Find "Where's the Party At..." in NYC & SF - Hot Spots Locator
It is common knowledge that in the course of every day, people are engaging in all kinds of activities and around different parts of a city.
From morning until night, people travel to work, while at lunchtime and in the evening, people head to bistros, restaurants, and bars. An average person doesn't have a clear picture of where these activities take place, without physically being in one of those areas or neighborhood. The average tourists who visit New York or San Francisco would not know where the local trendy or favorite eateries, or shopping places.
For the first time, a New York based start-up launched in 2008, Sense Networks, is trying to connect people to any of these activities throughout a city. The start-up uses GPS location data to track the flow of activity of people in the city, such as who is where and at what time, which defines places and their personalities. The idea is to map a person's movement throughout the city, which will reveal that person's interests and activities.
As smart phones with GPS sensors become more popular, companies and researchers have clamored to make sense of all the data that this can reveal. Sense Networks is a part of a research trend known as reality mining, pioneered by Alex Pentland of MIT, who is a co-founder of Sense Networks.
The company builds a network of places with similar features and a network of people with similar interests. The application used data collected from those users who opted to have their data be collected and mined from mobile phone service providers. The company insists that the collected data is passive and devoid of personal information.
The company hopes to build a mobile and realistic Facebook type of functions based on mobile phones co-location data where people tend to congregate, which in turn provides Sense Networks to group people into like minded tribes, different urban "tribes", so to speak.
To date, Sense Networks has categorized 20 tribes in cities, including "young and edgy", "business traveler", "weekend mole", and "homebody" by using using data on the flow of a person's movements around a city, demographic, and public data of business companies in a city.
According to one of the chief scientist of the company, Tony Jebara, there won't be any need to update the user's profile.
In other words, the mobile phone's mapping software becomes a personal social navigator. It will be useful for people to gather in real time based on shared common interests or social events; or to look up what other people are doing in another city at a particular time of the day.
Every time you use your cell phone, you leave behind a few bits of information. The phone pings the nearest cell-phone towers, revealing its location. Your service provider records the duration of your call and the number dialed.
Professor Sandy Pentland, however, revels in it. In fact, the MIT professor of media arts and sciences would like to see phones collect even more information about their users, recording everything from their physical activity to their conversational cadences. Reality mining, he says, "is all about paying attention to patterns in life and using that information to help [with] things like setting privacy patterns, sharing things with people, notifying people--basically, to help you live your life."
The service is currently available only in San Francisco, Citysense allows users to look at the cell phone usage patterns to gauge the flow of foot traffic in a city. The user can download Citysense to her/his phone to view the map and can choose whether or not, to allow that application to track her/his own location.
New York City is in line to have access to Citysense. For most tourists, this application will be immensely useful because New York City has its own rhythm and pulse that usually elude most visitors.
The downside to this type of mined data is the potential of being more targeted for ads and other tracking applications used by private industries and governmental agencies. Nevertheless, the positive possibilities of this application far outweigh these concerns.
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