- Placer.ai, a SaaS provider of real-time location data and analytics from mobile devices, raised $12 million to support its business growth, specifically its U.S. operations and R&D efforts, per an announcement.
- Venture capital firm JBV Capital led the Series A funding round, which included participation from Aleph, Reciprocal Ventures and OCA Ventures.
- Verizon and Caesars Entertainment are among Placer.ai's customers, along with property owners such as Brixmor, JLL, Regency and SRS. Placer.ai in 2018 raised $4 million from IrishAngels Ventures, with participation from Array Venture and Stage Venture Partners, per a separate announcement.
Placer.ai is among the companies seeking to expand in the high-growth industry of collecting location data from mobile consumers, a practice that has alarmed privacy advocates but continues to draw interest from investors, as this news shows. Spending on location analytics is expected to grow to $15 billion by 2023 from $8.35 billion in 2017, Placer.ai said in a study cited by Bloomberg.
Placer.ai collects real-time data about the movements of anonymized mobile consumers for businesses such as retailers, hotels and commercial real estate owners. These businesses can use the information to identify where to rent or buy properties, or to measure the effect of advertising campaigns on consumer behavior such as store visits.
In addition to helping businesses identify where to rent properties in areas of high foot traffic, real-time location data can help to boost the effectiveness of ad campaigns, according to a report last year by location data provider Factual. Location-based marketing, which Martin Sorrell, former CEO of ad-holding giant WPP, once described as the "holy grail" for advertising, reaches consumers when they're most ready to shop, dine out or visit an entertainment venue.
Privacy concerns related to location data are growing in part because of concerns that the location data industry isn't taking the necessary steps to protect the data and the fear that such information can be used to identify individual people. Placer.ai says it aggregates and anonymizes the data to limit the possibility that the individual identities of people are exposed. The company doesn't collect personally identifiable information about consumers or attempt to re-identify them, per its website.
Self-regulation may help the location data industry to avoid a broader crackdown on its business practices, especially as media outlets like the New York Times focus on location data as part of its "Privacy Project" investigations. In one sign of self-regulation, location data company Gimbal this month released an app to give consumers more control over their geographic data. LocationChoices helps consumers opt out of sharing their location data with third parties, preventing its use for advertising and analytics.