Blown To Bits

“Predicting Where You’ll Go and What You’ll Like”

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008 by Harry Lewis

That’s the title of a story from the Sunday NYT Business page, on a company called Sense Networks, which aggregates billions of bits of location data to predict future movements. Two applications mentioned are predicting where taxis will be needed and what nightclubs people are likely to head toward.
Where does the location data come from? For the taxi application, it’s easy; just put GPSs on all your taxis and let the data roll in, all nicely timestamped. For the nightclub application, cell phone data. Now cell phone locations are covered by strict privacy laws in this country, so that data is obtained by making a deal with the phones’ owners: Let us track you and we’ll keep you ahead of the curve on nightlife happenings. To monetize the product, Sense doesn’t need to track individuals only aggregate trends, but tracking individuals has extra value. Once enough data has been accumulated about what clubs you go to on rainy Tuesdays, maybe you can be prompted with suggestions of similar clubs, selected just for you.

The company absorbs other publicly available information into its predictive algorithms, for example weather data. Another example of the tons of bits that are out there, some for the taking and some for the asking, from which useful inventions can be created. And how easy it is to get past privacy worries by providing the general public very modest incentives.

2 Responses to ““Predicting Where You’ll Go and What You’ll Like””

  1. MobBlog » Blog Archive » Predicting Where You‚Äôll Go and What You‚Äôll Like Says:

    [...] “That‚Äôs the title of a story from the Sunday NYT Business page, on a company called Sense Networks, which aggregates billions of bits of location data to predict future movements. Two applications mentioned are predicting where taxis will be needed and what nightclubs people are likely to head toward. Where does the location data come from? For the taxi application, it‚Äôs easy; just put GPSs on all your taxis and let the data roll in, all nicely timestamped. For the nightclub application, cell phone data.” From here. [...]

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