Location data platform AdNear is going off-road with its data collection.
The Singapore-based company is in the midst of completing a series of tests using drones to collect wireless data, a key ingredient in AdNear’s audience profiles. AdNear has been conducting its drone experiments in several key markets, including Los Angeles, since January.
The drones, which have their cameras and phones turned off, collect publicly available Wi-Fi signals that allow AdNear to derive a user’s location when that person uses an app with AdNear’s SDK.
The company’s VP of sales and partnerships, Shobhit Shukla, is quick to point out that AdNear is not ad tech’s answer to the NSA.
“We’re always aware of the regulatory environment, no matter where we operate,” Shukla told AdExchanger at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Wednesday.
The LA tests caused a bit of a media stir over the last few weeks, prompting sarcastic headlines like, “There Are Creepy Drones Tracking Cell Phones In The Valley” and “Great, Drones Are Spying On Mobile Phone Signals Now” – but this isn’t AdNear’s first time at the data collection rodeo.
Back in the days before AdNear raised its first round of funding – $6.5 million in 2012 – the company, then a bootstrapped startup, used to put its tracking devices on the back of pizza-delivery vehicles and bikes to collect location and point of interest data. Later, once the funding rolled in, including another $19 million in October, AdNear, which does business throughout India and APAC, upped the ante through partnerships with taxi companies in more structured markets, including Australia.
“The idea of using drones is to improve our process of collecting publicly available signals, which is something we’d already been doing through taxis and bikes,” Shukla said. “Drones provide a little more freedom so we can get a little more granular and go where taxis can’t go. We’re fine-tuning our methodology."
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