Why Smart Data is Behind Pokémon Go’s Success

It seems like Pokémon decided to accompany me through my whole life. I used to play with the cards when they first came out in the 90’s and now I’m thinking about the huge amounts of data the game is gathering and how they can be analyzed with smart data discovery solutions. Who would have thought that after so many years it would make such a comeback! Even though it is only officially available in three countries, Pokémon Go already beat WhatsApp, Instagram and Snapchat in time spent on the app, and is fighting with Twitter for daily active users. To what does it owe its success?Playing Pokemon Go on the street

Most people think that Pokémon Go is so successful because it uses the Augmented Reality camera; but the truth is, it’s successful because it harnessed data into a game. Pokémon Go offers the chance to pretend the world is filled with Pokémon, which we can see through the AR camera of our smartphones. This creates a sense of co-presence. The Pokémon are found in the places that fit them better, for example, a water-type Pokémon will be found near fountains or beaches. But this is not thanks to the AR camera. The real sense of co-presence comes from the perfect placing of Pokémon. The makers of the app did this by taking smart data and turning it into a game.

There is a lot of personalization involved in the game which produces what looks like a seamless integration of the virtual and the real worlds. This makes it look like the game designers custom-placed each Pokémon. But the game can be played worldwide, and there is only one way to generate that level of personalized and localized information: a great usage of smart data.

Pokémon Go’s creators, Niantic, Inc., are Google Earth and Google Maps veterans. In 2012 they created another location-based game called Ingress, which was also a method of data collection and actually provided most of the data for Pokémon Go’s creation. Ingress was based on users capturing “portals”, which were historical sites and public areas that were determined as such by using Google Earth photos. Originally, the sites were chosen by Niantic, but they later encouraged users to submit their own recommendations for sites. About 15 million sites were suggested. The data behind these portals determined the location of “PokéStops” later on. Niantic used data from Google Earth, weather, urban planning, Google Maps, and the data generated by Ingress and its users to determine where each Pokémon should appear. This is why it feels so real.

Smart Data was not just the material for creating the game, it is also the result of it. The app is generating huge amounts of data about its users—mainly their location and movement patterns, but also has access to a lot of information in a person’s phone. All this data is great for business. Forbes wrote an article on the huge business potential generated by Pokémon Go. There are restaurants and shops that ended up with a “PokéStops” status and are taking full advantage of it by attracting app users and potential customers. Others that were not as lucky to be “PokéStops” can buy “lures” and attract Pokémon to their location, therefore attracting users. Since users want to use the Wi-Fi there, businesses can request for them to log in and gather a lot of data on customers. The challenge will be to be able to analyze the data generated and turn it into actionable insights. That’s when Business Intelligence and Smart Data Discovery solutions jump in.

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