How to Follow (or Avoid) the Crowds

Media Morph: Citysense

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NEW YORK ( -- Every week Ad Age Digital's Media Morph looks at how emerging technology is changing the way consumers get their information and media companies and advertisers present their messages. This week: Citysense.

WHAT IT IS: Wanna know where the cool crowds are hanging? Now you can find out in the palm of your hand. Citysense is a mobile nightlife-discovery and social-navigation tool that, using GPS and Wi-Fi positioning data and real-time feeds, senses activity in the city, links to search engines such as Yelp and Google, and shows you a heat map of the venues at which everyone is congregating. Sure, it's positioned as a tool for finding where the crowds are but could easily be used to steer clear of them. A forthcoming alarm-clock feature will go off earlier if the city is buzzing earlier than usual, to help you avoid traffic. The application is available in its test market of San Francisco but soon will roll out in cities including New York and Chicago.

HOW IT WORKS: The free, downloadable application is compatible with a variety of BlackBerry devices, and iPhone compatibility is slated for the coming weeks. It uses Sense Networks' Macrosense platform, which analyzes massive amounts of anonymous location data in real time. Macrosense is already used by businesspeople for things such as selecting store locations. But the company asked itself: With all this real-time data, what else could we do for a city?

THE MARKETER ANGLE: For now it's focused on nightlife, but were Citysense to expand to other sectors, such as restaurants or retail, it could be a huge opportunity for advertisers. Said CEO Greg Skibiski: "If you can see where people are coming from or going to, the city's patterns of movements over years, you can figure out where to put ads for which target group or how to measure the impact of outdoor advertising, for example."

THE PRIVACY ISSUE: It's a natural concern, for sure, but the company insists it's serious about privacy and data ownership and promises its users anonymity.
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