Posmo: Ethical revolution in the mobility data market

To revolutionise the Swiss mobility data market and thereby help us to better understand our mobility behaviour and thus shape our living space more effectively. This is the ambitious goal of the Posmo (Positive Mobility) cooperative. It wants Posmo to collect high-quality mobility data and make it available anonymously to urban developers, researchers and public agencies. The IDAS Institute of BFH Technik & Informatik supports the development of the ethical data market.

Posmo has developed the Posmo One app together with Datamap AG. The app continuously collects movement data, which is further processed with the help of machine learning. For example, the means of transport is recognised and gaps are added. Continuous mobility sequences are created, as the following example shows (see also screenshots): On foot from home to the bicycle, then by bicycle to the supermarket, then shopping on foot and finally back home by bicycle The high quality with small-scale movements enables new insights into age- and gender-dependent differences in mobility or the use of bicycle routes.

Motivation: Good purpose & ethical concept

Mobility data can only be used if sufficient coverage is achieved. But who gives up their data voluntarily? Actually, many would be willing to do so as long as the data is used for a good purpose and privacy protection is ensured. This is exactly what the founders of Posmo have been thinking about and have initiated a paradigm shift in dealing with data: the data cooperative. In a classic cooperative, its members combine their finances to purchase a property, for example. The goal is not necessarily to increase value, but to create a shared living space. Analogously, Posmo’s members combine their data to jointly make a positive contribution to mobility development in their environment and thus help achieve climate goals. The mobility data is offered via a data market. This data market ensures that the data is used exclusively in the interests of the cooperative members. Instead of short-term financial interests, ethics, transparency and control are prioritised. Thus, users of the Posmo One app have full control over their data and can determine at any time which data is used in the Posmo data market. They receive information about what happens to the data and to whom it is passed on – anonymised, of course. The members of the cooperative determine the ethical guidelines for the sale of the data. The ethics committee (consisting of elected members) is responsible for enforcing the ethical guidelines and must approve every data sale.

The Posmo Mobility Data Market

The Posmo mobility data market is filled with mobility data by the cooperative members, the data producers (DP). Date buyers (DB), such as urban developers, researchers or public authorities, can create and buy analyses on the anonymised data. In addition, Posmo makes its infrastructure available to so-called Data Collecting Organisations (DOs), currently the City of Zurich or ZHAW, so that they can carry out their special mobility projects. The DOs benefit from Posmo’s ethical principles and do not have to worry about compliance with data protection etc. themselves Mobility data is highly sensitive: just think about how many people in your household, street or neighbourhood have the same commute. For this reason, in accordance with the Posmo ethics concept, it must be ensured with every data sale that anonymity is guaranteed and that no conclusions can be drawn about the persons collecting the data. For this purpose, IDAS has developed an initial concept within the framework of an Innocheque project on how the degree of anonymity can be determined and adjusted in a data evaluation.

Outlook

The Posmo mobility data market is active and growing steadily. Projects are currently underway with the city of Zurich:

  1. for a climate-friendly Zurich
  2. for a good cycling infrastructure
  3. VelObserver project.

But there is still work to be done: As the data market is based on a new business model, many work steps are not yet mature and are launched ad-hoc as needed. For the data market to be viable and profitable in the future, it is necessary to formalise and automate these work processes. One example is the data anonymisation process mentioned above. The calculations are currently done manually on a case-by-case basis. A planned InnoSuisse project should help Posmo to successfully establish the Posmo data market and answer the still open research questions on the ethical handling of mobility data. This would be a big step towards creating a sustainable Swiss mobility system.

AUTOR/AUTORIN: Dominic Baumann

Dominic Baumann works as an assistant in the Institute for Data Applications and Security IDAS at the Bern University of Applied Sciences. He is studying computer science with a specialisation in IT security.

AUTOR/AUTORIN: Annett Laube

Annett Laube is a lecturer in computer science at BFH Technik & Informatik and heads the Institute for Data Applications and Security (IDAS). She has technical responsibility for the science magazine SocietyByte, in particular for the focus on Digital Identity, Privacy & Cybersecurity.

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