Learning where people tend to congregate at certain times of the day, and on certain days of the week, has a surprising number of applications. That’s why mobile location data has become a critical tool for business leaders, real estate investors, insurance firms, and urban planners alike.
Where to live or set up shop, when to set business hours, how likely an accident is to happen at a certain place, and what additional facilities are needed in a city – all of these things can be informed by mobile location data.
So the question becomes: where can you get mobile location data? Collecting it yourself would likely involve a lot of unnecessary hassle and expense. But with so many mobile location data providers out there, you need to know which ones have data that meet your specifications for accuracy, scope, and so on. That’s why we’ve put together this list to help you out. We’ll cover:
Before we dive right into our overview of places where you can get mobile location data, we’ll start with discussions on what mobile location data is and how it’s collected.
Mobile location data is a measure of how many people are around a point of interest (POI) or census block group (i.e. neighborhood) at a given point in time. It can measure where people come from, how long they stay, and where they go afterwards, but it does not uniquely identify each person.
Businesses can use consumer mobile location data to look at things like what times and days a POI is busiest, and what other nearby stores people visit. They can use this to inform decisions about their store locations, business hours, product stock, brand availability and partnerships, and where and when to place advertisements.
Insurance firms can also utilize anonymized mobile location data to assess liability for places based on their visit counts (at certain times of the year, for businesses that operate seasonally). And urban planners can call on mobile location data services to help them determine where to build transportation routes, housing, or other facilities to make things more convenient for citizens.
Mobile location data used to be collected through manual head counts of how many people entered a store (or other area), tracked by writing numbers down or using a tally counting device. The rapid advance of technology over the late 20th and early 21st centuries has enabled more sophisticated, efficient methods, such as:
Now that you know how mobile location data is collected, the next question is: who’s selling mobile location data? After all, big data is big business these days, so there are a lot of players in the mobile location data market. And most specialize in something that others don’t. To help you get started, here’s a list of 6 of the most popular mobile location data providers.
Cost: up to 10¢ US per record; bulk pricing available
Pricing model(s): per-dataset basis (one-time purchase); monthly or annual subscriptions
Best for: site selection, investment research, consumer insights, trade area analysis, urban planning
Our Patterns dataset measures mobility to places in the US and Canada, along with detailed attribution related to which other brands people visited in the same day or week, and which areas they visit from. We deliver Patterns data monthly and weekly, and also provide Neighborhood Patterns for measuring movement between Census Block Groups or Dissemination Areas.
Cost: contact for a quote
Best for: understanding and predicting population movements
Veraset is another of the top location data companies. Their “Movement” dataset is a multi-source package of raw foot traffic data around points of interest in over 150 countries worldwide. If you’re looking for more precise movement data with respect to specific points of interest, try their “Visits” dataset. It combines foot traffic data with accurate models of over 6 million buildings in the US to determine if and when people actually set foot on a property, and how long they stay there.
Their data has applications for innovators and problem-solvers in marketing, finance, retail, telecom, real estate, urban planning, mapping, and more.
Cost: contact for a quote
Pricing model(s): monthly, quarterly, or annually (depending on dataset)
Best for: building better marketing investment models
Foursquare is better known for its City Guide app that features reviews and recommendations on top local businesses. But the company has grown into a noteworthy mobile location data platform as well. Their Visits, Proximity, and Audience datasets let you make smarter business decisions and understand your customers better based on real-world consumer behavior.
Their main weakness is that their POI and visit attribution data is largely based on manual user inputs via their Swarm app. It also doesn’t provide property polygon data to back it up. This makes it often less accurate and detailed than data provided by SafeGraph.
Pricing model(s): monthly
Best for: building human mobility models and deriving insights from them
Unacast features mobile location software and datasets that are great for understanding human movement patterns. Whether you’re using the data for business, humanitarianism, public planning, or some other purpose, Unacast makes their data easy to understand through a three-step process. They collect the data and eliminate redundancies, group data into classes of human activity (e.g. traveling, working at home, visiting a location or event), and then give the data context by placing them on a map.
Unacast’s main drawback is that their POI data is largely inferred from their mobility data and data suppliers, and is not independently researched. They also only provide geographic coordinates for properties and not polygons. This makes their data somewhat limited in what it can do without being combined with other datasets.
Cost: dependent on industry and company size; contact for a quote
Best for: analyzing consumer foot traffic for specific use cases
In addition to location data itself, Placer.ai sells an easy-to-use location data API. This dashboard provides insights into trade area activity, seasonal foot traffic and dwell time trends, cross-shopping patterns, and retail performance compared to competitors over various geographic areas. Placer.ai also offers a bunch of free data analysis tools that make it simple to start extracting insights from location data, even for non-technical teams.
Placer.ai has some shortcomings, though. One is that their foot traffic coverage is only for the US. Also, they are heavily focused on mobility data and their POI data is therefore not as comprehensive (at least in terms of attributes). This can leave informational gaps during the analysis process.
Finally, most of their datasets come pre-organized for specific analysis applications. While this makes these particular analyses simpler and easier, little information is given about the methodologies used and assumptions made in the organization process. This makes it difficult to account for these factors if a user wants to conduct a different type of analysis.
Pricing model(s): quarterly
Best for: actionable insights into people, places, and products
Formerly known as UberMedia, Near provides POI, polygon, and mobile location data from over 44 countries around the world. They also offer a suite of powerful analysis tools to help you make sense of that data. The biggest reason Near makes our list of leading location data companies, though, is that their data is rather inexpensive when compared to some other competitors.
With that being said, Near’s data focuses more on breadth than depth, and so it is not as accurate as many companies need for reliable analytics. In addition, unless used in conjunction with Near’s analysis platforms, Near’s raw data isn’t of very good quality and requires a lot of processing to get any meaningful place-level information out of it.
That’s our list of top websites and apps that sell mobile location data. To start seeing what this type of geospatial data can do for your organization, browse SafeGraph for some free previews.