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#PlaceConf: Lights, Location, Magic – Hyper Accurate Location with LED Lighting

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A common theme emerged at the Place Conference London. The accuracy and scalability of location data are issues that the industry has been aware of for awhile. Often those at the end of the chain who use this data are mainly not.

Outdated location data based solely on weak GPS signals are not reliable. Attribution and targeting campaigns that are based on these data sets are not precise and often clients don’t realize the methodology involved.

So how do we as an industry plug the gap when data sets are not fully accurate? Sure GPS can be extremely useful in outdoor locations, but in crowded shopping malls how can data providers ensure that the data they are delivering to their clients is accurate?

Well, if you’ll excuse the pun, that light bulb moment may finally be here. Hyper-accurate indoor location is here, and not from where you might think.

As Gerben showed us in his illuminating talk, the part of the solution to this problem in accuracy could already be widely deployed. His company is doing interesting things with light bulbs — as he points out, a technology that has seen little innovation over the last 100 years.

Some people will frown on the adaptation of another analogue technology for the IoT world. But this time it seems that there’s a pretty good argument for connecting those light bulbs to networks, especially when we consider its application in the location space.

The idea is that light bulbs become sensors that can identify the position of a mobile device down to 30 cm. As mentioned in other talks throughout the day, this level of accuracy is often where location data providers have fallen short.

The benefits of someone like Phillips taking this on is the fact that they can easily scale this tech and help its quick deployment. The ability to drive accurate indoor location exists — the problem is that it’s not always widely deployed. Beacons can provide the required accuracy in close-knit environments such as stores inside shopping malls. However, the problem lies in deploying these sensors at scale.

The wide usage of a light bulb means that this tech could be rolled out quickly. Phillips’ decision to offer ‘smart’ light bulbs at no extra cost will only help speed up the availability of this tech.

The typical culprits are shown as potential use cases. But the power of this technology lies not in its ability to provide a new use case. The benefit of the tech is to improve existing applications of location data. Added indoor accuracy will have a positive effect in everything from location-based marketing campaigns to smart city management and BI.

As someone in the location space, we don’t need to be reminded of the benefits of location. But it is healthy to occasionally have it pointed out that we can aim for higher levels of accuracy.

The important takeaway from this talk is that however you use location, higher levels of accuracy at scale may be just around the corner. That’s great for space and even better news for clients that use location to achieve their goals.

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