An open source tracking system has been given its first public trial at the Chaos Communication Conference in Berlin.
The open source wireless tracking system for tracking people around buildings, OpenBeacon got its first public use last week at the event last week.
The system creators sold 900 tags at €10 (£8.74) each to attendees who volunteered to be tracked during the four-day event. Some attendees bought multiple tags to experiment with later.
OpenBeacon uses chips from Nordic Semiconductor that transmit and receive over the 2.4GHz frequency, which is available for unlicensed use in many countries. The chips communicated with 23 base stations positioned around the conference centre, which sent data back to a central server.
The developers of OpenBeacon worked with partners to create a three dimensional model of the conference centre and anyone could use touchscreen monitors that displayed the location of attendees on the model. Touching an attendee on the screen displayed a profile that the person could voluntarily add.
The OpenBeacon team used the congress as a showcase for the tracking technology and its implications. "At first look, you don't see anything special about the data moving around the building," said Milosch Meriac, one of the creators of OpenBeacon. However, an analysis of data collected over several days and about many people could lead to assumptions about relationships between people who may have gathered in similar spaces repeatedly, he noted.
"We wanted to make this analysis transparent so that people are more aware of what data they're willing to give away," he said. On the last day of the conference, OpenBeacon released all the data gathered over the four days so anyone could access and analyse it.
The Chaos Communication Congress is an annual conference that attracts technology enthusiasts who examine the implications of technology on society.