Google picks up behavioral sensing company Behavio

Steven Loeb · April 13, 2013 · Short URL:

Behavio's technology uses data signals from phones to determine human behavior

I'm both excited and a little weary of Google Glass. I can see some of the possiblities, but then I think everyone walking around with thing on their head will, first of all, look kind of dumb, but also disconnect people even further from each other. But then Google goes out and buys up companies that pioneering technology that make it sound like the device could really revolutionize how we see the world, and it makes me excited again!

The team at social and behavioral sensing company Behavio is joining Google, it was announced on Behavio's homepage Friday. 

The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Behavio noted that, while it will be shutting down its closed alpha prorgam, it will continue to maintain its Funf open source project within Google.

"At Behavio, we have always been passionate about helping people better understand the world around them. We believe that our digital experiences should be better connected with the way we experience the world, and we couldn't be happier to be able to continue building out our vision within Google," the company wrote.

Founded in June 2012, Sunnyale California-based Behavio is a spin-off of MIT-Media Labs. The company created a project called Funf, which it calls "an extensible sensing and data processing framework for mobile devices."

Translation: what Funf does is use data signals that are accessible from mobile phones, such as location, movement, speed, nearby devices and networks, phone activity, noise levels, and more to make an educated determination about what will happen next. In essence, it allows mobile devices to sense, understand, and react to human behavior in both individuals and communities. 

It's like GPS that doesn't just show you your location, but shows you the world around you.

The uses and applications for this type of technology could, of course, be used to better sell people things on their phones. But it would also have real, practical applications that would save lives.

"Our devices could power early-warning systems for disease outbreaks or provide life-saving data during disasters. Think of it as 'trending topics for a community,'" Behavio co-founder Cody Sumter told Nieman Journalism Lab last year.

Another example he gave: "An apartment complex full of people stopped showing up to work…If you had some third-party newssources, people were able to donate their own data, this would have sent up a massive red flag."

Behavio was one of the winners of the 2012 John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s News Challenge on Networks, where it was award $335,000. Funf also won the 2012 SXSW Accelerator competition.

This is Google's fourth aquisition this year. In March, it closed the acquisition of e-commerce firm Channel Intelligence for $125 million; the company then purchased object recognition startup DNNresearch; and then bought infrasturture startup Talaria.

Behavio could not be reached for further comment. 

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