Mobile Data

July 3, 2007

In a recent BBC story, Beating congestion with mobiles, they describe a pretty cool experiment in collecting real-time traffic information. MIT’s Real Time Rome aggregates data from mobile phones, buses and taxis in Rome to model traffic in real time. They’re using Telcom Italia’s LocHNESs system to collect mobile phone information.

“The LocHNESs system developed by Telecom Italia can estimate road traffic by anonymously locating mobile terminals in conversation status in a certain zone. It records the directional shift of terminals by plotting them. This information is used to generate traffic maps in real time by associating one or more velocity values with every territorial pixel and by estimating mean velocity on the roads. Traffic maps can be generated throughout the Italian territory that is covered by the TIM mobile network and can be accessed 24 hours.”

There are obvious questions as to who owns the data and whether permission is required in order to collect that data, but on masse I don’t suspect that this should be a problem. The possibilities are really impressive though, sending buses to where people are, knowing where traffic congestions are about to occur, through in some AI and we could be looking at a predictive system which could optimize traffic routes and lights.

There is also a short article on this in the March 2007 Economist Technology Quarterly. Very interesting and very cool. Now where else do we have masses of free data just waiting to be put to a good use?