Factual turns location into insight with two new audience analytics and geotargeting products

By Michael Carney , written on July 9, 2013

From The News Desk

Factual, the places-focused big data company, is helping its clients extract even greater insights from location data. Today, the five-year-old the Los Angeles-based company is launching two new products, Geopulse Audience and Geopulse Proximity, aimed at mobile app personalization and advertising. These data services allow companies to combine their own anonymized first-party consumer location data with third-party places data and Factual’s backend system to more effectively segment and target users. The company also announced partnerships with MoPub, a mobile ad exchange and Turn, a real-time insights cloud marketing platform.

For retailers, content streaming companies, and a variety of other potential new partners, location-based data was of limited value in the past, notes Factual founder and CEO and former Applied Semantics co-founder Gil Elbaz. This is largely because the insights available from this data were restricted to where a user was located at a single moment in time. Geopulse Audience, by contrast, uses historical location data combined with machine learning algorithms predict demographic associations based on the places that users spend their time. For example, a company may wish to determine whether a users is a college student, a business traveler, a regular moviegoer, and so on, in order to better personalize their user experience and tailor advertising – thus making their services more engaging and more profitable. Previously, such demographic info was only available through social logins and a limited number of other sources.

Geopulse Proximity, is complementary geofencing technology that increases the speed and accuracy with which developers and advertisers can validate the position of mobile users with respect to any of the 65 million of global businesses and points of interest in Factual’s database. For example, a discount shopping app may want to alert consumers of relevant deals any time they’re within 2 miles of a Westfield shopping mall, just as a to-do app would want to alert its user when they’re within a certain proximity of a listed task, such as picking up the dry cleaning. By offering Geopulse Proximity as an on-premise solution, Elbaz says that Factual was able to reduce latency to nanoseconds, rather than milliseconds, and allow geofences to for the first time take the shape of any irregular polygon.

It’s a sensitive time for any company to be launching a new product service that delivers consumer insights based on user data, given the recent uprising over revelations of mass spying by US intelligence agencies and participation from major technology companies. Elbaz is well aware of this fact and points out that Factual never directly collects data from users. Rather, it is a backend service provider that processes and makes sense of data that app developers already collect from their users, with their permission and under their software terms of service. Factual then mandates that all user data is anonymized before being transferred to its servers, Elbaz says, and the company takes every measure possible to ensure that storage and sharing are handled with the utmost security and privacy concerns in mind. Further, all input data is purged every two weeks and is never commingled among its developer and advertiser partnerships.

Despite the obvious privacy and security concerns, consumers stand to benefit tremendously from these new services in terms of greater personalization of content, services, advertising, and user experience. Whether they are willing to accept this fact is another matter. Nonetheless, it appears that data sharing is an inextricable part of the future we are heading toward. Given this, it’s in our best interest as consumers that it be handled by responsible companies capable of responsibly putting this data to good use. Factual appears to be taking the right steps in both regards, but only history will judge its effectiveness.

“Mobile adoption by advertisers has long been challenged by a lack of reliable demographic and behavioral information that can be used to identify the right audience,” says MoPub founder and CEO Jim Payne. Turn Sr. Director Business Development Mark Balabanian echoes this message, saying, “Hyperlocal targeted mobile advertising performs significantly better than industry average by delivering an ad that is contextually relevant to the consumer.”

Factual has raised $27 million to date from backers including Andreessen Horowitz, Index Ventures, Miramar Venture Partners, SV Angel, Felicis Ventures, Upfront Ventures (fka GRP), Founder Collective, Idealab, and numerous angels. Like Factual’s other services, Geopulse Audience and Geopulse Proximity will be prices on a SaaS model, metered according to usage.

After more than three years dedicated to laying its technology foundation, the company has spent the last 18 months focused on developing commercial products like its Geopulse suite. Over the last 18 months, the company has also built a dedicated sales force to both gather customer insights on the need for data-driven solutions, and to introduce the company’s products to the market. The impact is finally appearing in the company’s financial results, Elbaz says, while declining to offer specific figures. The company has announced data and services partnerships with Foursquare, Yelp, LivingSocial, SimpleGeo, Trulia, TripAdvisor, and Apple, among others, and, while it is not confirmed publicly, similar relationships with Facebook and Google have been reported widely.

Factual stands to face competition in the audience analytics category, with challengers potentially including major mobile carriers like AT&T and Verizon, as well as many of its above-mentioned data partners. Going forward, data and the ability to draw insights based on this information is going to be a principal economic currency. For consumers, that is a scary thought, but is one that is unlikely to change and which thus should be embraced for its potential benefits.

Factual is as well positioned as any company in the market to capitalize on this trend. Today’s product and partnership announcements indicate that the company is not resting on its laurels and is likely to continue innovating in this highly valuable and rapidly evolving category.