Cities looking to improve transportation and other services need look no further than their residents' Wi-Fi-enabled smartphones.
Cities seeking more information to improve their services need look no further than the nearest Wi-Fi network.
Smartphone penetration in the developed world is reaching 70%, and most smartphone users have Wi-Fi enabled in order to use their home and work networks. Every Wi-Fi-enabled device continuously pings for available hotspots to connect to, and those pings offer a potential way to track the devices.
Here's how it works: The media access control (MAC) address embedded into any wireless device cannot be changed by the user, and it doesn't change with the cellphone operator. That MAC address is continuously broadcast when the smartphone user has Wi-Fi enabled. As the device interacts with the city's public and private Wi-Fi networks, it provides the user's approximate location, without revealing any personally identifiable information.
Smartphone data could provide cities with information about traffic and people's usage of public transportation in real time. It could populate databases of preferred routes, mixed use of private and public transport, average use of public parking and so on.
Many cities have deployed outdoor Wi-Fi networks as well, for their municipal services, as shown in the Wi-Fi equipment installed on a Barcelona street in the image accompanying this article. These networks are continually used by the police, ambulances, garbage trucks and taxis, plus sensors installed in different areas as part of machine-to-machine deployment. A significant number of cities are also offering free limited Wi-Fi connection for residents and visitors.
Cities need this kind of information. Most municipalities currently use traffic cameras and aggregate information from smartcard usage on public transport to get a glimpse of people's movements, but data is fragmented and limited. Having access to detailed information about how individuals use public transport and private vehicles could help design and optimize public transport, parking and road use.
Time to Reconsider Enterprise Email StrategyCost, time, and risk. It's the demand trifecta vying for the attention of both technology professionals and attorneys charged with balancing the expectations of their clients and business units with the hard reality of the current financial and regulatory climate. Sometimes, organizations assume high levels of risk as a result of their inability to meet the costs involved in data protection. In other instances, it's time that's of the essence, as with a data breach.
5 Top Federal Initiatives For 2015As InformationWeek Government readers were busy firming up their fiscal year 2015 budgets, we asked them to rate more than 30 IT initiatives in terms of importance and current leadership focus. No surprise, among more than 30 options, security is No. 1. After that, things get less predictable.
InformationWeek Tech Digest, Nov. 10, 2014Just 30% of respondents to our new survey say their companies are very or extremely effective at identifying critical data and analyzing it to make decisions, down from 42% in 2013. What gives?