How does location data impact user experience that plays out several steps downstream? And what’s the state of the art in location intelligence… especially in a privacy-fueled environment? We set out to answer these questions in a Place Conference interview with Gimbal — the topic of this week’s Place Rewind.
For those outside of the location intelligence world, the name Gimbal may sound familiar as a leader in the circa-2010 beacon craze. Bluetooth beacons were touted in retail locations to offer location-precise and personalized content to shoppers. But activation energy and Bluetooth settings ended up stalling adoption.
But Gimbal has since reinvented itself as a broader location-intelligence play, expanding into areas such as 3D location data (more on that in a bit). This pivot has made the company more relevant in the post-beacon era (which a pandemic may have killed anyway), when physical-world location data continues to hold value.
The location intelligence world is also in the midst of a shakeup as privacy restrictions — both legislative and private sector — have suffocated several startups. Gimbal CMO Matt Russo is confident in the company’s ability to weather this storm given its extensive network, privacy-compliance, and emphasis on first-party data.
To expand on that last point, most privacy restrictions aren’t about tracking users and applying data to improve information delivery. It’s more about the sale or sharing of that data with third parties. So first-party data becomes more valuable in that world, such as helping brands better cultivate their customer data.
The privacy battle is also fought on many levels. It’s not just legislation like GDPR and CCPA; and private sector measures like Apple’s IDFA restrictions and Google’s browser cookie depreciation. It’s also about consumer expectations, says Russo. Utilizing location for true utilities — versus ads — keeps users happy.
For example, valued utilities can include things like saving consumers time with smarter delivery or QSR order-ahead systems. If a restaurant knows where you are and when you leave your house to pick up an order, they’ll know when to “fire” the order so your food is ready and hot when you arrive.
These are the types of value exchanges that cause consumers to appreciate location-tracking, and opt-in to provide their location to trusted providers. That could be a restaurant or delivery app that you trust. And it’s location intelligence providers like Gimbal that do the heavy lifting so those apps can be location-intelligent.
Of course, all of the above is accelerated in the Covid-era when delivery and pick-up have inflected. Even though there’s a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, these user behaviors will sustain in a Post-Covid world. They’re new-normal habits that aren’t going away, which bodes well for the Gimbals of the world.
As for the latest innovations in location intelligence, Gimbal has begun to work with NextNav on infusing more dimension into location data. Here, NextNav’s signature Z-axis location data (elevation/height) provides additional insight on things like pick-up ETAs for urban high-rise dwellers, or emergency responders.
Russo says the innovations won’t stop there and Gimbal will continue working towards more intelligent and valued forms of location intelligence. Though there will be a shakeout in the sector for the reasons mentioned earlier, this will also create opportunity gaps for players who can be innovative with shifting conditions.
We’ll pause there and cue the video for more color from Russo. See the interview in full below and stay tuned for periodic installments of the Place Rewind series with more insights and session coverage.