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Startup Story

Japanese startup unerry maps people flow data

The unerry team pose together indoors for the camera.

Using location data to uncover consumer insights

It all started with vending machines. Japanese vending machines sell everything from bananas to wine to clothes to medical tests, and there are about 5 million vending machines around the country. However, the vending machine market share is decreasing by 5% each year, so retailers had to get creative to keep customers interested in using them. In 2015, Coca-Cola Japan launched a campaign with unerry to build a mobile app that could connect with vending machines and give users points for buying from the machines, using location data and Bluetooth beacons. The campaign was so successful that Coca-Cola invested in unerry and extended the campaign to other markets.

Now, unerry is a major location data company in Japan, with data from over 110 million mobile application IDs around Japan. unerry has used Google Cloud Platform from day one to store, analyze, and protect location information, which they call “people flow data.” The company uses BigQuery to analyze 30 billion data points monthly. “We founded the company in 2015, and Google Cloud helped us start unerry,” says Unerry CEO Hidetoshi Uchiyama. “BigQuery was the only data solution we could use.”

The company, which holds a technology patent for their platform, called Beacon Bank, is also using Google Cloud Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence tools, like Auto ML and Vertex AI, to improve city traffic flow and solve civil engineering problems. unerry recently went public, a few months after graduating from Google for Startups Accelerator: Japan.

Leveraging Google technologies and mentorship

unerry collects location data from mobile devices in two ways: outside, via satellite coverage (GPS) outside, and inside buildings, like retails stores or train stations, from beacons. There are 2.1 million beacons registered on unerry’s Beacon Bank network. unerry collects 30 billion location-based logs every month to uncover consumer insights.

unerry uses Auto ML and Vertex AI to identify users through their visits to retail establishments and predict where they might go next. For example, a user shopping at a market might next visit the restaurant next door. Unerry also aims to improve city traffic flow and solve civil engineering problems by contributing information to smart city development projects.

unerry’s users double every year, so unerry’s team uses Google Cloud to store, analyze, and protect people flow data. BigQuery is the only tool that can allow them to securely analyze such a massive number of data points at an affordable cost. unerry became a Google Cloud Build partner in 2021 and participated in Google for Startups Accelerator: Japan in 2022.

Since participating in the Accelerator, unerry’s team has received biweekly technical mentoring from the Google Cloud team, and Uchiyama says the company’s relationship with Google, including their Accelerator participation and partnership with Google Cloud, helped validate the company as they prepared for their initial public offering (IPO). Three months after graduating from the Accelerator, they went public in July 2022.

unerry maintains a robust privacy policy, in line with Japan’s strict data collection rules. “Our privacy policy helped us gain trust from users, and today, we are the most secure location data company,” says Uchiyama.

What’s next for Unerry

unerry is currently partnering with Mitsubishi Corporation and a developer in Indonesia to provide “people movement data” for an ongoing “smart city” development in Indonesia. “When it comes to developing a smart city, you have to understand how people move within the city before you start planning where to put infrastructure, like a train station or bus stop,” says Chief Strategy Officer Ryan Imaizumi, adding that unerry can also provide value to the people who live and work in the smart city, like details about which areas are crowded and which are not. “We can help navigate people through less crowded areas or reduce congestion by offering a promotion to go to another area, thereby improving the value of the city itself.”

Now that unerry is a large, publicly traded location data company, they hope to expand by collecting customer purchase data from retailers, in addition to the location data they already collect. Combining location data and purchase data would allow them to analyze “real behavior data” for almost all of Japan.

Their advice to other entrepreneurs? “Try to solve the problem and never give up,” says Uchiyama. “Always try to find a solution.”

Learn more about unerry