The technology and research giant is using aggregated phone records to track and support community services.

Everyone knows that when a company gathers personal information about you, via cookies on the web or settings on your smartphone, they’re likely to sell that information. Then, you end up on the receiving end of much unwanted contact, emails, phone calls, etc, from the company that bought the data. But what if this data sharing among companies could work to your advantage?

In theory, that’s exactly what IBM’s trying to do.

In an effort to improve urban development and public transportation, an IBM research team worked together with the telecom company Orange to tackle some of the service issues with bus routes in the Ivory Coast. Working around the nation’s largest city, Abidjan, Orange released 2.5 billion call records from five million cell phone users in the Ivory Coast. (The records were cleaned of personal identity before release).

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