Hyde Park visitors “covertly tracked” via mobile phone data

Hyde Park

 The Guardian reports that:

Visitors to Hyde Park, one of London’s most famous tourist spots, were covertly tracked via their mobile phone signals in a trial undertaken by the Royal Parks to analyse footfall amid drastic funding cuts. Officials were able to retrospectively locate park-goers for 12 months using anonymised mobile phone data provided by the network operator EE via a third party.

Oddly, the article doesn’t take quite the negative approach suggested by the headline (I inserted the quote marks around “covertly tracked” – they’re not there in the original headline), and the stuff about privacy appears to be inserted to make this less about an interesting way of understanding behaviour and more about an invasion of privacy.

But as the story says, the data was anonymised. It’s not exactly snooping – this type of data has been used in different forms for decades by advertisers, planners, supermarket merchandisers…

If the aim is to ensure that the world’s most frequently visited public park attracts people from all backgrounds, it sounds like an interesting use of anonymised data we could apply in many other scenarios, and a useful counter to the far less anonymous collection of data that goes on not just by government but by some of our most popular companies. Google and Facebook, I’m looking at you.

In kids cartoons, 0% of princesses are engineers, 2.9% of characters are black, and Batman doesn’t recycle

Detective Dot book and apps

News via The Guardian of a new Kickstarter campaign to tackle poor representation of girls/women in STEM subjects (or rather STEAM – they quite rightly include the arts where they belong, alongside the other disciplines).

“In kids cartoons, 0% of princesses are engineers, 2.9% of characters are black, and Batman doesn’t recycle. And kids spend up to 9 hours in front of screens seeing this stuff everyday,” explains Detective Dot’s Kickstarter pitch. “We’re obsessed with buying stuff but we don’t know how it’s made or who made it. Kids media is heavily stereotyped. Children, particularly girls and minorities, need positive role models in engineering, science, technology, arts and maths.”

Read the Guardian article here and contribute to the Kickstarter campaign here

Netflix made socks that know when you’ve fallen asleep while binge watching

Netflix socks

The socks use a method of rest and activity monitoring known as actigraphy. So a built-in accelerometer will wait for you to stop moving for a prolonged period of time before sending a signal to the TV to prevent you from losing your place in Mad Men for the 20th time. An LED light will blink beforehand, notifying anyone who may just be chilling very hard to move their foot if they’re still awake and watching.

Read the full story here

Quite an interesting project for those minded to try it – requires an Arduino and knitting skills. Obvious publicity aspect aside, I think this is quite a nice way to get the imagination going: how else could we combine textiles and technology?

Epson’s PaperLab turns useless trash into fresh sheets of paper

Epson has developed what it says is the first ever in-office paper recycling machine. You feed used documents into one end of the PaperLab, and out the other comes clean, white, printable sheets. It’s speedy too, churning out 14 A4 sheets every minute (that’s 6,720 sheets in an eight-hour work day), and can even produce different varieties of paper, including A3 sheets, thicker paper for business cards, colored stock, and “scented paper.” And because the recycling process involves breaking down waste sheets into paper fibers, Epson says it’s a secure way of destroying confidential documents

Read the full story here

Ad Blocking: The Unnecessary Internet Apocalypse


Ad Age on ad blocking

Advertisers and their agencies should voluntarily abandon the most upsetting forms of digital disruption. While autoplay video ads may work in some mobile in-stream environments where a consumer can swipe them off the screen quickly, it may be time to retire autoplay in other contexts. Flashing, blinking intrusive ads also should be considered grade-school creativity, not worthy of a profession that aspires to cultural significance — and profits from making clients’ brands admired and liked.

I’ve been saying this for some time – the discussion about ad blocking seems to think that readers are the villains here. How dare they want to access content for free?

In actual fact the villains are the advertisers who push out crappy ads for “secrets of a UK mum that doctors tried to silence” or worse. And the publishers who push this stuff on their readers clearly don’t value their audience. It’s time to start giving a shit about what you advertise on your site, and for advertisers to start looking for designers who can create effective and non-irritating ads.

Read the full story here