What are “mobile location analytics”?

Mobile Location Analytics (MLA) provides technological solutions for retailers by developing aggregate reports used to reduce waiting times at checkouts, optimize store layouts, and to understand consumer shopping patterns. The reports are generated by recognizing the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth MAC addresses of cell phones as they interact with store Wi-Fi networks.

By seeing the movement of devices, retailers can gather data that will help them optimize such things as floor plan layouts, advertisement placement and checkout lane staffing. MLA products work by capturing a device’s MAC address, the unique 12-digit number that is assigned to a specific hardware device. This number can be detected by WiFi or Bluetooth sensors. There are separate MAC addresses for WiFi and Bluetooth.  Beacons are also used for MLA purposes and they work with Bluetooth.  Through this technology, they are also able to send push notifications. Recently companies started using the combination of WiFi and Bluetooth to improve accuracy and reliability of the MLA devices.  The technology works as people walk through stores; the tracking companies find their wireless signal and assign the device a random number. They monitor that number as it moves across the screen and analyze patterns in the data.

Recent changes to how mobile devices such as iPhone manage the device’s MAC address (they randomize to help prevent undesired tracking) have diminished the accuracy of these types of Wi-Fi network based analytic services.

Ref: Wikipedia