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September 12, 2016

Before you can launch a location-based geomarketing campaign, it's important to understand the the technology behind it. GPS, Wi-Fi, and IP address targeting each tap into mobile devices in different ways, but when you keep all three in mind, you can create a robust campaign using the data and technology to your advantage. Here's what you need to know about the component parts of the technology underpinning geotargeting for mobile.

GPS Geotargeting
The mobile phone receives a regular series of very basic signals called "pings" from multiple satellites in a geostationary orbit (i.e., they follow the Earth's rotation, so they're always in the same place) around the earth. The ping is a continuous signal containing the time-stamp and unique satellite ID. Speed equals distance over time. The speed is constant at the speed of light. The time is calculated by the difference in microseconds between when the ping is sent from the satellite and when it's received by the phone. The only variable to solve for is the distance. If you can get a ping from three (or more) satellites, then you can use trilateration to calculate the location of the phone. Generally speaking, the accuracy of this technology is about sixteen feet.

Brands should keep in mind that, in order to use this data, the following series of technologies needs to be enabled:

Mobile App Inventory: This doesn't work for mobile web inventory. Mobile web inventory doesn't communicate with the operating system of the phone.
Location-Based Services: This only works if the user has enabled location-based services. This is on by default, but many people turn it off.
Location-Based Services Shared: This only works if the location information is shared with the app. This is off by default, and the user would need to opt in to turn it on.

Wi-Fi Geotargeting
The second concept to get your head around is the Wi-Fi mapping. When you sit down at a coffee shop, you may notice that they have a free Wi-Fi service. After you order your morning coffee, you may decide to switch from 4G to Wi-Fi to get free Internet access. When you switch, this will create two records in the Wi-Fi mapping tables at Google and Apple. The first record is based on your satellite-based address, as per the method above. The second record is your Wi-Fi address, which you switch to only moments after arriving. The phone manufacturers can deduplicate these two data points together and accurately determine the geolocation of that coffee shop's free Wi-Fi router—they only need a few data points in order to accurately identify the latitude and longitude.

When new users log on to that same Wi-Fi router, the operating system can automatically determine your latitude and longitude without the satellite data.

IP Address Geotargeting
From an engineering point of view, the IP address from cell towers is not a valid signal. IP addresses are centrally governed by regional Internet address registries that give out groups of them in classes. A typical range for an organization to buy may be a class C range, which will have 254 usable addresses.

When you drive to work on the 3G/4G network, you will no doubt drive past many cell towers. Each time you do, you are given a different IP address. If the cell towers are about five miles apart, then the minimum resolution that IP address data could determine would be five miles.

≥≥ Need a Shortcut?
1. The satellites that transmit signals to mobile phones are in geostationary orbit, so their positions don't change.
2. To use GPS geotargeting data, mobile app inventory, location-based services, and location-based services shared need to be enabled on your user's phone.
3. IP addresses are determined by cell towers.
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