A computer scientist at Rutgers University recently developed an algorithm that uses the box that some insurance companies place in vehicles to monitor speed (in exchange for lower premiums) to track the driver’s whereabouts.
The technique is called “elastic pathing,” and it compares the vehicle’s speed to a map, based on the assumption that the driver is starting from home, to track where he or she is going. It anticipates your route based on the speed you take and the possibilities of the routes near your home. For example, if you leave your home and have two options, either take back roads with lower speed limits and lots of stop signs, or jump on the highway and cruise at 70mph. It’s pretty clear based on that which route you choose. Then, how long you were going at each speed can estimate your destination.
This type of information opens the way to a huge host of mobile advertising possibilities. For example, imagine that you stop by the gas station for a fill up and get a text from the cafe next door about their dinner specials.
Don’t call up your insurance company yet, though. The accuracy of the algorithm right now is only about 26% and predicts your destination to within 1/3 of a mile. Still, future developments could mean that your insurance provider will know a lot more about you than you might want them to. What do you think about the possibility of your insurance company monitoring your whereabouts?