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Anne Lindner
 

Q & A: Kevin Wandryk, Quova

23 August 2001

Kevin Wandryk is the senior vice president of corporate development of Quova, which manufactures technology that enables website operators to pinpoint the city and country of each visitor to their sites. Quova's technology is currently in use by companies including Amazon.com and the online publication CNET.

Understandably, the product, called GeoPoint, has been of high interest lately to online gaming companies like Ladbrokes, Sports.com and BlueSquare, all of which announced deals with Quova this summer.

IGN: How does GeoPoint Work?

Kevin Wandryk: It's a very simple concept with a lot of magic behind the screens to make it happen. The concept is that when somebody logs on to an Internet site, we can identify, with a variety of degrees of accuracy, where that person is located in the world-what physical geography they're in and where they're logging into the Internet from. We do that at the highest level, the continent and country level, with a very high degree of accuracy, a 98-99 percent degree of accuracy. We can identify that down through many of the major markets in North America and in Europe to the city level with an 80-85 percent degree of accuracy.

So the basic model is that we work to integrate our systems with somebody like a Ladbrokes.com, Sports.com or any of our other clients in other industries. Essentially, when somebody hits their website, the client will hand back the IP address and we'll respond back to them and give them a character string says country equals U.K., city equals London, and with each one of those identifications of the geography, we'll attach a confidence factor that says the degree to which we think that answer is an accurate answer. In a nutshell, that's the service itself and that's what we do.

IGN: How does the software figure out what country you're in?

KW: The best way to think of our services is that there's three separate pieces that are involved.

The third piece, the simplest to understand, is the piece that our client uses to have access into our database.

There's a delivery service that we refer to as DSS. It's a small piece of software that allows [the client] to pass back and forth that IP address to our system and allows our system to respond with the accurate address. . Most of our clients integrate that DSS piece in less than a day, its kind of a very simple piece of software.

The pieces that happen behind the scenes, which are more interesting, are two-fold. First there's a data-collection network where we've established data centers in 16 locations around the globe and around different aspects of the Internet infrastructure. These data centers are on different Internet backbone providers to make sure the data we're extracting comes from a variety of geographic sources as well as a variety of disperse logical sources from different places on the Internet.

These data collection systems actually drive traffic. They do a variety of techniques--standard industry techniques like pings and trace routes, and also a variety of techniques that we've invented that are proprietary, to drive traffic from the known universe of 1.4 billion commercial IP addresses. As they're driving traffic they're measuring attributes of the traffic that they drive. They collect a lot of different information from all these servers to determine interesting data points that we'll then pull into a central location and analyze to come up with a map of how the geography is of the Internet dispersed.

So that's that second phase. After we collect all the information, it goes to a central repository for an analysis phase, where we run a lot of proprietary algorithms against the data we collect and come up with the map that says, for this specific IP address or these blocks of IP addresses, here's what we can glean about the geography information from our techniques and here's our estimates for the places from a country level to a city level.

Once that database is all installed and is all gathered, we'll work with one of our clients to install that small piece of software that pings back into the database and hands us the IP address and we hand back the geographic information.

IGN: Does the geographic information the client receives end up telling the client anything about the gambling laws in the user's country? Or is it up to the client to figure out whether someone from that location can legally gamble online?

KW: At this point our service is just the geographic information, so we just provide our estimates of where that person is located.

It's kind of interesting-when we first envisioned the service, we never really thought of the gambling industry as one of the places that would make use of this particular technology. The original business plan actually called for the technology to be used more by companies in the e-commerce and the marketing space to provide customized information to their clients. The online gambling community just never hit our radar screen originally.

The gambling space seemed to get really hot for us in perhaps the last two or three months. At this point in time our technology is fairly generic; fairly horizontal in nature. You give us an IP address; we give you back the geographic information. The question you ask is exactly what we're starting to ponder internally-do we continue to do it at this very horizontal data level or are there additional services we can roll on top of that.

But the direct answer to your questions right no is no, we don't hand back anything about the laws in the area. We just say, this person's from England. And it's up to our client to determine what they want to do with that data.

IGN: How did it come about that you started teaming up with online casinos?

KW: For whatever reason, over the last three or four months, there were a few companies that kind of got on our radar screen or conversely we got on their radar screens. We've announced relationships so far with companies like Ladbrokes.com, Sports.com and Blue Square, and there's a few more in the hopper that we're having discussions with right now.

This whole concept of geographic information on the Internet is a relatively new topic that is just starting to get some visibility. Once we announced the relationship with the first couple of companies, Ladbrokes and Sports, for whatever reason that made us a little more visible in this community. We've had some additional contacts with a variety of companies happening on the heels of that pretty quickly.

IGN: Are most of the potential clients you're talking with European?

KW: It seems like in the U.S. the laws for online gaming are just starting to get formulated, unlike some of the countries offshore or in Europe, where those laws are a little more firmly established. Most of our interest so far, at least in terms of the companies we've signed and announced, are coming out of Europe; however--no surprise--we're seeing a lot of interest in the U.S. companies that are interested in understanding what's going on. [They're] kind of anticipating laws that will eventually be signed. We're having conversations with quite a few companies in quite a few countries right now, but the initial relationships all happen to be in Europe.

IGN: When a user of Ladbrokes.com or Sports.com is playing on either of those websites, does he or she know GeoPoint is working behind the scenes? Do they see anything different? Does it take longer?

KW: It typically doesn't take any longer.I guess it's one of the things I should mention, that every customer is going to have their own implementation and be using it for certain purposes in their own way, but typically the end user will never see any difference in the interaction with the company. There's no notification that something's happening to identify the geolocation. We don't use cookies and we don't use any kind of invasive technology to identify who the person is. We're only identifying the computer they've dialed into to make their Internet connection. So from that standpoint, it's very privacy-compliant.

Q & A: Kevin Wandryk, Quova is republished from iGamingNews.com.
Anne Lindner
Anne Lindner