Friday, July 04, 2008

Predicting Where You’ll Go and What You’ll Like

The New York Times has a good report on emerging mobile software that serves as location devices and how they are set to become the 'hottest' consumable 'must-have' addition.... does this mean we are losing the pleasure of lost wanderings?

Its software shows busy areas in San Francisco.
Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times

We’re in the midst of a boom in devices that show where people are at any point in time. Global positioning systems are among the hottest consumer electronics devices ever, says Clint Wheelock, chief research officer at ABI Research, a technology market follower. And cellphones increasingly come with G.P.S. chips. All of these devices churn out data that says something about how people live.

Such data could redefine what we know about consumer behavior, giving businesses early insight into economic trends, better ways to determine sites for offices and retail stores, and more effective ways to advertise.

Just this month, the journal Nature published a paper that looked at cellphone data from 100,000 people in an unnamed European country over six months and found that most follow very predictable routines. Knowing those routines means that you can set probabilities for them, and track how they change.

“What we do is really not random, even though it may appear random,” says Albert-László Barabási, a physicist at Northeastern University who is one of the paper’s authors.

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