Smartphones have become increasingly versatile devices over the past few years, and the data produced by them is increasingly used to monitor social trends in urban areas. Whether it’s monitoring traffic flows or even tracking our nocturnal activity, researchers are finding gold in mobile data.
This trend is set to continue, with apps such as Density claiming to track the business of various locations such as cafes and bars.
It works by tapping into the infrared sensors that are located in the doorway of a business. These are connected to the web and therefore produce data that Density taps into.
It’s designed to give business owners and policy makers a better idea of just how busy a place is without going through the laborious task of standing and counting through flow.
It also has public applications however. For instance, you might use it to figure out the best (ie quietest) time to visit your gym or favorite cafe.
Thus far the system has only been rolled out in around a dozen businesses in the Bay Area, so the network is relatively limited in size, but they plan to roll it out more widely at quite a pace.
Location and wifi
There are similar trends emerging in wifi, with the launch of WiFi Aware, which lets devices talk to one another if they’re located nearby. The smart thing about it is that it does so without using GPS, cells or hotspots. The service doesn’t require much battery power, and it can be controlled via your privacy settings.
“Wi-Fi Aware will make it easy to find information and services available in an area that match preferences set by the user – and is optimized to work well even in crowded environments,” the Wi-Fi Alliance say.“Wi-Fi Aware will be a key enabler of a personalized social, local, and mobile experience, enabling users to find video gaming opponents, share media content, and access localized information all before establishing a connection.”
There are a range of different location based services emerging at the moment that ensure the smartphone is aware of everything that’s around it and can identify things that are relevant to the user.
Retailers are beginning to make use of this kind of approach via a technology called beacons. Through this, they can contact users via Bluetooth (so it obviously needs Bluetooth transmitters, unlike Wi-Fi Aware).
A slight caveat is that Wi-Fi Aware isn’t compatible with current generation phones, so it will likely take a little while before it becomes mainstream, but the trend towards location based mobile services seems undeniable.