What if your smartphone could detect your behavior – cool or freaky?

By Abby Johnson

As technology has advanced and smartphones have become ubiquitous, we’ve seen the rise of some very interesting applications. Many of these apps make our lives easier, help us make decisions, and even offer up some fun and games. At SXSW this year, we saw an especially big emergence of “social discovery” apps that essentially allow users to find friends, colleagues, and even new people that are nearby based on location and other criteria such as age, interests, gender, etc.

Although these types of apps have raised some mobile privacy concerns, more apps and platforms are already being developed that go beyond social discovery capabilities. And the truth is, they are quite fascinating developments.

Behavio is one such startup that began as an open source project at the MIT Media Lab Funf and developed into an open source project that turns phones into smart sensors of the real world behavior of consumers. It was recently among the winners of a News Challenge hosted by the Knight Foundation. The winners received $1.37 million in grants for their innovative endeavors in the media industry.

In terms of journalism, Behavio can take cell phone data and make deductions of an event’s surroundings, which, of course, would greatly add to a story. It also can provide more meaning to a photograph since it can offer more information than simply the date and location. Furthermore, Behavio opens the door for many others to contribute to a story.

As intriguing as these capabilities are, the Behavio platform is actually designed to go further than the media landscape as well. According to Nadav Aharony, the company’s co-founder, the sensors that the Behavio platform is able to create can actually improve numerous areas of consumers’ lives.

“We built the original software to actually do a study in a new methodology that we’re calling the social MRI,” he said.

“Constructed from data from phones,” he continued, “ we can actually look at how communities live their lives, how an organic community lives, and how friendships are formed and how people make decisions in life.”

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About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.