MobileScapes FAQs

Data and Parameters

Which data providers are used?

MobileScapes uses five combined sources of permission-based, de-identified mobile movement data. These mobile data are sourced from trusted suppliers who meet data quality and privacy compliance standards.

What time period can I get data for?

Data pulls are available from January 1st, 2018. The data are updated daily, and a single extract will be limited to a maximum of 2 years of data.

Unweighted vs. weighted data

Weighted data is the default in ENVISION, and the weighting is to Household Population 15+. Users have an option in settings to retrieve unweighted data. A differentiated weighting is applied to each of the population classifications, Unique Visitors, Workers and Residents.

Weighting allows you to produce population estimates of visitors to geofenced areas. In addition to total visitors, weighted estimates are created for visits to produce foot traffic estimates.

Can we discern the margin of error with weighted estimates?

Mobile movement data are based on what we call “Big Data.” The concept of a margin of error—that researchers are familiar with in sample surveys—does not apply to this type of data. The frequency of pings and number of devices with location services turned on require weighting and normalization.

EA data scientists have spent several years in R&D to understand coverage and bias—spatially and temporally—and they have developed routines using best practices to remove outliers, understand biases, and weight data for the general population. Thus, providing a statistical margin of error like those associated with a sample survey does not apply to our methods.

In several real-world tests, our normalized and weighted data provide results closer in line with reality than what resulted from using raw ping data.

Ping observations

We capture a single ping per day, the first ping of the day. For example, if we see pings at 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM on the same day, we only count one ping for the day, and for daypart purposes, it will be attributed to the 9 AM – noon daypart.

We take the first ping to display when the device first appears in the geofence. When aggregating multiple geofences in a single extract, we only capture the first observation in the first geofence visited.

Multiple geofences can be viewed independently in a single extract by selecting the “Individual” option when selecting multiple geofences in ENVISION.

Geofences 

Are the data privacy-compliant?

Yes. EA MobileScapes data are modelled from permission-based data collected by our trusted suppliers using location-enabled apps. Our suppliers de-identify the data before sending it to Environics Analytics. The data are used as inputs to models that normalize and weight to the general population. Using best practices, external controls, and advanced modelling techniques, EA’s expert methodologists address bias and small sample size issues.

How can I create geofences for my extracts?

Geofences can be hand-drawn on a map in the MobileScapes Data Extract tool or imported as spatial area polygons (when importing, turn on the Geofence toggle). We also offer our EA Geofence Library, a layer of pre-defined geofences found in the ENVISION MobileScapes Data Extract tool.

Geofence size limitation

The maximum size for hand-drawn or imported geofences is 5 million square feet. This limit does not apply to EA Library geofences.

Multiple EA geofences can be selected for a single extract. For user-defined geofences, you are still limited to one geofence per extract.

EA Geofence Library

EA has undertaken a large-scale effort to build a vast layer of polygons for Canadian commercial, institutional and recreational locations. The polygons can be used as geofences for destination-based mobile movement extracts in the ENVISION tool or outside ENVISION for project deliverables. In ENVISION, the library is accessed using the Geofence Explorer within the MobileScapes Data Extract tool. The geofences are not available for sale outside of the MobileScapes products.

EA relies on our industry knowledge, a large team of analysts and many relationships with partners to identify and classify locations. All data used to validate our process and fill gaps were used with permission.

What is the difference between shared and unique geofences?

Unique: Locations that can be spatially distinguished from other locations have their own geofence, which can include multi-story or single-story buildings.

Shared: Locations found within a multi-story or multi-use location (i.e. commercial and residential), have their geofence type categorized as shared.

How do you deal with multi-floor geofences?

MobileScapes cannot distinguish between different levels within multi-tiered buildings. Due to the absence of altitude capture, the MobileScapes Extract outputs will capture data from all levels within the desired geofence.

How will the data be backfilled if a geofence undergoes a banner change? For example, what would happen to the estimates if Tim Horton's changed to a Starbucks midway through 2023?

The count of visits is based on the geofence boundary lines, not what banner it belongs to. The banner name in the geofence library will reflect any changes identified. Still, visits can be pulled for the geofence going back to January 2019, even though it belonged to another banner at some point in the past.

Outputs

Mobile movement insights are delivered with each extract from ENVISION

Daily Visits, Worker Visits and Resident Visits, along with Unique Visitors, Workers and Residents will be returned along with the Common Evening Location (CEL), Common Daytime Location (CDL), days, dayparts and months.

Visit metrics are represented as an “estimated Household Population 15+” weight. They can be thought of as total foot traffic for the geofence over the time period selected.

Visitor metrics can also be represented as an “estimated Household Population 15+” weight. They filter out multiple visits to give a true indication of the unique population identified within the geofence over the time period selected.

International devices

International devices will not appear when pulling a Canadian mobile movement extract within ENVISION.

International devices are available via custom work outside of ENVISION.

Methodology for assigning Common Evening Location (CEL) and Common Daytime Location (CDL)

Common Evening Location (CEL) is where a device is most commonly observed between 6PM and 8AM and the Common Daytime Location (CDL) is where a device is most commonly observed between 9AM and 5PM.

A common location is defined by a 100m x 100m cell (third decimal latitude and longitude point) which has the highest score over each monthly date range. Monthly updates use the observations of the given month, plus the 15th onward of the previous month. For example, the date range for the May 2020 CEL/CDL is April 15, 2020 to May 31, 2020.

To establish a monthly CEL or CDL, we look at the number of unique hours a device is seen in a cell multiplied by the number of unique days the device was observed. For example, if a device were observed each hour between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. over the course of 15 days during the respective monthly date range, then this device would receive a score of (8 unique hours) X (15 unique days) = 120. The minimum score to establish a CEL or CDL is 100.

CEL and CDL are then assigned to the closest postal code. The lat/long for the CEL and CDL postal codes will be assigned.

Methodology for assigning Visitors, Workers and Residents counts

Unique Visitors are those observed who have neither their CEL nor CDL within the geofence. Workers are those observed who have their CDL within the geofence. Residents are those observed who have their CEL within the geofence.

Instances where those observed have both CDL and CEL within the geofences get counted in both worker and resident categories. Overlap between classifications can occur for all categories of observed populations and should be considered when conducting an analysis.

Why is the Total less than the sum of Visitors, Workers and Residents?

The total represents the unique count of the observed population within the geofence, removing any duplication found across categories. Visitor, Worker and Resident categories are not mutually exclusive.

Why is the Total Visits less than the sum of Visits, Worker Visits and Resident Visits?

Total Visits represent the total unique count of visits made by all observed populations within the geofence and remove any duplication found across categories. Daily Visits, Worker Visits, and Resident Visits are not mutually exclusive.

Why do I have quantified values for visitors and residents associated with one device?

If a device's CEL or CDL changed within the time period selected for the extract, quantified estimates in multiple categories could occur. Only the most current CEL and CDL are reported for a device; however, all associated device visits are captured.

Can I calculate the overlap between categories?

Yes, category overlap can be quantified at the visitor or visit level by subtracting the individual counts from the total.

For example, if a geofence has 10,000 total visitors, consisting of 9,000 unique visitors, 500 workers, and 1,000 residents, the overlap among the categories would be quantified at 500 individuals.

Are Worker Visits or Resident Visits available for day or week, daypart or monthly breakdowns?

No, Worker Visit or Resident Visit breakdowns are not available. Day of week, daypart, and month breakdowns are only available for visits associated with Unique Visitors.

Why are there records with a weight of 0 in my extract?

Records with weights of 0 represent devices observed in the geofence on a given day with a low level of observations for the day. A low level is defined as a device observed in fewer than ten 30-minute intervals on the day and is calculated for each day of your query request. We’ve maintained these records in the extract to allow you to understand the movement of these low-quality devices for any additional ad-hoc analysis you wish to complete.

Why are there records without a postal assignment?

This may be blank due to a device not having a sufficient historical CEL/CDL assignment in the database. These devices were not observed frequently enough within the CEL or CDL assignment window to appropriately assign the device to a location.

How can I calculate weighted visits per weighted visitor?

You can divide weighted visits by weighted visitors per record. Due to the bias within the underlying data, there will be a slight positive bias. This is due to visitors who only visited once as they may be undercounted.

Will I receive a notification if the sample size for a MobileScapes extract is low?

Yes, if the number of unique devices for a MobileScapes extract is lower than 450, you will be notified via an onscreen alert in ENVISION. A record count below 450 does not meet our minimum recommended sample size for reliable segment profiling. If you receive the alert, please consider increasing the date/time range for the affected geofence(s), or aggregating multiple geofences, to increase the record count; or consider limiting your profiles to the Target Group, Social Group or Lifestage Group level.

To discuss the implications of using geofences with low sample sizes, please contact your Environics Analytics account representative.

How can I prevent low sample warnings?

Low sample warnings appear when a location does not get a lot of foot traffic, the area being analyzed is too small, or the timeframe chosen is too short. Increasing the area you are looking at or increasing the timeframe will often reduce the likelihood of these warnings.

Utilizing MobileScapes for single-event analysis, such as monitoring foot traffic during specific sporting events at stadiums or venues on particular dates and times, is discouraged. This is mainly because longer date ranges yield richer data sets, enhancing the accuracy of our estimates, while shorter durations result in smaller sample sizes. Furthermore, users should allow a 5–8-day window to ensure comprehensive data capture, accounting for any potential delays from our data providers.

How are credits consumed?

Aggregate: If multiple geofences are selected for an aggregated extract, each group of 20 geofences counts as 1 query. For example, 100 geofences count as five queries. Queries will always round up, so for example, 21 geofences in an aggregate extract will use two queries.

Individual: This option saves time by not having to run a separate extract for each unique geofence. If multiple geofences are selected for an individual extract, each geofence counts as 1 query. For example, 100 geofences count as 100 queries.

Why should I avoid using just numbers, the "&" sign, or "/" backslash, when naming extracts?

Stick to letters, underscores, and dashes when naming extracts. Users might encounter an issue caused by extra spacing or special characters in the extract name, which hinder running reports related to the extract, such as the MobileScapes Data Extract Summary Tool report. The issue can only be resolved by re-running the data extract with the recommended naming convention. Each time you run an extract, it will be counted against your total queries.

Usage Scenarios 

Where can the mobile movement extract be found in ENVISION?

Mobile movement extracts are found in the “Customers” section of My Data.

Why aggregate multiple geofences into a single polygon when selecting them during an extract process?

When you aggregate multiple geofences, ENVISION will automatically deduplicate the file so you can analyze true unique visitors, workers, and residents. This is the best option if your use case is to understand the true unique observed population with no overlap or duplication of devices.

When selecting multiple geofences during an extract process, why treat them as individual geofences?

This option saves time from running a separate extract for each unique geofence. However, when analyzing these types of extracts, such as creating a profile or running a MobileScapes Trend report, we recommend you use the filter to select a single geofence at a time and run your analysis.

When I select multiple geofences during an extract process and choose the individual option, can I create a profile or MobileScapes Trend report for the entire extract?

In this scenario, we recommend using a filter to select a single geofence for each profile you create or each MobileScapes Trend report you run. This will prevent double counting of devices seen in multiple geofences. If you create a profile or run a MobileScapes Trend report using multiple geofences from a single extract, you risk introducing duplication into your results.

When running a weighted extract, what is the best way to understand unique visitors only for a specific day, daypart, or month?

In this scenario, we recommend selecting the “aggregate geofence” extract option and then selecting the specific day, daypart, or month during the extract process.

If you wish to understand visits for a specific day, daypart, or month, you could run an entire timeframe for an “aggregate geofence” extract. Then, when creating a profile of the extract in ENVISION, select the specific day, daypart, or month fields for the aggregated geofence. In this case, you will get a profile of visits.

Specific day, daypart, and month breakdowns are only available for visits associated with Unique Visitors.

I want to PRIZM profile visitors and workers to understand the potential audience for mass marketing. Can these counts be summed together?

There is potential overlap across unique visitors, workers and residents, so it is best practice to look at any PRIZM profiles individually or side-by-side. Overlap is most likely to occur between workers and residents, and additional caution should be paid to those categories.

What if my location is open during the night? Can I select hours that span two days? For example, 10 PM to 2 AM Friday/Saturday.

When creating your data extract, you can choose any time period within a single day. For instance, if you select a time frame of 4 PM to 10 PM, the extract will include all observations made during that time on every day you've chosen.

However, it's important to note that you can't select a time range across two days. For example, it won't be possible to create an extract of just four hours from 10 PM to 2 AM that covers both Day 1 and Day 2. Instead, you must keep your selection within the same 24-hour day from midnight to midnight.

I have noticed a difference in visit counts between FootFall and MobileScapes. Which one should I use?

There may be some differences in the reported visit count between FootFall and MobileScapes for the same geofence and timeframe. FootFall captures foot traffic once a week using the latest available data, While MobileScapes updates daily. Any discrepancies in counts are due to delayed data delivery by one of our MobileScapes providers, resulting in FootFall capturing data before all potential devices are accounted for in MobileScapes.