November 2021

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New Location Intelligence Applications may know more about your
 habits than you do.

One of the areas that continues to grow rapidly is presence detection, and people tracking/counting

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I’ve been fortunate to spend some time learning about the latest proptech, smart building and marketing intelligence applications released recently. One of the areas that continues to grow rapidly is presence detection, and people tracking/counting.  The concept isn’t new, but the data collection model is shifting, and the way it's collected might make a few people uneasy.

We’ve been giving up our privacy in exchange for convenience and better services for years, but new technology continues to take advantage of that.

This is what I have personally learned from vising with several of the companies in this space. I was a bit surprised at how exposed we really are, but at the end of the day all of this is legal and we as consumers have opened the door to it.

The Latest Hardware

The latest in people counting and presence detection is relying on the fact that everyone has a Smartphone. Your phone is always emitting a signal such as LTE, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi. New hardware sensors can be installed in a building that can detect the presence and general location of your smart device, which is typically attached to a person. This information can be used to track motion and determine occupancy. This kind of real time information can be used for many applications from space utilization and energy management to advanced security monitoring. There is no personal information associated with this data so it is completely anonymous. This technology has been in use for years mainly in highly secured or sensitive environments. It is now commercially available for spaces of all types.


The Latest Software

New software solutions don’t rely on sensors at all. They’re taking advantage of the fact that we’ve already given up the information they need to the many mobile applications we use daily. This data collection strategy relies on partnering with the owners of those applications to gain access to this data. Again, the user data they collect is anonymous, but it is associated with your mobile device ID.  While still not tied to your personal information, tracking the location and activity of the device ID over time can easily lead to information that falls into a grey area when it comes to privacy.

For example, if a device ID location is the same every night, that would indicate someone’s home. If the device goes to the same place M-F, that’s likely where they work. The software does all the work to cross-reference that data with demographics, and other marketing information which results in extremely valuable intelligence for any business that relies on footfall traffic or shopping patterns of their potential customers.

 Imagine you run a large retail chain and had this level of insight to your customers, all without having to ask:

 This kind of historical data from thousands of people, updated in real-time creates a statistically significant data set that always stays current. 

 I’m not here to promote or call out any of these companies so I’m not going to list names. The ones I’ve spoken to tell me they operate well within the boundaries of current privacy laws.  

Personally, I feel that anonymous data is only "anonymous" until it's not. Are we just one hacker away from these device IDs getting leaked and associated with real people?

How do you feel about your data being shared and used in this way?


The S4 Group
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