Location analytics service Placed is now tracking up to 20 million locations a day

Mobile app location analytics provider Placed is now measuring up to 20 million pieces of user-generated location data a day through its free service, Placed Analytics.

Backed with $3.4 million in Series A funding from the Madrona Venture Group, the Seattle-based company is looking to break into the analytics market by providing developers location-based information that can tell them where, and how their mobile app are being used. Since launching its free open beta in June, Placed has already signed up several hundred developers, and their apps are now sending anywhere from 17 to 20 million locations back to the company every single day.

CEO and founder David Shim describes Placed as similar to the services provided by Flurry or Google Analytics, but for the outside world. While other mobile analytics services can show a developer what city a user is in, Placed can developers know what specific neighborhood a user is in and what kind of businesses they’re close to. Placed can even differentiate between three levels of movement: stationary, walking and in transit.

Although the information might seem excessive at first, it opens up many new possibilities to optimize an app for how it is actually used, explains Shim. “A developer can see what situations his app is used, so he can know not to rely on precise controls if the application is mostly used while walking,” says Shim. Developers can also track their location analytics month-over-month to determine trends and emerging usage patterns.

The service works by using GPS data and Placed’s own 300 million location meta-place database. For businesses that are located next to one another, Placed references time-based information to determine which business a user is more likely to be interacting with. For example, Shim says, if there is a McDonald’s and toy store located side-by-side, Placed can determine which business a user is more likely to be visiting based on how popular those locations are during the day. Placed also has home and work models to tell if users are actually out and about, or if they just happen to live or work in densely populated urban areas.

Of course, all this detail also raises concerns around privacy, something Shim tells us the Placed team has put a considerable amount of thought into. First, the service only tracks location when an app using Placed has received location permission from a user. Second, Placed doesn’t provide what Shim calls “individual level data” to developers — that means the most a developer can learn from Placed is that a user is in an area that measures 150 by 150 meters. “It’s all about aggregation,” says Shim. “You can’t see a random device ID and this is the places that they went to. That’s specifically for privacy reasons. That’s also why we’re not going into the ad targeting business.”

What Shim means by ad targeting business is GeoFence advertising — ads that are pushed to consumers when they enter a pre-defined area or pass near a specific business. The eventual monetization goal for Placed isn’t to serve location-based advertising, but to help developers understand the broader location landscape around their apps, something that will make location-based advertising more effective in the long term.

“If an application doesn’t have enough inventory of people actually going by 7-11, then you can sell [GeoFenced 7-11 ads] for a high CPM but they will have a very low value at the end of the day,” Shim explains. “The other obvious thing from an advertising perspective is you can start to understand what inventory is available. Imagine going to McDonald’s and saying ‘people who use my app are four times more likely to be nearby a McDonald’s then any other app out there, so you should really advertise.’ Alternatively you can say the same to Burger King, so they can get in front of those people before they step into a McDonalds.”