4INFO Gains Patent For Matching Smartphones to Household Location

4info logo 2Mobile marketing and data provider 4INFO announced last month that it had been awarded patent No. 8,792,909 (“Systems and methods for statistically associating mobile devices to households“). This is at the core of 4INFO’s value proposition: the company knows where your phone lives and can unlock significant amounts of associated data for targeting and retargeting across platforms accordingly.

If the patent holds (over time) it’s a big deal. Most mobile platforms, data vendors and networks now are using smartphone-household location to draw numerous inferences about users and what segments they belong to.

As an aside, 4INFO says that its methodology is privacy complaint and that there’s no “PII” involved (though it sounds as though there is). The company says its only looking at data and audiences in the aggregate not individuals.

4INFO’s database has connected “152 million mobile devices to 101 million U.S. households.” This unlocks all sorts of targeting and attribution scenarios for the company and its partners.

Here’s the patent’s abstract (it’s more accessible than most):

Embodiments of the invention relate to methods and systems for associating a mobile device to a household. In various embodiments, a plurality of latitude-longitude pairs is received for a mobile device during a time period. The latitude-longitude pairs are organized into a plurality of clusters corresponding to geographic regions visited by the mobile device during the time period. For each cluster, a score is calculated that represents a likelihood that a user of the mobile device resides in a household within the cluster. The cluster with the highest score is identified as being the location of the user’s household. The computation is preferably conducted recursively over time periods. The mobile device is then associated with the user’s household.

Basically 4INFO (like others) watches a device over time and decides, based on statistical analysis, where it “lives.” Once the census and clusters of other associated data are released by that finding users can be targeted on mobile devices wherever they may be based on their audience status and buying patterns.  (Similarly PlaceIQ’s deal with Rentrak allows TV viewing habits to be associated with smartphones based on household location. So you can then target House of Cards viewers who also shop at Macy’s, etc.)

This methodology also allows a mobile device to be associated with household PC-IP addresses for cross-platform attribution and targeting. Thus an ad served on a PC (identified by IP address) can be associated with a smartphone tied to that household location. That smartphone might go into a store in response to that PC ad, which can be tracked back probabilistically to that earlier PC exposure and compared with a control group that didn’t see the ad to determine store-visit lift.

This is yet another example of how mobile-location functions in multiple ways to support audience discovery and segmentation, targeting and online-to-offline analytics — almost entirely in the background.

It’s a brave new world.

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