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6/9/2008
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Citysense Uses Mobile Data To Pinpoint Night Life Hot Spots

The mobile map application takes data from cell phones and uses it to identify locations with high activity at any given moment.

Sense Networks has launched an online tool for discovering and navigating nightlife activities.

The company announced the launch of the application, Citysense, on Monday. It also announced a separate platform that analyzes historical and current location data from cell phones.

Citysense is a mobile map application, released in alpha. It highlights hot nightspots in San Francisco in real time. Users can spot locations on Google and Yelp and identify those with high activity at any given moment or view locations that historically draw the biggest crowds.

"Citysense demonstrates the power of combining anonymous, aggregate location data for social navigation," said Sandy Pentland, chief privacy advocate and co-founder of Sense Networks.

Pentland, who also serves as the director of human dynamics research at MIT, said the system resembles the way GPS in cars share road speed conditions so drivers can avoid congestion. It aggregates anonymous location data and analyzes it on a macro level and an individual level. So the system shows different locations for different users to reflect where they are most likely to find others with similar tastes and interests.

Users can choose not to maintain a personalized profile and delete their data at any time.

"You created your data: you own it," Sense Networks explains on the Citysense Web site. "But showing up in Chicago for the first time and seeing the top places you're likely to find people with similar tastes as yourself at midnight -- that's pretty useful."

The company says it maintains anonymity when collecting and sharing data, does not collect e-mail addresses or phone numbers, and never uses passwords.

"In fact, we have a revolutionary new data ownership policy wherein people actually own any information they create," the Citysense privacy policy states. "Citysense is opt-in, all the time. Anything Citysense collects, users can delete. You'll find the delete button easily accessible whenever you open the program."

Users can download Citysense for BlackBerry phones at Citysense.com. A version for Apple's iPhone will be available when the iPhone App Store launches.

Sense Networks also announced Macrosense, software that analyzes historical and real-time location data from mobile devices and cars. "Location data is monetized by companies and investors who receive value from understanding emerging trends in real time, while consumers receive compelling applications free of intrusive mobile advertising, remaining completely anonymous," Greg Skibiski, CEO and co-founder of Sense Networks, said in the announcement.

The software platform analyzes new data points in the context of billions of historic location data points, giving companies and investors insight into consumer behavior and macro trends, according to Sense Networks.

"Just as Google indexed pages on the Internet to optimize Web discovery, Sense Networks has indexed the real places in a city and characterized them by activity, versus proximity or demographics, to better understand the context of consumers' offline behavior," said Tony Jebara, chief scientist and co-founder of Sense Networks.

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