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Mobility Perspectives

How to Drive Anonymous Data Sharing for a Smarter City

Todd Brockdorf | November 13, 2018

Driving through Los Angeles when I was a teenager, in an era before connected vehicles, smartphones, and streaming media, was quite an experience. OK, driving through LA is still an experience but a vastly different one.

I still remember being handed the keys to the family car in one hand and a Thomas Guide in the other. I remember cruising for parking along the Pacific Coast Highway with my buddies in the back to avoid paying the fees for the Zuma beach parking lot. And I still remember naively flashing my brights at stop lights, trying to get the sensor to trigger so that I would not have wait as long for the light to change.

As we know, static Thomas Guides have been replaced by real-time navigation in vehicles or on phones. Apps help guide us to available parking. And traffic lights can be timed such that you can catch a green wave of continuous driving and reduce idle pollution.

All these improvements to the driving experience are enabled through anonymous data. As cities become smarter, it’s anonymous data that will fuel the revolution.

Smart Cities Need YOU!

But for smart cities to work, we need participants in the ecosystem. That means you and I. We need to be willing to share our anonymous data for the greater good.

Who doesn’t want real-time traffic notifications to get you to your destination quicker? Can you honestly say that you like sitting in traffic? When you share your anonymous data, we all benefit.

If there isn’t any personally identifiable information, I don’t really care that someone knows that I’m driving down the 101 at 65 mph. It’s for the greater good. If someone wants to know the hyper-local weather based on windshield wiper activation and speed, so be it. If I happen to be driving on a city street and my lidar sensors pick up available parking spots to be transmitted to a parking app, I’m fine with that.

You and I get benefits from this type of data sharing.

Drivers Are Willing to Share, but Privacy Matters

In fact, in a recent survey from Otonomo and Edison Research, up to 80% of connected vehicle owners and those looking to purchase a connected vehicle are willing to share their automotive data to gain access to services that benefit them.

In that same survey, 92% of drivers want data transparency. They want to know what the data are being used for and who has access to it. In short, the study’s results indicate that consumers are willing to share their data cautiously with organizations that demonstrate transparency and a commitment to privacy and security.

To enable smarter cities, we should all be willing to share our anonymous data.

One Anonymization Method Does Not Fit All

The challenge with anonymous vehicle data, however, is that each use case requires a different anonymization technique. One size does not fit all.

For example, if my lidar sensor is transmitting data for a parking app, I need accurate GPS coordinates tagged to that data. Six digits after the decimal point, meaning within a few inches of actual location, or better, is ideal. Masking GPS to 3 digits after the decimal point, meaning I know the neighborhood where the vehicle is located, is useless. GPS masking is clearly NOT a sufficient anonymization method for a parking use case.

However, there are other techniques to achieve anonymization for a parking use case. One way is by creating a new pseudonymous vehicle ID for every trip. In addition, you don’t need to know the make or model of the vehicle producing the data; you just need to know what the vehicle “sees” and where it’s located. So, there’s no need to send make and model information to a parking app provider.

The Otonomo Anonymization Engine helps automotive data providers manage these anonymization challenges while preserving data value. The Anonymization Engine utilizes sophisticated anonymization techniques and combinations to provide robust GDPR-compliant data privacy safeguards. Service providers and app developers benefit from improved data usability and ironclad privacy by design in the Otonomo Automotive Data Services Platform. Drivers benefit from improved privacy protections and higher quality of available services.  

Let’s Make the Smart City Smarter – Together

As we desire a better driving experience, enabled through smart infrastructure and connected vehicles, anonymous data and insights gleaned from these become critical. We need drivers who are willing to share data to fuel the ecosystem, and to gain their consent, we need a method to safely and securely anonymize the data for each data use case. Only then can we truly realize the promised benefits of a smarter city.

Topics: Autonomy

Todd Brockdorf, Head of Americas Solution Architecture, Otonomo

Todd Brockdorf is the Head of Americas Solutions Engineering at Otonomo, the first neutral automotive data services platform that simply and securely aggregates data to make it usable for apps and services that benefit drivers, passengers, municipalities, and transportation companies. @toddbrockdorf