Location-based Marketing? Get Lost.

13 Jun

Given the state of GPS tools consumers use today, privacy advocates have little to fear from marketing geniuses who want to sell us stuff based on where we happen to be at any given moment. That’s because GPS devices don’t know anything about our position worth a marketer’s time, let alone money.

Take my bike ride yesterday. According to my MotionX-GPS app on my iPhone I hit a high speed of 27.4 mph. However, my Garmin 205 GPS clocked me at a maximum 28.6 mph on the same downhill segment. When I crested the highest part of my ride, the Garmin registered the elevation as 944 feet, while the MotionX product had me 43 feet higher at 987. Once I plotted my ride into Google Earth, the GPS software had me starting my ride from inside my neighbor’s living room not my driveway more than 150 feet away.

Until 2000, the military used technology to render commercial GPS units intentionally inaccurate up to 100 meters. But business interests prevailed and the Pentagon stopped screwing with the data so GPS devices today are said to accurate up to a couple of meters.

Fat chance. That’s not been my experience, nor that of users of Android, Tom-Tom, and other navigational electronics. Maybe the military just said they stopped messing up the GPS info and kept up its interference.

Although I am disappointed that these digital toys are so lame, I am slightly mollified by the fact that marketers salivating over the potential to pinpoint their pitches to where I happen to be standing are doomed. The likelihood that the lure of their longitudinal and latitudinal come-ons will be relevant is laughable today.

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2 Responses to “Location-based Marketing? Get Lost.”

  1. Ken G. June 13, 2010 at 7:37 pm #

    Maybe you need a third device’s reading to serve as an disinterested arbiter or tie-breaker between the Garmin and the iPhone. πŸ™‚

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