Blog skyhook logo The Future of Location: Predictions from Skyhook

Feb 4, 2020 9:15:00 AM

The Future of Location: Predictions from Skyhook

Posted by Isolde Decker-Lucke

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There have been massive advances in the location technology industry over the past decade. Skyhook opened its doors 17 years ago at the outset of the mobile revolution, pioneering the use of Wi-Fi as a means of locating connected devices. Skyhook initially employed drivers to traverse every passable street in major cities all over the world to gather Wi-Fi access points that would eventually power location on all of the early iPhones. Since then, location intelligence, positioning, and data capabilities have grown greatly along with Skyhook. 
Predictions are a great way to take stock of the current state of location technology and look ahead to the future. As we begin a new decade, we asked our team of experts for their predictions about where the location industry is heading next. We’ve grouped their responses into categories below:
Accurate Positioning Predictions:
  • 2020 is the year of indoor positioning. There will continue to be progress in indoor accuracy in the xy-plane, and z-plane accuracy will start to be a required component in location solutions.
  • Consumers are focused on getting the best solution - and having precise location positioning will be important to them. There will be no more point and radius geofences, instead we will see movement towards articulated polygons.
  • Smartphone users should expect a proliferation of support for indoor navigation and way finding use cases.  Different variations of the technology have been available for several years but they will finally be adopted at scale across a number of venue classes - hospital, malls, campuses, retailers (Targets & Home Depots). This will help consumers who are still shopping in-store get around efficiently.
  • Sub-meter indoor accuracy including vertical (z axis/floor level) solutions will hit the masses. This will be driven by technology adoption by industry leaders. For example, Apple’s iPhone 11 has Ultra-Wideband as a feature. This allows for increased accuracy as well as directional antenna value. This feature, in addition to currently used 360 proximity solutions like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (which provide longer ranges), allows the device to precisely detect where other objects are in physical space.   
  • Public safety (e911) requirements in the U.S. and abroad will set a new standard for consumer expectations on positional accuracy across all device types, in particular z-axis.
  • As with local search, highly accurate device positions will be married to increasingly descriptive and actionable metadata.  Analysis mesh will continue to tighten from building level to room level to individual products within local range.   
Data and Privacy Regulation Predictions:
  • There is already an increased focus on consumer privacy, and this will continue over time with all states creating something similar to CCPA, or the creation of nation-wide privacy regulations.
  • A framework for more consistent regulatory guidelines will evolve, resulting in higher quality location services.
  • There will be increased attention on location positioning and intelligence, resulting in location providers and publishers being held to a higher standard.
IoT Predictions:
  • As IoT continues to evolve, the need and use cases around location technology will grow.  There are many types of vital data when it comes to understanding connected devices, and we will see new use cases for leveraging and learning from location. 
  • There will be a continued evolution and integration of positioning technologies to create holistic solution sets combining some subset of these mass deployments:
    1. GPS
    2. Wi-Fi
            - Signal strength
            - Fingerprinting
            - Round-trip-time
    3. Bluetooth Low Energy
    4. Cell
            - Cell ID
            - ECID
            - Pattern Matching
            - TOA
    5. Sensor Fusion / Dead reckoning
  • There will be a continued push within the IoT landscape to move computations to the cloud, and to find ways to compress bits needed at the server to compute location and reduce the power and network footprint of smaller devices.
  • Carriers will (again) try to become a central provider for location services.
Location-Based Digital Marketing Predictions:
  • Consumers can expect to be increasingly surprised by the specificity of unsolicited insights your phone offers up, for example, alerts like "you are in an illegal parking space". 
  • Brands will build loyalty through persistent, repeated, device-to-location confirmation. Companies will immediately know if any demonstrated loyal customer defects to a competitor.
  • Device locations will be leveraged to personalize advertising content, although they’ll be refined by smaller triggers such as gas islands, airport kiosks, and pedestrian crosswalks.
  • Brand and product conquesting tracks will have increasing accuracy to consumer activity, advancing towards micro-bidding between local competitors at product level.       
  • High resolution customer behavior metrics will mature into uniform, generally recognized, de-identified data products, answering questions like: ‘What is the hourly footfall count in-venue and within the influence range for all Whole Foods properties in January?’
Location Intelligence Predictions:
  • Product-level inventory exposure through innovative POS technologies will help stores of all sizes move their stock into the open, and drive sales.       
  • Customers will expect to find and/or get delivered the closest, physically-acquirable, highly specific products ( as specific as a 2mm hex wrench, or reduced fat, organic, lactose-free milk, etc.) at sub-hour delivery response times. 
  • Expectations for personalized service in-store and through delivery services will improve, primarily in urban markets. 
  • The accumulating archive of mobile device generated consumer behaviors will co-evolve with improving and economical base-map geographies to advance toward full instrumentation of the consumer trajectory.  
  • The erosion of anchor stores in malls will continue; consumers should specifically watch for additional closures by Macy's/Bloomingdale's, JCPenney, Lord & Taylor, and Dillard’s as smaller stores hollow out in lower traffic, weaker spend locations. 
  • Enclosed malls will continue to get refactored into open air and neo-traditional layouts to better appeal to the modern customer.
  • In a small number of cases, failed malls will turn to Amazon (or equivalent) sort and distribution centers.  
Mobility Predictions:
  • The world will continue to become more mobile. People are commuting in new ways, workers aren’t always in the same place, and user experience in general is tied to being on the move.  Location technology will continue to be at the center of improving all of this. 
  • Micromobility is entering a new phase with new regulators, changing business models, and dealing with increased consumer demand. There is a need for stronger tracking and monitoring of wayward assets. Many solutions have been tested in preceding years, and a few winners will start to dominate in 2020 and moving forward. 
  • There are pressing advances in mobile location accuracy, most of which will be too expensive and heavy-weight for anything other than vehicular navigation, but they will eventually have an impact on other devices as the decade progresses.
  • The need for high accuracy in autonomous navigation will result in an increase in maps ability to provide correct location.

Wi-Fi Predictions:
  • There will be an increased focus on accurate and specific location. Reliable data sources such as Wi-Fi will increasingly be leveraged to prove location. 
  • Hotspot usage will have improved ease of use by creating single sign-on, removing the step of registering each time you want to access a Hotspot.
  • IoT devices will depend on Wi-Fi to Cell Handover, seamlessly transitioning from the Wi-Fi network to the cell network when the connection is subpar. This will ensure constant connection and mobility with Wi-Fi.
  • There will be increased range and capacity for Wi-Fi networks.
The current location landscape garnered increased attention at the end of the last decade as consumers and corporations become increasingly aware of how location plays into their everyday lives - and the opportunities it holds for growth. At Skyhook, we are expecting location to be leveraged in new and innovative ways to better serve companies and customers in a responsible way. The future of location promises to be exciting - let us know in the comments what your personal predictions are for the next decade!