It's the kind of high-tech study you might expect from Silicon Valley. San Jose, California, will be tracking hundreds of thousands of cellphones during Super Bowl 50 week, with the help of a startup called AirSage.
Football fans will be flooding into the San Francisco area during that time, and AirSage said it will be collecting and analyzing wireless signaling data for San Jose's Convention and Visitor's Bureau to help give the city a clearer idea of where fans stayed or visited while in the Bay Area, CBS San Francisco reports.
"Their technology tracks cellphone usage. Cellphones tend to ping about 150 times a day from the phone, their GPS location, to a nearby tower," Ben Roschke, who works with Team San Jose, an economic development organization and the official Convention and Visitors Bureau for the city, told the station.
San Jose has already been doing some phone tracking over the past year. AirSage has access to Verizon and T-Mobile carriers and the technology can pinpoint locations within about 100 yards. The data does not reveal the user's identity.
Roschke said he thinks utilizing the data collected by AirSage during the Super Bowl 50 events will bring a lot of benefits to San Jose.
"We really want to see what destinations they're liking, and what areas we can help focus on for future marketing efforts," he said.
Nationally, there has been lot of debate surrounding third parties using tracking data from personal mobile devices. In November, the Federal Trade Commission held a meeting to assess the positives and negatives of cross-device data tracking, which has been utilized by companies like Target to reach out directly to consumers by collecting information culled from mobile data.
Residents offered mixed opinions on the news, but some said they understood why the data will be important for local businesses.
"I don't see the harm in it. I mean I can see the potential harm, but I think in this case, in this scenario the way they're using the data, just so that they know how much to staff, what they should do, what places should be opened, what places should be closed," said Jamealle Spain.
Chris Arkley, who manages San Jose's San Pedro Square Market Bar, said it makes sense to track the information during such a major event.
"It's always gonna be a time of invasion of privacy a little bit, no matter how much they say they're not gonna look at stuff. But with an event of this size, I know for me running this bar, it's unpredictable, we don't know where people are going to be," Arkley said, explaining that the data will allow the city to have a better idea of where people might go during future events.
AirSage will provide a report on the collected data in April.