The places we go reveal an enormous amount about the things we are interested in. They create a map of our universe, including our preferences and behavior, what we like to do, our personality traits, our needs, the things we are likely to buy, and more.
Smartphones have given advertisers unprecedented access to this universe. By finding users in a given place and time, advertisers can deliver ads that are not only relevant to their lives, but to that specific moment.
However, location targeting is still a fairly new technology and comes with its own set of challenges.
Write on target

There are a lot of misconceptions in the industry about user location data, and this leads to badly targeted campaigns and fraudulent ad inventory.
Another challenge is that fabricated location data is a pervasive problem in the programmatic advertising space. Many companies are passing off second-class data to marketers as something much more valuable than it really is.
To run effective ad campaigns and achieve positive ROIs, advertisers first need to understand what the precision of location data inventory is and what it means. Let us take a deeper look at how user location data is sourced.
This is the first in a series of articles looking at the different components of how to effectively and accurately obtain, filter, profile and use location data to run successful mobile ad campaigns.
Today we cover the different types of location data. Other articles will cover accuracy and precision, the role of point-of-interest data, different ways of constructing audience segments and attribution.
Where does user location data come from?

User location data comes from a variety of sources. One of the most widely used methods is via an application, which is collecting from the device itself.
For example, users opt-in to allow apps such as Uber, Foursquare and Yelp to know their location. This user location data comes from the GPS chip embedded on mobile devices.
While this data can be quite precise – down to less than 30 feet – it does not work indoors, when you are inside a mall or store, and may require up to 30 seconds to find the satellites to get a “fix.”
Key to collecting location via this method is having an app that is either in use or running in the background – with associated battery drain – and the consumer must have provided consent for the use of his or her location.
User location can also be extracted from wireless carrier networks. This method relies on cell towers to derive the location of the user by identifying which tower or towers to which the device is connected.
While this is less precise than GPS, it has the advantage of being ubiquitously available for all subscribers on a network, and no app is required.
Wi-Fi or Over-The-Air (OTA) signals can be used in a similar fashion. When a user connects to a Wi-Fi network, she is near the specific place where that hotspot is.
Finally, user location data can come from beacon technology.
Beacons use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to transmit a signal that connects with smartphones equipped with a compatible app or operating system when at close range.
This not only collects specific indoor-location data which GPS does not do well, but also enables businesses to push messages or offers to users when they come in range.
How do latitude and longitude come into play?