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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Location, Location, Location: GPS and social awareness

An example of a poorly parked vehicles in Europe.
As reported by Inside GNSS:
In a part of the world where frustrated drivers will park anywhere, including squarely on a sidewalk, a local newspaper is using location data to shame car owners into shaping up.

The Village, a Russian online publication serving Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kiev; created a free app that notes a badly parked vehicle’s make, color, and license plate information when users snap its picture.

The information and photo are broadcast as a pop-up ad that appears on the screens of computers in the area immediately around where the car is parked — exposing the offender’s behavior to co-workers, family, and friends.

In a particularly diabolical twist, Village readers are forced to forward the screen-blocking pop-up ad via a social network like Facebook to be able to resume reading.
A free app provided by the Village, used to shame owners
that park their vehicles badly.

The app is able to target the zone around miscreant drivers, in part, because computers’ IP addresses indicate their location and many cameras and smartphones embed location data in the photos they take.

Although Russian pedestrians might be thrilled to deliver a little payback, not everyone is so sanguine. Increasing awareness of the ways location data is being used, and worries over personal privacy, have led consumers to regularly opt out of sharing location information and triggered protests when tracking is discovered.

Recent revelations that the National Security Agency (NSA) has approval from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to broadly gather and store location information likely have made matters worse, even though NSA has issued assurances that it is not actually doing so.

That public aversion to location surveillance could be bad news for the rapidly growing cadre of commercial firms that collect, sell, analyze, and use location data — 70 percent to 80 percent of which is derived from GPS technology.

Asif Khan, founder and president of the Location Based Marketing Association (LBMA) in Toronto, said he sees some 30 to 40 new location-based service (LBS) apps every week. The LBS market is growing exponentially, he suggested, although estimates are hard to come by because so many widely varying applications are springing up.

The largest segment of the industry is location-based advertising, Khan told Inside GNSS, where some $1.2 billion in ads will be bought this year — a figure he expects to grow to $6 billion by 2015.

Unquestionably, more and more companies are jumping into the location data game. AT&T recently changed its privacy policy to allow it to sell “anonymized” location data about its subscribers. Verizon already sells such information. Google recently spent $1 billion to buy the Israeli company Waze, a social network provider whose members provide traffic and road condition updates to other members — information that could potentially be added to Google maps.

Other uses for such data exist as well. Khan told attendees at the Future Space 2013 conference in Washington that Google has plans to provide the data for traffic control. The information could help localities ease congestion without a huge investment in infrastructure.