Where on earth are we?

Where on earth are we?

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives... on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
 — Carl Sagan in Pale Blue Dot

Sagan was writing about Earth in this case, as pictured by the Voyager probe.[1] I’m writing this blog whilst on that blue dot, and in a hot and sunny Majorca. Specifically, the following location in Majorca: 


This “blue dot” from Google Maps we take for granted now. But the precise location of people (well, of their phones) has never been so abundant and available. Over 2 billion people carry smartphones of some description, each recording their location, altitude, bearing and a whole host of other information. Quite some feat. 

It wasn’t always so – in fact it’s only in the last 60 years since we’ve left our planet have we really begun to picture it – literally. 

Above is one of the most reproduced photos in the world, the Blue Marble. For the first time, mankind had seen its home from afar. For some, it stood at the beginning of a new period of intense globalisation, expansion and beginning of the technology race.

As well as photographing Earth for the very first time, satellites started mapping Earth in increasing detail and then providing radar and positioning, before the US Military implemented the Global Positioning System (“GPS”) to allow it to accurately determine the position of its troops, and in fact any military asset. Slowly, less accurate parts of the system were opened up to civilian use, around 20 years ago, resulting in the first bulky sat navs and other such expensive equipment. For the first time, provided your equipment could see 3 or 4 of the 24 GPS satellites in orbit around the earth, you could get an accurate 3D fix of your position (and the also the exact time).

Then, some 50 years later, an updated version of the Blue Marble was used is the lock screen photo in the first iPhone:

 The Apple iPhone and the subsequent Android based phones used the latest generation of GPS, with easy access baked in the operating system and available by standard APIs. Thus, any app and any person could know instantly where they were to a very high degree of accuracy, without specialised equipment. This, combined with accurate mapping technology gave anyone with access to a smartphone the ability to instantly know where they were, and do something with that information quickly and in a connected fashion.  Suddenly, everybody has a satellite in their pocket.

Of course, this technology comes at a price. Google provide maps free at the point of use to the consumer, but monetise though the delivery of ads targeting on information gathered during its use (and in fact the whole time). Facebook and other digital giants do the same (Apple being a notable exception).

Location Sciences is founded on the same set of data – very precise location signals, provided with consent and anonymously by millions of users. We use this location data set to power our products and enable a whole range of business to benefit from the same power that Google et al command. For the first time, any business can see exactly how their products, services or customers move in the real world. What’s more, using our predictive analytics and machine learning, we can even forecast where people will likely go.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll build on this new world of location intelligence and highlight some of the new data and case studies Locations Sciences and our partners are working on.

Until next time…

Dan Francis
Chief Strategy Officer


[1] Taken in 1990 by NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft, the “pale blue dot” photo shows what our planet looks like from 4 billion miles away. Earth is the tiny speck of light indicated by the arrow and enlarged in the upper left-hand corner.