IBM smartphone app predicts traffic jams  

Posted by Big Gav in , , , , ,

The SMH has an article on a smartphone app that could help motorists reduce the amount of fuel wasted in traffic jams - IBM smartphone app predicts traffic jams.

IBM is testing smartphone software designed to predict traffic jams and warn motorists before they even take to the roads.

IBM said that its employees in the San Francisco and Silicon Valley areas of Northern California have been testing technology that "will ultimately help drivers around the world" avoid fouled traffic.

Those involved in the pilot project agree to have location-sensing capabilities in their smartphones automatically track where they drive and when, according to IBM Smarter Traveler program manager John Day.

The information is fed through the internet to computers that identify patterns such as commutes to and from work.

Meanwhile, data collected from roadway censors commonly used for online traffic maps is analysed to determine conditions that usually lead to trouble.

For example, congestion at a certain off-ramp or bridge entrance may consistently lead to traffic backing up in another area. The results are combined to form personalised predictions of when a motorist is apt to run into highway headaches.

"We wanted to take advantage of analytic tools to provide predictive capabilities; to get correlations with minor slowdowns and major ones that happen after that," Day told AFP. So you can run a query at any point for a journey and predict 35 or 40 minutes in advance what it will look like, then couple that with a personal approach for the individual traveler."

IBM researchers worked with California state highway authorities and a Mobile Millennium Team at the University of Berkeley, California, on the project.

The smartphone application lets people receive customized alerts warning of probable traffic trouble before they set out on commutes or other routine drives.

Cryptogon notes that while this sort of mass monitoring can serve useful purposes, it can also be put to more annoying uses - Data from TomTom Navigation Devices Used by Dutch Police to Set Speed Traps.
Dutch drivers might have wondered how it was that speed traps were always in just the right place to catch speeders. It turned out to be simple enough: if they owned a TomTom, their in-car satnav was spying on them, and the aggregated data about cars’ speed was being sold via the government to the police – who used it to set the traps.

The company, which is Europe’s largest satnav manufacturer, was forced this week into an embarrassing apology as the revelation emerged alongside its first-quarter financial earnings, which showed weak demand and let it to forecast growing sales from “service revenues” – including, it said, selling data to governments.

In a public apology (repeated in a video on YouTube), TomTom’s chief executive Harold Goddijn said the company sold the anonymous data believing it would be used to improve safety or relieve traffic bottlenecks.

“We never foresaw this kind of use and many of our clients are not happy about it,” he wrote, and promised licensing agreements would “prevent this type of use in the future.”

Normally the aggregated data would be used to tell subscribers to TomTom services how to route around traffic conditions and give improved estimates of journey time. The sale of data to the government was intended to help it understand causes of congestion and accidents.

But the police had a simpler idea for how to use the data to offset the cost of buying it, and followed that as well.

The timing of the admission comes just after a wave of concern over data collected by smartphones and passed back to the companies controlling them, such as Apple, Google and Microsoft.


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