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Telefonica To Resell User Location Tracking Data

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O2 parent Telefonica has launched a new unit devoted to reselling real-time data on the movements of its users around high streets and cities – all anonymised, of course

O2 parent company Telefonica on Tuesday launched a division that will be analyse and sell real-time mobile network data, beginning with data gathered by tracking the movements of users in high streets and around cities.

The launch of the  Dynamic Insights division makes Telefonica the latest to turn its attention to “Big Data”, mining the vast amounts of information it gathers on its customers for insights that can be turned into saleable products. In Telefonica’s case the big data in question will come from its mobile networks as well as machine-to-machine data, the company said.

Real-time data

Dynamic Insights’ first product, Smart Steps, will focus on understanding what factors influence people visiting a particular location at a given time.

For instance, Telefonica will be able to work with high-street retailers to help them better target customers using location and demographic data, the company said. While the data in question doesn’t include details on individual customers, Telefonica is nevertheless able to supply precise age, gender and financial information via its customers’ contracts, and all this in real-time.

Another application could be working with town councils to, for instance, measure how many and what type of people visit the high street after the introduction of free car parking, farmers’ markets or late-night shopping, Telefonica said.

Future products could focus on fraud protection and technology for managing the movement of people around ‘smart cities’, including traffic management, Telefonica said.

The company is working with German market research company GfK to launch products initially in the UK, Germany and Brazil.

Radical change

Telefonica highlighted the potential for such data-mining products for making radical social and economic changes.

“Big data is one of the key building blocks of the digital economy,” said Telefonica Digital chief commercial officer Stephen Shurrock in a statement. “Approached in a smart and responsible way it has the potential to transform every part of business and society.”

Analyst firm Ovum noted that similar products are being developed by US telco Verizon and by Vodafone in the UK, but on a less ambitious scale – for instance, Vodafone sells subscriber location data to GPS navigation service provider TomTom.

Green noted that Dynamic Insights fits in with a general trend for telecommunications companies, which are searching for new sources of revenue as they see a decline in income from calling and texting services.

In another new front for the company, Telefonica in July signed deals with Facebook, Google, Microsoft and RIM to offer mobile payments for real and virtual goods.

The arrangement means that when users make Facebook payments or pay for apps on the Google Play, Windows Phone Marketplace and BlackBerry App World online stores, they will get charged on their phone bill.

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