Sun, October 12, 2008  

Tell us more about the so called "tribes" you're trying to follow.

"Tribes are ways of identifying groups of similar people by the way they behave and move around the city. We first label places in the city automatically using our algorithms. For example, we know a street corner in San Francisco is a fun late night bar where a lot of people go after working in the financial district on Thursdays. We have a dozen or so 'color' labels for different places. For example, 'red' places are work places, 'blue' places are 9pm bars that are good on weekdays. After labeling the places, we can then see if two people are similar by the percent of time they spend at 'red' places, 'blue' places and so on. This similarity analysis revealed that people fall into natural groups we call tribes. Right now, we have split the user base in about ten similarly-sized tribe groups. What is nice about this whole analysis is that we never started with a predefined notion of 'personality categories'. We just ran our algorithms on our data and split the users into these groupings. We are still refining the models and interpreting them but we strongly believe the data should determine the categories, not vice-versa."

In its next release, Citysense will also tell us where everyone like ourselves is right now. Is this a sneak preview of a new online dating service?

"Right now, CitySense shows you a map of the city with the overall density of people and the level of unusual behavior at each location. You can search for restaurants and bars near you and list them ranked by how busy they are in real-time. The next generation of CitySense will use tribes to show you a map with the concentration of people like you as well as the other personality types in the city. We hope one day you could use CitySense to visit new spots that have people like you once you realize, for example, that you like to hang around with people in Tribe #3 and Tribe #7. One application could be a dating service, you would get a better idea of where to go to meet people you get along with. But another exciting vision is for CitySense to make your cell phone into your 'social navigator'. The cell phone has gone through many evolutions, it used to be your conversation device, it then turned into a organizational device, then a general communication device (email, text, voice, images) and we think the next role is a smart social navigation device that helps you get around in the real world as well as stay connected in the online world."

What can we expect in the near future from your company?

"In the future we hope to have Sense Networks become the company you go to if you would like to understand GPS data, for social applications, financial applications, retail analysis and modeling offline user behavior. There are already so many tools for online collaborative filtering, systems that recommend movies to you by looking at what movies other people like you enjoyed watching. Our goal is to provide that kind of collaborative filtering and analysis from GPS and offline movement data."


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