Following approval for EOF funding at the CSRD Board meeting on July 19, the TELUS Insights Data Collection Project is moving forward in Revelstoke.
The project aims to supply the City of Revelstoke with a more accurate population number through data gathered from cell phones in the area.
Using aggregated data, meaning masses of data from multiple sources compiled into data summaries, the project will create an image of origin and quantity of visitors, movement to and from the region, monthly comparisons of population metrics and average dwell times by demographic metrics.
So how will your data be used to achieve this?
Vice president and chief data and trust officer for TELUS Pam Snively explained in an email to the Review the project will use data already collected through TELUS towers to create a larger image of who’s in the city at any given time.
“Our cellular network generates tremendous amounts of movement data as devices connect to different wireless sites (also known as cellular towers),” stated Snively. “Using industry-leading privacy standards, TELUS de-identifies this information, combines it into large aggregated data sets and then extrapolates the data to reveal insights and trends about how people move about.”
Along with origin, information relating to stay time and gender will also be extrapolated from the data sets.
According to Snively, privacy is the company’s top priority when carrying out such projects.
“It’s important to note that Insights never uses personal information of specific customers — we simply create models using bulk sets of de-identified information from wireless sites to study how traffic moves.”
This information, according to Snively, can then be used by governments to “make more informed decisions about community services and other projects that will benefit its constituents, such as evacuation planning and understanding the number of people residing in the city month-to-month.”
The one-year analysis of the City of Revelstoke’s population was previously discussed at the July 10, 2018 city council meeting, with council opting to unanimously support a recommendation to the CSRD Board of Director for allocation of $55,000 from the Economic Opportunity Fund to finance the project.
Revelstoke director of community economic development Nicole Fricot says the Insights project will hopefully fix a key issue the Revelstoke development department has faced in the past.
“Ever since I’ve started, one of the biggest issues that we’ve had with being able to create projects, manage projects or do really good economic development is that we have no good information about how many people are in Revelstoke at any given time,” says Fricot. “We can use that information to more accurately predict everything from policing, to future infrastructure needs, to tourism marketing efforts and tourism infrastructure efforts – It’s across the board.”
Fricot says the project will pull already gathered data from the past few months as well as data from the coming months, creating a project time frame of about February 2018 to February 2019.
With recent headlines relating to information breeches, Fricot says privacy concerns were heavily considered when looking into the TELUS Insights project for Revelstoke.
“When you go forward to look at these types of projects, one of the first things you consider is: How will this affect the individual user whose data is being is being collected or reviewed?” Says Fricot. “You’ve seen it all over the news in the recent months — privacy is a big deal.”
Following the recommendation from council, the CSRD Board of Directors carried the motion to allocate the funds during their monthly meeting in Salmon Arm.
Regional director for CSRD Area B Loni Parker says discussion was also held at the meeting regarding privacy concerns, however TELUS reassured the board that all numbers would be aggregated before release.
“It was raised and basically we were reassured from the TELUS perspective that the numbers would all be aggregated, that there was absolutely no personal information that is attached to the numbers,” says Parker. “We felt we had sufficient comfort that we’re not going to run into any privacy concerns.”
Parker says she is hopeful that the project will allow for an enhanced clarity in population number, as current statistics have held Revelstoke back from receiving grants and accurately planning infrastructure in the past.
“We’ve been relying on Stats Canada, which lags far behind and we never get adequate information from Stats Canada because of the nature of our community being transient seasonally,” says Parker. “So this will give us far more accurate data, so that will allow us opportunities to use that data to make decisions as we move forward as a community, which can enhance economic development.”
The total cost of the TELUS Insights Data Collection Project, according to the EOF request, will be $124,940, with $55,000 being contributed through the EOF.
The remaining $70,000 will be contributed by the Revelstoke Accommodation Association ($35,000), the Columbia Basin Trust ($20,000) and $5,000 each from Community Economic Development, Development Services and Engineering Services.
TELUS, according to the initial council report, was selected as the contractor for the project as they are the only provider who has access to the required data in Revelstoke.
In her statement, Snively noted that TELUS mobility subscribers have the option to opt-out of providing their information for inclusion as part of the aggregated data sets for projects such as the Insights Data Collection Project.