One of my colleagues, Derek Mitchell, gave an interesting talk at VON on how mobile phone companies could increase loyalty and retention through personalization of services. His thesis is that there is a lot of information available within mobile networks that a lot of cellcos rarely use, including rough location information from the cell id, and country information if you are roaming. Also the choice of services that you subscribe to (like music downloads) may also allow them to infer things about you.

Some of the things they could infer from traffic include:

  • They could know roughly where you live (even if you use prepay), since the cell id that you return to in the evening will always be the same
  • They know where you work, and the pattern of when you leave wor; your route home
  • If you are out in the centre of town on Friday and Saturday nights, they might infer that you are young and have no children.  Perhaps other services (like ringtone downloads) might help to fix you age range.
  • They will know how many times a year you take a holiday, based on roaming patterns
  • Your choice of device (smartphone, blackberry, bottom-of-the-range handset) might give away more whether you are a business or personal user.

So by only passively monitoring traffic, there is a lot of information to be gained and processed into market intelligence.  Of course it will be imperfect, because some people have separate work and personal phones, and they do not necessarily come from the same cellco.  However, you can see the ability to market services based on this information, for example differential rates at your workplace, or at home; they could offer you a traffic report covering your route home, just before you leave.  There are many ideas waiting there to be tried.