Rachael Elliott The Competitive Intelligence War Goes Mobile with GPS and Smartphones
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By Rachael Elliott


Smartphones, GPS, apps and our love of sharing information, personal as well as private, has created a new opportunity for professionals in the field of competitive intelligence. Rachael Elliott discusses how deployment of mobile devices allows insights to be gleaned from everyday apps such as Foursquare and why we should be wary of new developments such as Google mapping inside buildings.


The progression of technology is changing the way people gather intelligence about their competition and the widespread adoption of smartphones has added a further dimension to the way intelligence can be gathered about the competition.

One of the primary advances is the addition of global positioning system (GPS) technology to smartphones. This, coupled with the modern consumer’s propensity to share information, can provide invaluable intelligence about your competition’s strategy, its people – and the CEO’s brewhouse of choice.

Consumer-Orientated Apps can Reveal Surprising Facts About the Competition

Whilst a search for corporate information might prove unfruitful, by looking through your peers’ mobile applications, the data revealed on third party consumer-orientated apps can be harvested for surprisingly accurate detail about your competition.

Applications such as Foursquare allow users to “check-in” to buildings they enter. These users can provide “tips” about venues they visit which can provide useful insight into the competition: employees sharing that the poor car parking situation will improve next year as the company is investing in a new car park shows the company will take a capex hit in next year’s accounts. Another user discussing the Starbucks concession or the table football facility in the games room suggests the company invests substantially on employee well-being.

The War to be Leader of the Mobile Mapping World will Provide New CI Opportunities

Whilst mapping applications are old hat as far as mobile apps go, the war to bring ever-more advanced mapping solutions to users is set to bring a wealth of new intelligence-gathering opportunities.

Google is developing its mapping service to include maps inside buildings. Many businesses have agreed to have their office space mapped, and un-CI aware businesses could inadvertently put information into competitors’ hands: “walking” through a virtual corridor could reveal how many people a firm employ. A discarded coffee cup on the CEO’s desk could reveal his preferred location for his caffeine fix.

Never one to be outdone, Apple announced at the end of March it was purchasing WiFiSLAM, a service which helps users locate points inside buildings.

The smartphone certainly opens up a wealth of new intelligence opportunities for the CI professional; indeed, the biggest challenge will be keeping apace of new technological advances and the intelligence opportunities that can be created from them.

FreePint Subscribers can read more about the use of smartphones for competitive intelligence by logging in to view The Smartphone: Mini Missile in the Competitive Intelligence War

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