A colleague of mine recently upgraded from Google Maps to the Inrix Traffic app. Along with receiving real-time alerts on traffic conditions, hazards and police activity, they can now predict their drive time, to and from work, while informing team members and family of their exact arrival. It’s easy, accurate and I’ve been told it promotes household peace.

Thus far, location aware content – which to this point has consisted mostly of ads, promotions and coupons – has not had an equally positive impact on my life. We know that geo-awareness can help with targeting marketing messages, but when money is on the line, savvy businesses are finding creative ways to tap into the power of location.

traffic-maps_v2With the advent of the “measure everything” culture, interesting correlations and conclusions can start to be identified and tracked. Take for example the GPS tracking that powers Inrix. They have access to the number of cars that drive by and into the parking lot of big box retail stores such as WalMart, Target and shopping malls. When plotted on the right axis, this data can be used to create a “parking lot index” and act as a barometer of the establishment’s general health. When paired with the appropriate historic data, this “location cloud” can be used to make predictions about consumer confidence, shopping activity and yes, sales!

Layering metadata like vehicle make/model or mobile device type can enrich and improve the model. An increase in BMW traffic in your parking lot might signal an increase in average purchase volumes, a spike in detected Nokia Lumias might be a predictor of average purchase size increasing… the possibilities are limited only by the amount and quality of the data that you collect.

With the predictive capabilities of data, it is easy to see why data has been referenced as the oil of the 21 century.  You can bet that every hedge fund manager worth their salt is eager to get their hands on this kind of insight. Not only would they have key insights before the balance of Wall Street but they would also have access to these predictive indicators before store management.

In short, access to an even highly anonymous traffic and location data cloud represents a brand new and limitless opportunity for marketers and business builders. It also represents yet another Big Data reality and points to the increasing role that real-time analytics will play in shaping successful business strategies.