that you can. What they might actually mean is that they can get you within 5 miles.

Imagine other industries using the same fuzzy location. What if your airplane landed just close enough?

Or if your post office delivered a package to the centroid of your state, which actually is nowhere near your residence?


In a world of Wi-Fi and mobility, “good enough” is no longer sufficient for today’s demands.

What is good location?

Now, how can you get good location? What can you do with it? It’s just a latitude and a longitude, right? It’s the blue dot in your phone that you use for Navigation. This is true, and that’s how Skyhook cut its teeth, but there’s a lot more to good location than that.

Good location is a function of three things:

1) The accuracy and precision of the latitude and longitude

2) The usefulness of location — putting useful contextual power tools like venues and personas on top of a data point makes it possible to provide better experiences and targeting

3) The ownership of data — your data is your data


On-device location is accurate and precise. This is because it uses a combination of signals from Wi-Fi, GPS, cell towers, the IP address, and even the device sensors to determine the location down to 10 meters. You may also hear the term “ground truth location,” meaning that the location is obtained from the closest possible sources on the ground.


Additional battery and bandwidth efficiencies are gained if a publisher is running Skyhook’s SDK as it smoothly and efficiently loads information (in tiles) onto the phone to allow us to determine location without making requests. This also means that once location is obtained, we can capture additional location points as the device moves, depicting continuous motion through space. This is what we consider good location.

If you are a publisher, which would you rather have? The geographic region a user is in? Or would you like to build personalized experiences based on precise location behavior and the venues a user visits? Good location allows you to do more with loyalty programs, like figuring out if someone is spending a lot of time at Starbucks and rewarding them for it. Or delivering relevant content to the right person at the right place and time.

Matt Kojalo is VP of Ad Tech Solutions at Skyhook Wireless.

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