Software Tracks and Predicts People’s Movements and Behaviors

The rise in popularity of devices that locate where people are at any given time, like global positioning systems – GPS – are some of the best selling electronics tools ever. Cellphones now come with GPS chips. All of these search devices produce a lot of information that says something about how people travel and behave.

This personal information could provide powerful knowledge about consumer behavior, giving marketers and businesses powerful insight into social and economic trends and paving the way for better options for determining sites for offices and stores, and more effective ways to market goods and services.

In June 2008, the journal Nature printed the results of a study that collected cellphone data from 100,000 people in an unspecified European country over the span of six months and found that the majority of people follow very predictable daily routines. Knowing these routines allows you to set probabilities for people’s movements and behavior as well as track changes.

Sense Networks, an analytics company in New York, released a software program called Macrosense earlier this month to help organize and explain this information. Macrosense uses statistical algorithms to analyze the growing data about people’s location and attempts to make predictions and recommendations on various scenarios.

Macrosense can predict tourism; tell you how confident consumers are and inform retailers about the actions of their competitors.

The key to making these predictions starts with using large sets of personal and demographic data collected over several years.

Sense Network’s computer models were developed from information sources like taxicab companies, weather information, public information as well as other nonpublic information that it will not disclose.

However, the model doesn’t work for every situation that Sense tries it on, usually because more information is still required.

The Macrosense software allows companies to do“reality mining.”

Sense Networks is not the only business working on reality mining software. Inrix uses traffic info to predict traffic patterns. Path Intelligence in the UK tracks traffic flow in shopping centers by using people’s cellphone information.

Reality mining causes concerns about personal privacy, especially when people’s cellphone signals are used for tracking location data. In the U.S., it is illegal in many cases for cellphone service providers to share peoples’ location without their prior consent.

Many electronic products that people use daily, like cellphones or GPS units in cars, will increasingly allow for them to be tracked. Companies like Sense Networks are finding new and increasingly powerful ways of using this tracking and location information about people.

Source: NY Times