From Boston to Beijing, municipalities and governments across the world are pledging billions to create “smart cities”—urban areas covered with Internet-connected devices that control citywide systems, such as transit, and collect data. Although the details can vary, the basic goal is to create super-efficient infrastructure, aid urban planning and improve the well-being of the populace.
A byproduct of a tech utopia will be a prodigious amount of data collected on the inhabitants. For instance, at the company I head, we recently undertook an experiment in which some staff volunteered to wear devices around the clock for 10 days. We monitored more than 170 metrics reflecting their daily habits and preferences—including how they slept, where they traveled and how they felt (a fast heart rate and no movement can indicate excitement or stress).
If the Internet age has taught us anything, it’s that where there is information, there is money to be made. With so much personal information available and countless ways to use it, businesses and authorities will be faced with a number of ethical questions.
In a fully “smart” city, every movement an individual makes can be tracked. The data will reveal where she works, how she commutes, her shopping habits, places she visits and her proximity to other people. You could argue that this sort of tracking already exists via various apps and on social-media platforms, or is held by public-transport companies and e-commerce sites. The difference is that with a smart city this data will be centralized and easy to access. Given the value of this data, it’s conceivable that municipalities or private businesses that pay to create a smart city will seek to recoup their expenses by selling it.
By analyzing this information using data-science techniques, a company could learn not only the day-to-day routine of an individual but also his preferences, behavior and emotional state. Private companies could know more about people than they know about themselves.
For marketers, this is a dream come true. Imagine the scenario: A beverage company knows a particular individual’s Friday or Saturday night routine. The company knows what he drinks, when he drinks, who he drinks with and where he goes. It also knows how the weather affects what beverage the individual chooses and how changes in work patterns influence how much alcohol he consumes. By combining this information with the individual’s social-media profile, the company could send marketing messages to the person when he is most susceptible to the suggestion to buy a drink.
Businesses could market divorce services to couples who, through data analysis, are shown to exhibit behavior that indicates that their relationship could be in trouble—things like unusual travel patterns, and changes in work-life balance, such as a rapid increase in the amount of time both individuals spend at work or in separate bars. Individuals who are shown to lead very unhealthy lifestyles could be deliberately targeted by brands selling fatty foods....MORE
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
"‘Smart Cities’ Will Know Everything About You"
From the Wall Street Journal: