Mobile developers are eager to track engagement on their apps, and there are a number of startups looking to deliver an analytics product that makes sense for mobile in ways that are better than just porting web-based metrics to portable devices. Startup Placed is among them, but this company, which is launching its public SDK for Android developers today (a public iOS debut will come later), wants to deliver insight around something uniquely mobile: location information.
Virtually every mobile device is now capable of gathering data about where they’re being used, with a high degree of accuracy. That’s a veritable treasure trove of information for developers, who can use information about where their software is being used, and in what specific scenarios, to draw conclusions about which feature additions and updates would give them the biggest bang for their buck in terms of development time and money spend. There’s also the opportunity to go directly to advertisers with solid information that an app is being used near their establishment, making it much easier to sell ad inventory and corporate tie-ins that will help drive revenue for apps that are free or ad-supported.
Developers using Placed will be able to see where users are interacting with their apps, what stores, establishments and places of interest are nearby, whether they’re being used mostly in transit or in stationary settings, and more. That kind of data could show a developer that they need to include a hands-free mode, for instance, if they see their app is being used frequently during a morning commute.
Of course, dealing with location information collected via mobile devices is also a veritable briar patch of privacy issues, one that has caught the attention of U.S. lawmakers, as well as news media outlets and consumers. That’s something Placed Director of Marketing and Operations Andrea Eatherly understands only too well, and she explained in an interview why she thinks Placed will be able to allay, not exacerbate, user concerns around the use of location-based mobile analytics.
“From a privacy standpoint, we don’t associate any personal information with the location data, so it’s completely anonymous,” she said. “By aggregating the information that way, we can help [developers] avoid any privacy concerns.” The idea is that Placed operates as a disinterested third-party, providing developers with the information they need to improve their product, analyzed and broken down with analysis done for them, while also making sure that consumers are protected.
Part of Placed’s emphasis on privacy and avoiding any perceptions of misuse of consumer data extends to how the startup uses the data it gathers; the company doesn’t partner directly with advertisers to do the kind of location-based real-time contextual ad placement that many see as the golden opportunity for place-based analytics. Instead, it provides its insights to developers, who can then use that data to work out deals with advertisers that make sense, but the distinction is that the raw data, even in its anonymized form, isn’t making it into marketers’ hands directly.
There are other concerns when it comes to location-based data gathering and mobile devices beyond privacy. Battery life is a big concern, especially if an app is going to be checking location information and transmitting it regularly. Placed has worked to minimize the impact it has on device battery life by building in algorithms that recognize when a user has been at the same location for a while, and checking location data less frequently as a result.
For now, everything Placed offers developers is free, since the company is focused on driving adoption at this point, though Eatherly explained that the company is formulating plans for creating revenue. “Further down the line, we see opportunities to start charging for premium features,” she said. “One that we’re already thinking about is benchmarking, so that an app can see how their audience compares to the overall audience.”
Placed offers a lot of valuable insight to developers, which could help on both the product side and with surfacing revenue opportunities that might not otherwise be apparent. As long as the company stays clear of the minefield that is the dark side of mobile location data usage, it stands a good chance of becoming another key pillar in a developer’s analytics toolbox.