by Bret Dunlap

Accuracy in Location Data

Accuracy in location data targeting runs the entire spectrum from knowing your devices location within a few feet to missing it by > 1,000 miles.  The different ways in which to collect one’s location varies and therefore the reliability of the location data varies accordingly.

Lat/Long (latitude/longitude), or GPS as it’s often termed, relies on the device to pick up signals from the orbiting Global Positioning System satellite network. Users opt in to access location-specific content (e.g., maps and movie listings)  But because GPS works best outdoors, and users have to activate the feature, it’s

estimated that 10-15% of phones are location-enabled at any given time.Lat/long is generally very accurate and is considered the crème of the crop in location data targeting.. But because GPS works best outdoors, and users have to activate the feature, it’s estimated that 10-15% of phones are location-enabled at any given time.

Wi-Fi and ISP estimates a user’s location within the radius of a wireless network access point.  Wi-fi (e.g., a Starbucks store) is very accurate.  ISP (internet service provider), on the other hand, may or may not be accurate for pinpointing ones location.  It may resolve to the carrier’ IP address which may be accurate at the metro or zip code level, or it may resolve to the carrier’s “backhaul” address, which has zero association to user’s location. In summary, Wi-Fi data is good; ISP data can be pretty good or really bad.

 

triangulation

Cell Tower Triangulation uses math to determine your whereabouts.  It relies on multiple cell towers with different fixed locations to compute the approximate distance of your mobile device to each of the towers.  From this information it geometrically calculates your location.  The more towers the more accurate the location data.  In densely populated, urban areas, the accuracy is very high.

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