Quova, Inc - Sleuthing Cyberspace for IP-based Geographic Information

By Joe Francica

Quova, Inc - Sleuthing Cyberspace for IP-based Geographic Information
The Internet is not entirely "borderless"

Quova is in the business of "geolocation on the internet." That is, since computers using the internet have an internet protocol (IP) address, it is possible to determine "where" that computer resides, not just in cyberspace, but with a physical location as well. According to Tom Miltonberger, senior vice president of products at Quova, "the company started in 2000 with a mission to enable real-world business on the internet by helping businesses know where their customers are."

How Quova's Technology Works
Every computer on the Internet has an IP address, which is sort of like a phone number, but without the prefixes or country codes that reveal its location. Quova plays "detective" about routers, gateways, and trace information.The company has access to registries of IP addresses, and various information that is provided through relationships with partners. Quova has a data collection network that captures information about how traffic is routed and stores the information in an Oracle database.Then they extract information to understand where these gateways and routers are located.Using sophisticated artificial intelligence algorithms to process the information, a geolocation can be determined.

But automation is not enough.Quova has a staff of trained network analysts to look at raw data to follow-up on the information that they receive. Their job is to determine how each ISP routes their IP addresses.Over time, this information is fed back through to the algorithms to "learn" more about the routing process.This feedback can ascertain information about whether the connection is DSL or dial-up, for example.Once a given IP address has been identified, Quova can tell you where it is located down to the city level.Quova's software solutions have a precision that is approximately within a 20-50 mile radius.

Quova's primary solution is called "GeoPoint." The GeoPoint Data Delivery Server (DDS) is a Java application with a high-performance, in-memory database that provides a real time geographical location that is associated with an IP address.GeoPoint has an application-programming interface (API) that can be integrated into other business process software solutions. According to Quova, "The techniques (for geolocation) are capable of producing intermediate location estimates for single IP address, with levels of resolution (country, state, DMA) and accuracy.These intermediate estimates are then processed through proprietary algorithms to give final IP address geolocation information and a confidence factor."

GeoPoint is run locally.Each GeoPoint DDS customer installs a local copy of the IP geolocation database.Once installed at the user's site, GeoPoint itself "calls home" for data update.The "part onsite, part ASP" solution is purchased through a subscription to license the data.

Quova has two other solutions: GeoTraffic, a report that is run by Quova that according to Miltonberger is "a deep dive" into IP address; and GeoProfile, a customized service provided by Quova's network analysts for answering specific IP address questions, particularly for applications involving fraud detection, regulatory or licensing compliance.

Quova has sold its products and services to online retailers, media companies, and companies that need to stay within newly established internet laws to avoid regulatory non-compliance.

One example is from the online gaming industry.It is illegal for casino owners to provide gambling on the internet in the U.S., as well as in Germany and China.Failure to comply with these regulations could cost the owners their gambling license.The GeoPoint solution identifies the geographic location of the potential online gaming customer to ensure that he or she is not within a jurisdiction where online gaming is prohibited.

Another example includes customers such as Major League Baseball (MLB), which must grant broadcast rights to local franchises.MLB was looking into streaming broadcasts of baseball games over the internet but needed to adhere to local blackout restrictions.MLB uses Quova to monitor the location of online "fans" to make certain they are not within the blackout area.

Online retailers can customize the promotional information going back to the computer based on their geographic location.V&S Vin & Sprit AB of Sweden, distillers of Absolut vodka, wanted to establish an online presence.According to Quova, "through Absolut.com, the company leverages the marketing power of its web presence to deliver focused messaging to its international target markets, with an emphasis on adherence to the laws, regulations and standards for each market.Determining the impact of the online messaging and branding efforts is critical to the company's business model.To maximize its marketing initiatives, absolut.com needed to accurately track its website traffic by geography - from the national level down to metropolitan area - in order to execute geography-based marketing plans, localize web marketing content and perform offline market analysis.The company therefore required accurate, specific geolocation data that could be incorporated into its existing web structure and analyzed for marketing impact."

These are just some of the applications in which Quova is involved. According to Miltonberger, "There is not always verification that a user is who they say they are.For example, transactions coming from public access points must be checked for inconsistencies where, for example, the shipping address is not the same as the delivery address." And so Quova has staked a niche in cyberspace where customers such as Amazon, Expedia, and The Sharper Image are "finding" much success.

Published Tuesday, January 27th, 2004

Written by Joe Francica

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