A global approach to data insights

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This article is contributed by Thomas Walle, CEO and co-founder of Unacast.

Human mobility data – anonymized, aggregated information about how people move based on their mobile network locations – is being used by enterprises across industries to improve decision-making and adapt to the changing world. This could be a retailer using such data to decide which products to stock or which store locations to focus on. Historically, sales data helped make these kinds of decisions, but it couldn’t provide that next layer of insight, such as the number of people walking by your store and their demographics. Not only that – this kind of information has historically been limited by geography, even as business economics become increasingly global.

Organizations need a more holistic view of data — one that extends beyond US borders — and the ability to see how the data differs across countries. Within the US, location or visitation activity data showing how people visit places is well established, but that is not the case internationally. Data availability varies by country, but location data that is clean, consumable and easy to gain insights has only recently been established internationally.

The lack of clean, actionable global location data hinders business expansion, hinders insight into vital consumer patterns, and provides an opportunity to abuse data privacy. Let’s take a look at the current state of human mobility data, data privacy concerns, and how best to use data to make business decisions.

How global location data can take your business to the next level

Without global location data that is easy to consume, multinational corporations and global software analytics providers cannot access consistent data sets across regions.

Companies in the US are unable to build data insights in other countries that can then be more easily incorporated into existing applications and tools. Companies and firms in other countries cannot take advantage of the benefits of location data such as location selection, competitive analysis and demand forecasting.

Global insights can empower companies to make more informed business decisions, such as:

Increased Accuracy: Enable better predictions of future patterns, leading to smarter investments and higher revenues. Relocation Trends: Spot relocation trends ahead of your competitors by seeing where populations are increasing and decreasing to determine the smartest locations for businesses. Conversion rate: Knowing how many people are walking past your location provides important information for marketing efforts. Cross visits: See where your visitors go regularly to identify potential partnerships.

Balancing Privacy Concerns

Privacy must come first as the field of human mobility evolves. Data must be collected in a manner that complies with privacy rules and regulations – and is collected with consumer consent. But not all vendors are diligent in maintaining privacy. And that can cause significant disruption for companies using what they believe to be anonymized data.

Smart homes, phones and cars are everywhere, and consumers have reported being watched or constantly tracked. In the EU in particular, such data privacy concerns have arisen in conjunction with COVID-19 tracking. And organizations operating in EU countries must comply with the GDPR to ensure consumer data privacy for EU citizens.

However, companies do not have to choose between privacy and data collection. Aggregated data ensures that while the data is accurate and usable, it is also clean and secure. For organizations looking to partner with a partner to collect data, this is an important distinction to note. Trust is key and you should make sure that every supplier you work with has a clear and defined plan for protecting consumer privacy.

Data should be collected from sources such as aggregated, anonymized mobile phone data that is shared only within the parameters set by users in a mobile phone app. By using data that consumers share through mobile phone apps, data remains private and secure as no data aggregator can track one device and no device is available 100% of the time.

Best practices for using mobility data in business decisions

Human mobility data provides great insights for your business, but there are several factors to consider when using mobility data for business decisions. First, you need to apply advanced data analysis methods. Data can be skewed to say almost anything. One data set can come to contradictory conclusions, depending on the analysis method used.

You then need to determine whether the mobility data provides an accurate picture of the population. In developed countries, the bias may be less than in developing countries, where cell phone use may be skewed due to gender and socioeconomic factors.

Overestimation bias is also a possibility to watch out for. For example, overestimation bias arises when we look at the number of commuters without considering that they are often more wealthy than the proportion of the population that do not commute.

And remember, no dataset can tell you everything you want to know. Mobility data can be used in conjunction with other types of data, such as census data. It’s all about the right extraction and analysis to leverage the business intelligence metrics you’re looking for.

It’s all about the data

Human mobility data enables businesses and public entities to discover patterns at a granular level. However, many previous attempts to collect that data have been limited to certain geographic areas, when the reality is that we live in a global economy. Most companies today do business in more than one country and in many cases in more than one region. And the way you do business in the US is different than how you do it in, say, the UK. What is needed is international aggregated data. This can reveal ever-changing population characteristics and flows — the kind of information that can help businesses make accurate decisions based on, for example, the types of people in locations at different days and times. Ensure that the datasets you choose are anonymized and meet all privacy requirements, and use the other best practices listed above to propel your organization toward better, data-driven decisions.

Thomas Walle is the CEO and co-founder of Unacast.

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This post A global approach to data insights

was original published at “https://venturebeat.com/2022/03/04/taking-a-global-approach-to-data-insights/”

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