One of my out of work hobbies is Cycling and when I get time I enjoy heading out on the roads of Lancashire on my bike. About 18 months ago I purchased myself a GPS tracker to monitor my rides and signed up to a Strava account. You can find me on Strava here. As an avid cyclist the second best thing to being out on the bike is reading about it and I am a regular reader of Cycling Plus magazine. A recent edition of the magazine got me thinking about Strava and the data which is collected by Strava. Thousands of people use Strava and the data they generate while running or cycling is all stored by the company, this is a goldmine of information which could be used in so many different ways.
I use Strava to help me track the miles I have done and any progress (wishful thinking) I am making on my best performance going up some of the hills near me in Lancashire. One hill near me has had over 3300 people attempt it, many multiple times. Box Hill near London, which featured in the Olympics Road Race route, has had over 23000 people go up using Strava. These routes are recreational rather than commuter routes so may be less valuable but will still hold some information which could be of use to people. Its the commuter routes which are of real value though as this data could be used to help city authorities to understand where to focus their efforts. Most people in Britain will be aware of the recent increase in cycling fatalities on our roads and while I am not here to argue the rights and wrongs of how cyclists ride their bikes in London the information contained in something like Strava on where cyclists ride and at what times could be of immense value. Whats more Strava have made this information available to people who want to buy it, yep thats right, to people who want to buy it. This is the statement on the Strava Metro website:
License fees are based on the number of Strava members in the requested geographic area and the time span of data required. Pricing is US $0.80 per distinct member in a twelve month period. If you are looking for a heat map image of Strava rides or runs in your area, you can get that free of charge at Strava Labs.
This is a great example of how an organisation are using new technologies and then tapping into the commercial value of the huge amounts of data which is being collected. It is unlikely that Strava intended this as the main purpose for Strava when they created it but they have realised that the data they now hold is of huge value so as well as selling Premium membership for the App they are selling, albeit anonymised, data. Furthermore developers can be granted access to the Strava API to retrieve data from the site. Most notably this was used to create the VeloViewer website. This started off as a hobby for the developer but towards the end of 2014 they started charging £9.99 a year for users to have richer tools with which to analyse the data they have created in Strava.
As the use of wearable technology increases in 2015 and beyond we will see more and more examples of these types of sites and applications who are either selling data which is collected through new technology devices or creating richer tools to analyse the vast amounts of data which is collected. Big Data and the tools used to analyse it are not restricted to the big corporations, people are using these tools on a daily basis already and it will only increase.
If only I could get some of the money which Strava make next time I go out on the bike....not that it appears to be worth that much at $0.80 everytime somebody buys my anonymised data!