Sweden-based international operator Telia Company is launching City Vitality Insights (CVI), a new subscription-based service meant to help cities across the Nordic and Baltic regions to improve the urban experience for both locals and visitors, while providing an accurate way to measure the impact of city planning decisions.
CVI uses anonymized and aggregated mobility data from Telia’s network to depict and measure crowd movement patterns in different parts of a city. This allows cities to quantify the impact of events and enables data-driven and sustainable city development decisions. CVI is currently being rolled out in phases across the Scandinavian and Baltic countries. In Finland, some cities have already started using the system, whereas in Norway and Sweden, cities will be able to start using the service later in the spring.
Telia Company said that it only uses grouped movement patterns for the service and irreversibly anonymizes the data; individuals cannot be identified, because all personal information has been removed.
A telecom company of the size, scope and sophistication of a Telia possesses vast resources of user data, which can be utilized in various ways. With the rise of so-called Big Data, opportunities now exist for operators to monetize user data. Most often we hear about selling the data—scrubbed of identifying aspects for privacy protection—to other companies that use it to improve their marketing of products.
In this case, however, Telia is aiming for a more public-spirited use of aggregated mass user data. The target consumers of the data are municipalities, which will presumably use it to improve decision-making in urban planning. CVI could help cities cater more effectively to the tourist trade, as well, and could even bolster security and public-safety efforts. Ultimately, it could help municipalities allocate their resources more appropriately, thereby saving them money.
For operators, including those with more limited footprints and smaller networks than Telia, selling anonymized aggregate user data to cities and other political units can be a way to gain an extra stream of revenue from user activity while adding a dimension of relevance in the marketplace and even brand enhancement from public service.
It is, of course, important that the data be genuinely scrubbed of any elements that could identify users, because actual or perceived privacy violations are, as we have seen on numerous occasions, very bad for the public image of operators.