Location intelligence begins, and sometimes ends, with an address. Sometimes that address is physical, like a postal address; sometimes it's electronic, like an email address; and other times that address is dynamic, ephemeral, like taking a 30-minute coffee break for a latte at Peet’s. What happens at that address is the value that location intelligence exposes to those interested in capitalizing on that space and in that time. For example, for today’s retail merchants in quick service restaurants, banking, and merchandise, these address variants represent the fundamental data underpinnings necessary to compete in a disruptive and ever more mobile marketplace.
A physical address is often exposed to risk, like floods, fires, and earthquakes. At other times, a package arrives at that address, having been routed through other addresses and locations like a shipping facility or a pre-sort mailing warehouse. That singular address may become a focal point for dynamic shifts in demographics as different owners occupy that space or as the highest and best use of that address changes over time. Likewise, an address that was once occupied by a large shopping mall is now a mixed use residential complex that includes retail, office space, and entertainment.
Address vitality is complex because of the comingling of address types. Take, for instance, a single postal address that corresponds to a building location. This location can be described by hundreds of physical attributes, such as the composition of the roof or number of rooms. This location could be occupied by individuals with multiple electronic signatures such as a Twitter handle, an Amazon account, or a Facebook persona. Each persona may reveal multiple traits. That individual could be a business executive, tennis fanatic, or grateful grandfather posting photos to share with others on Instagram. That building may also have a Wi-Fi router with an IP address that links to some person’s laptop with a MAC address. How then do we connect the electronic dots and recognize the potential disposable income of that singular buyer who lives at one physical address but is represented by multiple electronic addresses or signatures? This dynamic is the intersection of signal and geospatial intelligence, i.e., SIGINT and GEOINT.
Address signatures may be so dynamic that they last for only a few minutes or a few hours. For example, commuting to a shopping destination represents an ephemeral address and a route that mobile advertisers are anxious to capture. These digital breadcrumbs, both the route and the dwell time at each destination, become the foundation for a unique psychographic profile. If this individual is found to frequent Kohl’s Department Store at 1:30 p.m. on a Wednesday and spends 60 minutes in the youth section, perhaps this is a mom in the 30-45-year-old age demographic looking to purchase school clothing.
Then there are the more obscure addresses. Does a statue sitting in the middle of a town square have an address? As a point of historical interest, the statue has a unique coordinate pair of latitude and longitude. Likewise, a street traffic sensor broadcasting vehicle volume has both a physical (road intersection) and electronic address (IP address). Both represent non-postal addresses. Take, for example, the delivery of food orders in places like Shanghai or Shenzhen, China, which may require that you simply stand near a QR code in a park and register for mobile payment with WeChat or Alipay, and companies like Sherpa will find you.
Electronic and physical address signatures are now such a vital component of the changing landscape of retail and other industries that they have become that starting data point for location analytics. What matters more, physical or digital? Is the physical address just a delivery point or does it represent a plethora of demographic characteristics? Is the email address just a means of communicating advertising promotions or an entry point for establishing the electronic node that connects social networking behavior? What value can be captured from the daily digest of digital breadcrumbs, routes, and nodes that each individual lays down tracing habits and preferences?
The answer to the question is the recognition that no singular address defines the individual, and individuals cannot be characterized only by their postal address. SIGINT and GEOINT are both required to establish traits and, thus, behavior. Merchants may begin with a physical address and augment with electronic. It used to be enough to target ZIP codes for direct mail. Today, merchants are targeting a geofence that represents an ephemeral, electronic address. Starting with an understanding of the myriad addresses by which people and things are identified leads to the realization that everything is addressable.
Originally published in Directions Magazine.