In its ongoing quest to be the mobile internet’s “location layer,” Foursquare today hit its latest milestone. The Media Rating Council (MRC) has granted Foursquare’s Visits product accreditation for location data. This is based on the council’s Location-Based Advertising Measurement Guidelines.
This is notable, mostly because it’s the MRC’s first-ever accreditation. Specifically, what the accreditation validates is Foursquare Visits’ ability to accurately and responsibly estimate and validate real-world visits. This is when Foursquare tracks anonymized devices and the places they go.
For those unfamiliar, Visits is Foursquare’s product that tracks human movement data, but goes beyond what most location intelligence firms track. Its “true-stop” data is able to measure whether or not someone stopped at a given location, rather than just walk by it — obviously an important distinction.
Foursquare is able to do this based on the data sources its accumulated over the past decade. That includes its original check-in data, and location data from its Pilgrim SDK that third party apps use to location-enable their own apps. The latter is a nice tradeoff that continues to fuel Foursquare’s data.
To accurately measure where consumer visits happened, it involves measuring true stops, as noted, and dwell time at the device level. But it’s also about having an accurate places database to achieve precision in knowing that someone visited the Sushi restaurant and not the pizza joint next door.
That places data is a key ingredient and comes from a variety of data sources including WiFi network triangulation, which Foursquare has been building up for years. It’s also a function of the acquisitions Foursquare continues to make, which each embolden its data capabilities in several areas.
For example, after Foursquare acquired Factual, CEO David Shim told me:
“Gil and I had the chance to reconnect shortly after my appointment as CEO, and it became pretty clear early on in our conversations that there was a natural fit between Foursquare and Factual, with each being their own category leaders in location,” said Shim. “In this case, it’s number one in Audiences (Factual), number one in Attribution (Foursquare), number one in Developer Tools (Foursquare) and both with a strong POI data set. In the past, I said that the Placed deal allowed us to deliver a 1+1 = 3 combination. Today, it’s actually 1+ 1 = 6. We’re delivering more than individual parts; it’s now a complete, single solution. And that’s what got us really excited.”
We’ve been saying for a while that Foursquare has the strongest location data, which is all about building these sources up over time. And this is more important than ever, given that movement tracking methods are being scrutinized through both legislation and private-sector shifts from mobile platforms.
All of this boils down to a potential shakeout in the location-intelligence sector, which has incidentally become quite crowded in the past five years. Foursquare is among those that have the data backbone and leadership to sustain, and the latest MRC accreditation validates that to a certain degree.
We’ll keep watching the sector closely for any of the dynamics above to play out. Meanwhile, see the rest of our Foursquare coverage here, and check out the upcoming Localogy 20/20 virtual event, where David Shim is slated to speak. He’ll address Foursquare’s current positioning and trajectory.