Big Data or Surveillance: StreetLight Data can now help cities measure bicycle and foot traffic

ne of the big by-products of the digital revolution has been data — large banks of information garnered from billions of connected devices and software. Making sense of all this data is a challenge, but it’s one that San Francisco-based StreetLight Data has been setting out to tackle by drawing meaningful insights from trillions of location-based data points collected from smartphone apps.

Founded in 2012, StreetLight Data works with an aggregator called Cuebiq, which offers app makers an SDK that enables them to request anonymized access to their users’ location data. On an individual user basis, this doesn’t reveal that much, but tracking the location of people through weather apps, dating apps, and around 300 other apps on 70 million devices in North America can serve up valuable insights into how people move around.