Vancity Buzz is excited to partner with GROW Conference 2014, bringing you a series of in-depth articles featuring the brands, brains and breakthroughs that will be at its 5th year. Heading to the hyper-connected hills of Whistler, BC, August 20-22, GROW dives headfirst into the Internet of Things, from robotics, drones, smart devices, and the connected everything.
This article is the fifth in Vancity Buzz’s GROW 2014 Series, featuring Strava.
In the tech age we now find ourselves in it’s hard to avoid being tracked, followed, or recorded. Your digital footprint is everywhere, and in some cases you cannot opt out. But what happens when a company takes your exercise patterns, weight, fitness goals, location, and other information and sells it? Health and fitness data is the new big data pool, and you won’t believe who is opening up their wallets to buy in.
Generally apps want your data to sell to advertising companies. In a recent study of 12 different health and fitness apps, the FCC found that these apps were sending data to 76 different third parties. This data included names, emails, exercise habits, diets, medical history, gender, location, and general usage patterns. Selling this data to advertising companies has led to hyper-targeted ads that mirror your habits – which you have probably already noticed on social media. However not all apps are turning around and selling your data to advertisers – case in point, Strava.
After scrubbing away your personal information, Strava is left with a slew of location points on your map. With this data they have been able to piece together a very comprehensive map of popular commuter routes, and instead of selling that information to advertising companies, they have chosen to put it to a greater use and sell it to city planners. This innovative decision is affording city planners the ability to adapt new commuter routes, and ultimately change the flow our cities based on your habits.
Though this is a relatively new move for Strava, forward-thinking city planners from cities like Portland and San Francisco are already dipping their toes into this big data pool to make roads safer and more convenient for cyclists. But they’re not the only ones; according to WIRED, cities like London, Glasgow and Orlando have also recently signed on to access Strava’s growing pool of data.
Our phones have turned us into walking sensors. Or at least, we’re walking—and cycling and driving and even floating—around with sophisticated sensors in our pockets. The debate is on-going as to whether selling your running route is the same as selling your personal information to advertisers. But the aggregate data these sensors pick up tell governments a lot about the citizens’ behavior and, from that, they can plan better.
As more and more people use Strava, the richer the data sets will become, and the more cities will see the value of this new way of urban planning. So next time you’re not stuck in traffic, you might just have Strava to thank for it. It might not be too long till Vancouver decides to opt into the program, given the city’s love affair with biking. It could even be a way to appease some of the tensions between cyclists and drivers.
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