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Where did My Money Go?

Traveling Money

I have started listening to Bursts by Albert Barabasi (Audio Book, but also available as a regular book as well) which is an interesting set of concepts about Patterns in day to day life, but one of the first interesting concepts brought forward was the Money Tracking web site: Where’s George? where you can input serial numbers from money in your pocket and then help track the money’s movement over time. Currently, there is over a Billion Dollars worth of money being tracked by this website.

You ask, but what about we Canadians? Of course there is a site, and it is called Where’s Willy? an appropriate name for a bill tracking software in Canada. You simply input the serial number and away you go? The Canadian site claims to be tracking over $53Million.

The amount of money being tracked is synthetic since the lifespan of a bank note is about 6 months before they are destroyed or reclaimed, but still an impressive tool.

Who Cares?

I do, for one, it’s an interesting concept to watch how physical money moves around a country as a study of motion, and of the usage of money itself. Credit Card companies already do this to you whenever you buy things and they can pull out statistics of where you shop and even how much you spend normally too, but if you use cash, that data is a little harder to find. This site doesn’t track money at the micro level, it simply tracks money’s flow geographically which is equally interesting (to me at least). An individual bill can have a complete report on it (as long as folks type in their info into the web site).

This has the potential for a lot of things (not the least of which being a complete time sucker in terms of folks following their money). I have input a few bills,and will check in on occasion, but it is an interesting Social Experiment to see if real data can be collected on the flow of money throughout a country.

An example of a bill report is here click there and see the report and the nifty map that the site creates from the data that it has. This is a well traveled bill.

A More Sinister Question

Similar data collected in a much more precise ways from your debit card usage and credit cards is how the banks and marketing firms create usage profiles about us and how we spend our money.  Does that make you feel a little less comfortable? It makes me wonder just what kind of data and patterns these firms can pull up about me?

If the usage of Cell Phones as Credit or Debit terminals expands, think of what happens now that companies know how you spend, where you spend and what you spend, and then know where you are (from your phone’s GPS data), this introduces an entirely new level of targeted advertising. Think you are driving about 5:30 PM and your phone gets a message about a Special Meal Deal at a Swiss Chalet, which coincidentally is coming up on your right (only 200 metres away), can you resist?

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