In the mobile world, location services have become an integral part of our lives.
It’s influenced the way we navigate the world around us. Whether that’s searching for the nearest coffee place or getting local weather updates, mobile apps use location technology to provide us real-time information that’s personalized to us as users.
But are you aware of the underlying mechanisms that power these services?
We’ll be discussing three essential concepts in the world of location technology: metadata, micro interactions and cookies.
These distinct elements play an interconnected role that shape the functionality and user experience of mobile location technology.
Metadata enriches location data by providing crucial information about the location itself. Through metadata, mobile apps can personalize content, remember geotags, and analyze user behavior to deliver the best user experience.
Micro interactions are those subtle, single purpose engagements that are critical to many location-based apps.
And then you have cookies, which help build user profiles, deliver targeted ads, and gain insights into app engagement.
Now that we’ve got the introductions out of the way, let’s discover how these three elements come together to create a seamless, personalized experience that we’ve come to be familiar with in the digital landscape.
Understanding metadata in mobile location technology
Metadata refers to data that provides information about other data. (It’s data about data).
In the context of mobile location technology, metadata can include details such as the time, date, and geospatial coordinates of a user's device.
This kind of information is essential for location-based services to work well.
When a mobile app accesses location data from the device's GPS or other location sensors, it generates metadata associated with the location. That metadata can be used for various purposes, such as:
Mobile apps can use location metadata to personalize content and services based on the user's location. For example, a weather app can provide localized forecasts, and a restaurant app can recommend nearby dining options like a French brasserie or a Rainforest Cafe (yes, people still dine there).
We use metadata to enable geotagging of photos and videos taken with a mobile device. As a user, there is a chance that you’ve noticed this on many social media apps like Instagram or BeReal. It helps users remember the location of a particular moment or share it with others.
That said, if you need to geotag a picture of yourself standing in front of the Great Pyramid of Giza to remember where you took the photo you should consider a few classes in Geography.
Mobile location technology collects metadata over time, creating a user's location history. Companies can use this data to analyze user behavior and make informed business decisions.
You may have noticed on apps, like Google Maps, that you have home and work locations. These two location points are defined by the frequency of your location data in those areas.
Some apps use that location data to send relevant information based on the time of day. For example, when you’re commuting back home you’ll receive a notification from a grocery store app to remind you to pick up some groceries on the way.
Micro interactions and mobile location technology
Single purpose micro interactions play a crucial role in the user experience when using location-based services. Here are some examples:
When a user enters a specific geofenced area, a micro interaction can trigger a push notification from the app, providing relevant information or promotions based on the user's location. You’ll see this being commonly used for location-based marketing efforts: a user enters a geofence area, and they receive a notification promoting the latest deal at a retail store nearby.
Micro interactions can use haptic feedback (vibrations) to acknowledge a successful check-in or confirm a location-based action. It’s another subtle way to enrich the user experience of using an app. There’s not much more to add here, it’s kind of like how video game controllers are built with haptic feedback to simulate the experience of driving a race car.
Apps can use micro interactions to display real-time changes in location, such as a moving vehicle on a map or updating distance and estimated time of arrival. Ride-hailing and delivery apps rely on this type of micro interaction to update users on their drivers eta or their order status in the last-mile delivery process.
Cookies and location intelligence
Cookies are something you’ve seen whilst visiting a website and browsing the web on your computer. They’re small pieces of data stored on a user's device by a website to track user activity and to retain information.
While cookies are more commonly associated with web browsing, they also play a role in location intelligence when it comes to mobile apps and services. Here's how cookies can be related to location intelligence:
Cookies can be used to track user interactions within location-based apps, allowing companies to build user profiles based on location preferences and behavior. If a company notices that a user visits a particular store location, they can develop targeted promotions and deals for that user at their favorite spot.
Targeted ads also tie into user profiling. Location data combined with cookie information can enable more targeted and relevant advertising. For instance, a retail app can use location intelligence to display personalized ads for various nearby stores based on a user's shopping history. It’s the same approach as profiling but just focused on advertisement.
Cookies can assist in tracking user engagement and behavior within location-based apps, providing valuable insights into how users interact with the app's features and services. With a collection of cookie data from all users, developers can find ways to improve their app and the user experience. This helps with user retention and customer loyalty.
Privacy and ethical concerns
It feels like I bring this up with every piece of content, but that’s because it’s something people are concerned about and will have questions.
The usage of location data, metadata, micro interactions, and cookies raises privacy concerns. Companies must handle this data responsibly and ensure users' consent and data protection, following applicable laws and regulations like GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act).
If you have concerns or questions about the handling of data and privacy, we have a detailed blog on GDPR to explain how it works in protecting the rights and privacy of users in Europe.
Unraveled: Metadata, Micro Interactions, and Cookies
The amalgamation (I know big words) of Metadata, Micro Interactions, and Cookies in mobile location technology has paved the way for the world of location intelligence. I hope this article has made that clear.
Just a small recap:
Metadata, with its wealth of geospatial information, empowers applications to tailor content, deliver geotagged memories, and gain valuable insights into user behavior.
Whether it's the receiving of a timely push notification or the confirmation of a successful location-based action through haptic feedback, micro-engagements make the user experience immersive.
Businesses can harness the power of Cookies* and location data to build detailed user profiles, deliver personalized advertisements, and analyze app engagement patterns to optimize their services continually.
If you want to learn more about leveraging location intelligence to drive your app and business forward, check out our solution pages. From location-based marketing, delivery, to user tracking, Roam provides the ultimate platform for your location needs.
*If you’ve only read the conclusion of this blog, we’re not talking about cookies as in the baked snack you put in the oven or find in that Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavor. Sorry to disappoint, but baked cookies have nothing to do with location intelligence or location data. I wish they did.