What do smart cities and behavioural targeting have in common? Surely both consist in making the most of an increasingly connected world. But at first sight the comparison stops here: one is about improving urbanites’ quality of life with technology, whereas the other is tapping into a consumer’s tastes and habits to make him buy a specific product. And while the smart city concept is unanimously acclaimed, that of behavioural targeting is often perceived as a threat to privacy.
Enters LBASense. Using wireless sensors, the technology locates and tracks mobile phones in complete anonymity to provide information about their owner’s location and movements. The range of applications seems unlimited: the sensors can help businesses better understand consumers’ needs, enable tenants to define the value of their shop, allow municipalities to design better public transport and improve touristic services, or even monitor epidemics in a hospital. All this to the benefit of both consumers and businesses, and without intruding into a person’s private life.
SMART CITIES WITH SMART BUSINESSES
The team, joining engineers from Switzerland, Ireland and Spain and whose efforts were funded under the Eurostars LBA project, has outstanding ambitions in the development of our future connected cities. “These include not only better scheduling for public transportation, but also assistance in traffic guidance during snowfalls or adverse weather conditions,” explains Chiara Bertoldini, Program manager at project leading company DFRC.
"DFRC hopes to cover some 100 cities within the next year and a half."
In fact the LBASense’s offering includes a full suite of monitoring tools and APIs to integrate data in third-party systems. LBASense is already used by local partners and distributors in Barcelona, Liverpool, Prague, Sweden, Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines, and the team is currently trying to expand to Eastern and Northern Europe. DFRC hopes to cover some 100 cities within the next year and a half.
One could wonder what makes LBASense stand out in an already flourishing market. There is the sensors’ cost efficiency compared to alternatives. Bertoldini also says that support from EUREKA enabled partnerships that would have been difficult to realise otherwise, along with access to different markets with specific needs. But the true selling point is the system’s respect for privacy.
“There is no correlation between the signals our system monitors and the person who's carrying the device,” explains Bertoldini. “And there will never be, unless that person explicitly agrees to grant access to his/her personal data.” In such scenario, citizens who opt in could receive tailored offers based on their habits.
Some may wonder why they should make such a move. Bimar, the company distributing the technology in Asia, answers it with a simple question: is the time you spent in your favourite restaurant considered to be personal enough to prevent you from getting special menu deals/discounts? With LBASense, that decision is only for you to make.