Paper Towns

March 5, 2018

‍I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but let me say it one more time for the folks in the back: location data is getting huge.

For a company like X-Mode that has been growing in the field, this is great news. Investors and industry insiders have been eagerly following the surge in data-driven solutions for a while now, and it finally seems like the rest of the world is starting to take notice too. The potential applications for location data on a larger scale are only just beginning to be explored. The fact that more people are talking about the industry right now means this might be just the beginning of a true data revolution.

Revolutions are notorious for their “shoot first, consider the consequences later” attitude, though: just ask Marie Antoinette. I’ve talked before about how important it is at this moment to establish good standards and practices for the location data industry. A lot of companies, seeing how lucrative the field is becoming, will be tempted to hop on the bandwagon right now. It is therefore essential that companies already in the space are doing their best to ensure data is of high quality, and that users and data-buyers are being treated fairly.

This is often easier said than done. At the end of the day, the best way to maximize profits is to move a lot of data to a lot of clients very quickly. This scramble to sell can lead to a very competitive environment, and it may be tempting for companies to cut corners and sublicense data behind their suppliers’ backs. This is obviously wrong -- and usually in direct violation of contracts -- but it’s not always difficult. Even for smaller players in the field, the amount of data changing hands on a daily basis is staggering. When the transactions get big enough, exclusivity is quite simply too difficult to monitor.

At X-Mode, though, “too difficult” is not going to stop us from maintaining meticulous standards for how our data is used and sold. Exclusivity is important for our business, and it is also important to the clients who trust us to buy and sell their data. X-Mode prides itself on focusing on this exclusivity; along with the high quality of our data obtained via Always On Location, it is one of the factors that sets us apart.

It’s pretty easy to say that we value exclusivity, though, and I want to prove to you that we can put our money where our mouth is. Allow me to briefly walk you through one of the processes X-Mode uses to ensure exclusivity with our demand-side vendors. We call it Paper Towns. Pretty snappy, right?

[Before I explain the process, I want to give a special shout out to the folks over at Reveal Mobile who helped us originate the idea. Thanks, Reveal!]

To begin with, you need to have an exclusive contract with your supply source. This doesn’t have to be all of your data: it could just be a group of 10,000 users as a test case. The point is for you to be able to control the nozzle.

Next, you will need to create about 200 IDs that you can spread liberally through your demand-side feeds. These IDs will have to act like real users, so it’s important to make sure they have a real location history. In order to do this, you will need a handful of employees and about 160 hours to spare. These employees will create about 100 different paths on a device ID. This is definitely the most demanding part of the process, and you should definitely take these employees out to a fancy dinner.

In the long run, however, the work will pay for itself. Once these IDs are convincing enough, they are ready to be sprinkled into your demand-side feed. In this way, they work like Paper Towns -- fictional municipalities that cartographers planted in their maps so they would know whether other map makers were copying their work. If a vendor is worried about overlap in their feed, or if you are worried that some of your publishers are sublicensing your data, all you have to do is check if these special IDs are present. In this way, you can definitively prove whether your terms of service are being violated, either accidentally or intentionally.

It may sound a little sneaky, but the goal of our Paper Towns method is not just to prove that other companies are up to no good. On the contrary, by sharing this process, X-Mode wants to help promote a wider atmosphere of trust and transparency in the industry. We intend to do this not just by instituting checks and balances for data quality and exclusivity, but by building stronger, more trustworthy relationships between companies, publishers, and clients. There is a lot of room to grow right now for the location data industry: X-Mode just wants to make sure it grows in the right direction.

Joseph Green

Joseph is currently a student at Emerson College, where he studies Visual Media and Communication. As Content Creator, Joseph develops engaging content via blog posts, push notifications, and ad-copy. Joseph also draws upon his research skills to help contextualize the company's place within larger technological and social trends in the industry.

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