Mobile Wireless Fuels Location Analytics Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

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2Q 2020 | IN-5791

As COVID-19 continues to take lives and batter economies, governments are turning to telco location data to analyze human movements amid the pandemic. For instance, the U.S government is getting anonymized location data from ad exchanges (which have telco location data for the purposes of mobile advertising) to track hot spots in which crowds are gathering and analyze the populace’s adherence to stay-at-home orders.

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Governments of the World Tap into Location Insights

NEWS


As COVID-19 continues to take lives and batter economies, governments are turning to telco location data to analyze human movements amid the pandemic. For instance, the U.S government is getting anonymized location data from ad exchanges (which have telco location data for the purposes of mobile advertising) to track hot spots in which crowds are gathering and analyze the populace’s adherence to stay-at-home orders.

In Europe, Orange in France is sharing “aggregated and anonymized” location data with Inserm, a French health-focused research institute. Germany’s Deutsche Telekom is also “donating” its data to the cause. In Italy, Telecom Italia, Vodafone, and WindTre have also offered their data to assists governments in developing insights on such anonymized “swarm data.” Austria’s A1 Telekom has also partnered with Invenium, a motion analysis application used for traffic congestion and tourist site analysis, to assess the effectiveness of policies in reducing social contact.

Israel and South Korea are utilizing location data on a personal level, tracking the movements of individual COVID-19 patients for contact tracing, meaning that instead of the anonymized “swarm data” utilized in the above examples, individuals can have their personal location pinpointed and traced.

Location Data Becomes a Champion for Pandemic Control

IMPACT


As with all major outbreaks, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are being deployed for real-time mapping of disease cases and predictive analytics. However, while MERS took about two and a half years to infect 1000 people, and SARS took about four months, COVID-19 reached that figure in 48 days. With countries that are facing difficulty in managing the crisis, the widespread use of telco location data in such a way is both novel and effective. However, tensions regarding privacy laws have risen because of this, and the relationship between consumers, their data, and telecommunication companies will be rethought and further firmed up during and after this pandemic

The rule of thumb for pan-E.U. law (to which the United Kingdom still adheres until the end of Brexit) regarding the exercise of extraordinary data-sharing requires the data to be “temporary, necessary and proportionate.” The anonymous and aggregated location data that Europe and the United States utilizes is not a violation of that law.

While the usage of location data in such a manner does not violate the law, consumer reaction to the way their data is being utilized will be something that steers the availability and scope of such data in the future. Many advertising technology companies rely on such anonymized and aggregated data for location-based advertising. For example, CARTO is a GIS company that deploys geomarketing solutions that utilize location-based data. Through a partnership with Vodafone, CARTO has built a data monetization digital solution for Vodafone’s Business-to-Business (B2B) clients called Vodafone analytics. Vodafone’s 2G, 3G, and 4G data representation plans, NetPerform application data, and mobile data are aggregated and anonymized to be analyzed for tourism, retail, and real estate business applications.

But GIS Forms the Basis of Location Intelligence

RECOMMENDATIONS


The utility of location data and GIS as an important pair is eminent through this crisis. ABI Research forecasts that GIS applications will become more widely deployed over the next five years, as Internet of Things (IoT) applications become fleshed out and smartphone penetration rates increase. While the Transport Logistics and Government & Infrastructure sectors will benefit the most from this, and are thus the biggest spenders, ABI Research finds that location-based data analytics is becoming more important for the private sector, including retailers, advertisers, and financial institutions.

ABI Research forecasts that the location-based telecommunication services market will grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 117% between 2018 and 2023 in China, driven by location-enabled IoT devices that support geofencing and monitoring applications. The present crisis will drive the usage of location-based data for telehealth, making location data and GIS an integral part of GIS usage by governments.

As location data becomes increasingly available, it is imperative that both the private and public sectors make full use of it for business and social applications. Utilizing location-based data requires GIS by default, with the most popular being Esri’s ArcGIS, a GIS engine that has the majority (43%) of the global GIS market. However, there are many other GIS applications that are becoming more popular, such as Mapbox, CARTO, HERE, and TomTom. These companies are moving away from the traditional digital map application business model, which relies on transactions based on digital map purchases, and toward providing the analytical insights that come from location data.

The utility of GIS has not gone unnoticed. Many startups are providing GIS applications using Free and Open-Source Software (FOSS), such as QGIS and Grass GIS to cater to this market, offering solutions that may be more price-competitive than their proprietary counterparts. For example, Indonesia, for which ABI Research forecasts a five-year 5.7% CAGR revenue growth for the GIS market for the government sector between 2020 and 2025, is host to many GIS startups such as MapID and Bhumi Varta. Some startups are offering solutions that already have traditional GIS functionalities built into their product offerings, such as Qlue, which offers a smart city app, allowing governments to monitor disasters and smart city sensors through data fed by smartphones.

Machine Learning (ML) will be able to offer faster and more precise predictions through the analysis of real-time data at scale. With a variety of location data and third-party data becoming more available in the market, companies and governments can learn from the COVID-19 situation to deploy GIS in their workplace to prepare for future disruptions to their businesses. Beyond consumer analytics, GIS would be able to advise companies on how to better manage their supply chains while providing real-time insights and forecasts from a variety of data, just as governments have been doing in this present pandemic.