Tracking your shopping habits via your mobile signal

They’re smart cookies over at Path Intelligence.

They installed their systems at a UK shopping centre and found this (via BBC News):

For their first commercial project, the company has studied the movements of shoppers in a UK shopping centre to determine the paths that shoppers take and how long they spend in the centre as a whole.

They found that for an increase of 1% of time spent, shoppers spend 1.3% more on purchases.

Here’s the science bit:

Mobiles are assigned a temporary anonymous number by the network called a temporary mobile subscriber identity, or TMSI, which the phone periodically transmits to advise of its location.

As the phone moves through the different regions served by different base stations, that number changes.

Path Intelligence’s approach, called FootPath, directly detects that TMSI transmission from phones. No access to the mobile networks themselves is necessary, so the information that they glean is specific to a user, but completely anonymous.

The TMSIs can only be associated with a number by the mobile operators and Path Intelligence encrypt the TMSIs that they acquire as an added level of security.

You could really start gleaning a lot of information from these types of information tracking services. I like the concept. And I like the fact it’s not personally identifying.

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