Beyond the web – Real world analytics

Anyone who has used Google Analytics knows just how awesome and useful the software can be.  Anonymously tracking users to your website, gathering data on site usage, discovering traffic trends, Google Analytics is a wonderful tool for any business on the web.

After doing some Analytics work for a website today, I started thinking about how brilliant it would be if businesses could use the same data in the real world. Some kind of geo-tracking analytics that could give real-time, real world feedback to businesses.

Could this be the future?

Location awareness

There are now more location aware phones than ever before. The trend looks set to continue that location awareness in mobile devices will soon be as common as the mobile phone is now. If there was software installed on all of these phones that could anonymously track users movements, a lot of interesting and useful data could be gathered.

Yeah, Yeah. Big Brother

I know, nobody wants to be tracked. Just like nobody wants to openly divulge personal details of their life online. Oh wait! The younger generation already are. Twitter, Facebook, MySpace etc.

Just like social networks, giving the mobile phone user a reason to want to divulge their location is the key to making geo-tracking successful. It could be a tool to find your friends, or recommend places to go in your current location.

Emerging Ideas

There are already emerging phone applications that are starting the geo-tracking trend.

Brightkite is a location-based social network website that is available on any mobile device. Users “check in” at places by using text messaging or one of the mobile applications and they can see who is nearby and who has been there before.

Foursquare is a location-based social network website, software for mobile devices, and game. Users “Check-in” at venues using text messaging or a device specific application. They are then awarded points and sometimes “badges.”

Social Benefits

By removing the need to manually “check in” and instead use an anonymous, continuously or regularly  updated “live feed” of everyone’s location, we could get some amazing real-time, real world data.

Think of just some of the social benefits, like…

  • Live traffic reporting (both road and public transport)
  • Geo-trends (discover events)
  • Geo-trends over timeline (popularity of places at different times of day/year etc)
  • Find popular venues (restaurants, pubs etc)
  • Places to avoid (if you hate crowds!)

Business Benefits

Imagine if your business could use this data in the same way that you can currently use Google Analytics on your website. You could …

  • track visitors to your business premises.
  • monitor the busiest times of the day.
  • track time clients/shopper spent in your business.
  • track trends for your business (could help scheduling staff, best time for deliveries etc).
  • track frequent visitors to your business.
  • track where people have come from or went to afterwards.
  • monitor traffic growth trends during an advertising campaign.

Could geo-tracking data gathering be the next big thing on the web?