Another giant of tech hardware aims to make money by selling insights.
Cisco Systems announced Thursday what it calls “connected analytics,” a mix of hardware, software and services based on sensor data. The idea is to offer rapid analysis of fast-changing information, like the people moving through a store, or beer sold in a stadium, so that companies can respond in time.
The strategy may also be a way for Cisco, which celebrated its 30th anniversary Thursday, to extract more money from the data transmission networks it has installed for customers.
Connected analytics involves a significant amount of computer processing of data near the action, on machines tied to the Cisco network. Cisco argues that this is faster and more efficient than sending everything to a central processing computer.
“Analytics is still highly centralized, but data is decentralized,” said Michael Flannagan, general manager of Cisco’s data analytics business. “There will be more and more use cases where analytics at the edge will be important.”
He cited a large retailer that tracked movements of people through its stores. When many people shopped in the frozen food section, it indicated that they were about to check out. (You wouldn’t want that stuff melting in your basket while you buy crackers.) That was a sign to increase the number of available cashiers. In the case of a soccer stadium, Wi-Fi information from cellphones could tell about people’s movements and consumption.
On the Pew Report:
Americans say they are deeply concerned about privacy on the web and their cellphones. They say they do not trust Internet companies or the government to protect it. Yet they keep using the services and handing over their personal information.
That paradox is captured in a new survey by Pew Research Center. It found that there is no communications channel, including email, cellphones or landlines, that the majority of Americans feel very secure using when sharing personal information. Of all the forms of communication, they trust landlines the most, and fewer and fewer people are using them.
There are 15 sensors in different businesses along Queen Street West that scan for signals emitted by such wireless devices, said Rob Sysak, executive director of the West Queen West Business Improvement Association.
These sensors, in this case made by Toronto-based Turnstyle Solutions, can follow a smartphone, tablet or laptop’s signal to track that consumer’s exact path. Whether they linger by the shoe rack or make their way to the register in the Fresh Collective clothing store, decide to head to Dark Horse Espresso Bar next, or return to the area in the future, these smartphone-sized devices are tracking it all.
Thanks to billions of connected devices — from smart toothbrushes and thermostats to commercial drones and robotic companions for the elderly — it also will end up gathering vast amounts of data that could provide insights about our sexual habits, religious beliefs, political leanings and other highly personal aspects of our lives. That creates a potentially enormous threat to our privacy — even within the sanctuary of our homes.
In a survey released this week, the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) found companies in the Fortune 1000 spending an average (mean) of $2.4 million on their privacy programs, with most of the budget being spent on staff and legal fees. A third of the companies responding to the survey plan to increase their privacy program staff, while only 2 percent plan to cull workers.
But good news for privacy professionals is not necessarily good news for consumers. Such programs typically focus on minimizing risk to companies from the regulations focused on protecting consumers, not necessarily on improving consumer privacy. The approach that businesses take to privacy typically depends on their customers, J. Trevor Hughes, president and CEO of the IAPP, told Ars.
Tracking customers is easy using an internal company tool called “God View,” two former Uber employees told BuzzFeed News. They said God View, which shows the location of Uber vehicles and customers who have requested a car, was widely available to corporate employees. Drivers, who operate as contractors, do not have access to God View.