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Project Turns GPS Phones Into Traffic Reporters

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the then-it's-mandatory dept.

Cellphones 119

narramissic writes "Starting on Monday, researchers from Nokia and UC Berkeley will kick off the Mobile Millennium project. The researchers hope that thousands of volunteers will download a free Java program that figures out by their movement and location when they are driving, and then transmits that information to the project's servers, which then crunch it into a Bay Area traffic map. 'The whole concept here is that if everyone shares just a little bit of what they're seeing ... then everyone can benefit by seeing the conditions ahead of them,' said Quinn Jacobson, a research leader with Nokia in Palo Alto."

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119 comments

The privacy post (4, Insightful)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673923)

I'm sure the data is anonymized, but how well? Will people be comfortable with having their phone track them? Anyone know? Didn't RTFA yet... ;)

Re:The privacy post (1)

Kagura (843695) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673949)

Until we arrive at an overtly panoptic government, I wouldn't mind volunteering for my data to be shared if it helps.

Re:The privacy post (2, Interesting)

ZankerH (1401751) | more than 5 years ago | (#25674077)

Until we arrive at an overtly panoptic government, I wouldn't mind volunteering for my data to be shared if it helps.

I can certainly see this being used to help the traffic control police - aka revenue generator.

Re:The privacy post (4, Insightful)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 5 years ago | (#25674235)

If this became a big thing and my company maintained a toll road then I'd be looking for ways to create phantom "traffic jams" on alternative routes. This sounds like a trust based system.

Re:The privacy post (1)

wisty (1335733) | more than 5 years ago | (#25674285)

Oh god, this could really be exploited. Just set up a horde of customized clients to "block" the route you want to take ... not that I would approve of such behavior

Re:The privacy post (1)

esampson (223745) | more than 5 years ago | (#25678569)

I would imagine it wouldn't be too difficult for the system to recognize that certain senders are giving bogus data, especially if this became a big thing. You have to do things like that because even honest users will occasionally send bad data, either because their GPS gets a bad fix or because their car breaks down. Once the system realizes someone is sending bad data it can keep an eye on them. If they continue to send lots and lots of bad data then it just stops paying attention to them altogether.

Re:The privacy post (1)

Propaganda13 (312548) | more than 5 years ago | (#25680545)

I figured people would just do this for kicks. Get a bunch of friends and create virtual traffic jams. I wonder how the system would handle that since a one lane backups do happen.

Re:The privacy post (0, Troll)

msromike (926441) | more than 5 years ago | (#25677009)

Right. Not to mention that you personally don't break the law and therefore have nothing to hide. Anyone that is against this idea probably should have an ankle tracking bracelet applied in the first place.

I think this idea just scratches the surface. Why not collect anonymous stats on everyone. You could still do powerful pattern recognition without knowing the individual identity of the subject.

Perhaps an anonymous person leaves his anonymous significant others (SO) house. He goes to the bar, then he goes to WalMart (which probably should be a crime in and of itself.) The computer checks and sees that someone buys .357 ammo during the same time that anonymous person is shopping. Anonymous person #1 drives around stopping at various liquor stores. Then anonymous driver parks down the street from SO house and just sits. Based on the previous behavior of this anonymous subject the computer is 99.8% certain that a crime is in progress. The police are summoned and a judge signs a warrant withing the 72 hours allowed by the Homeland Traffic and Safety Improvement Act.

What could possibly go wrong?
 

Who would be dumb enough to download this? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25674297)

*considers existence of FaceBook*

Nevermind.

Re:Who would be dumb enough to download this? (1)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 5 years ago | (#25674367)

*considers existence of FaceBook*

Nevermind.

Then again, on Facebook you do get to choose what information you share about yourself. Might not be the case if you have an app posting info about you automagically...

Re:Who would be dumb enough to download this? (3, Interesting)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675789)

Actually I'm hoping Google adds this to Google Maps Mobile. Currently they use the commercial traffic services for data which means a delay of 15-30 minutes typically in getting notification about traffic jams, with realtime data from actual commuters they could provide MUCH better data. This would save me hundreds of hours per year. The government can already track you through the cellular network and Google would not turn the individual user data over to anyone else, so why wouldn't I participate?

Re:The privacy post (4, Interesting)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 5 years ago | (#25674329)

Forget privacy, who is going to pay for this wireless data?

Why would someone sacrifice their battery life just for another to benefit.

Re:The privacy post (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25674421)

That's no problem. The idea is that you benefit from the information which emerges from the aggregated data. Kind of like other community projects, for example CDDB or Wikipedia. You feed a small piece of information into the system and get the service of the whole system back.

The thing to watch out for is: Who owns the data? Are you really just jumpstarting a commercial enterprise which will later turn the free service into a product or serve your data back to you with ads, while you are forbidden to use the database for your own purposes?

Re:The privacy post (1)

geomobile (1312099) | more than 5 years ago | (#25674711)

I think he was talking about the data traffic cost from the wireless operator. I don't see an operator in the consortium running the project. So, if you have a bad data plan, this will ruin your phone bill - Wikipedia or not.

Re:The privacy post (2)

cellurl (906920) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675497)

I completely agree. I also question slashdot's motives at promoting Nokia. Ok, here goes: I am promoting this: Its free now, but probably not later. I suck! http://www.wikispeedia.org/ [wikispeedia.org] Here's another item I am promoting. Its not free but useful. Slashdot won't cover it. http://www.gpscruise.com/ [gpscruise.com] What do you think? -jim

Did u (1)

drachenstern (160456) | more than 5 years ago | (#25676299)

Eh, what? Where did they promote Nokia? Because Nokia's part of the summary due to they are in the article?

Enlighten me how they're promoting please...

But on with the show. Cute network, cute device. What's the lifetime on the site you reckon? 5 years? Honest answer please.

Re:The privacy post (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 5 years ago | (#25677057)

http://www.wikispeedia.org/ [wikispeedia.org] Here's another item I am promoting. Its not free but useful. Slashdot won't cover it. http://www.gpscruise.com/ [gpscruise.com] [gpscruise.com] What do you think? -jim

I look at the first and I think "um, okaaaay... what's the point? I can see speed limit signs for myself as I drive...". Alas, I can't look at the second because it redirects to a google doc, which my company's proxy blocks.

Re:The privacy post (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25674565)

Why would someone sacrifice their battery life just for another to benefit.

To leech off others to get real-time traffic data in return, especially if they add spoken directions to the program on smart-phones to allow people to avoid traffic jams if they are willing to spend that battery life while driving.

Re:The privacy post (0)

adamofgreyskull (640712) | more than 5 years ago | (#25674607)

No man is an island, entire of itself every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls it tolls for thee.

Err, yeah. Perhaps because you would also benefit, by having access to the aggregated data as well?

Re: Battery life? (1)

gillbates (106458) | more than 5 years ago | (#25676959)

While it's a little inconvenience, connecting a car charger goes a long way. If you've got an unlimited data plan, why wouldn't you use this?

Re: Battery life? (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 5 years ago | (#25677265)

While it's a little inconvenience, connecting a car charger goes a long way. If you've got an unlimited data plan, why wouldn't you use this?

Connecting to a car charger is also reputedly bad for battery longevity.

Re:The privacy post (2, Informative)

rodrigoandrade (713371) | more than 5 years ago | (#25674521)

Newsflash: your phone ALREADY tracks you; it's an inherent part of cell phone technology. What matters is how this tracking data is used.

Re:The privacy post (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675795)

I only put the battery in my phone when I need to make or receive a call.

Re:The privacy post (1)

Ian-K (154151) | more than 5 years ago | (#25676721)

It's quite simple to track positions individually yet anonymously. It all depends on goodwill (and how much people want to spend on the GPRS traffic they donate to that system)

Depends, though, if you live in england or not ;) (see today's post about UK wanting to snoop on all internet traffic)

Interesting, but only useful if widely adopted (4, Interesting)

William Ager (1157031) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673931)

The project seems interesting, and there does appear to be at least some consideration for keeping the data secure.

However, I would think that the system would require widespread adoption in a particular area before it would even start to be useful, and considering that it will only run on the small percentage of phones that have GPS to begin with, and there isn't much incentive in the beginning for users to install the software, I'm not sure that such an idea will be viable for at least a few more years.

Re:Interesting, but only useful if widely adopted (1)

ZankerH (1401751) | more than 5 years ago | (#25674111)

It would also require that the large majority of the users/contributers to the system actually do so with good intentions and aren't trying to deliberately mislead the traffic behind them. That may be the case, but the article makes it sound like it's pretty easy for a single person to game the system.

Re:Interesting, but only useful if widely adopted (4, Interesting)

cornjones (33009) | more than 5 years ago | (#25674185)

I would think that the system would require widespread adoption in a particular area before it would even start to be useful

Not really. Initially, I would bet it is only extrapolating based on location and speed. I know somewhere like seattle (and I would be surprised if SF is much different) will have i high enough concentration of geeks w/ toys to bring back data on the major routes. If you have 1 data point on the I5 going at 15 MPH, you can guess that traffic sux. Given the volume of the people, a fairly low adoption rate will give data.

More data points will always make the system better, of course.

One of the big advantages to any of these traffic knowledge programs is that they benefit both people tapped in to the program and those not. For example, super tech guy A checks this program and sees that Road N is slammed today. He, or hopefully his software, will plan a new optimum route based on the traffic data. This removes tech guy A from the problematic traffic pattern. Luddite guy B, doesn't know any of this but his traffic pattern is eased b/c the group of people like tech guy A have avoided exacerbating the problem. As a side benefit, you have utilized your road infrastructure more completely. (recent research about limiting paths being more efficient notwithstanding)

Re:Interesting, but only useful if widely adopted (1)

thedonger (1317951) | more than 5 years ago | (#25674587)

If you have 1 data point on the I5 going at 15 MPH, you can guess that traffic sux.

No, you don't. A valid sample size is crucial to reduce or eliminate outliers. In you case, the one guy with the GPS phone is on his donut spare coasting in the breakdown lane and you end up 20 minutes late to work because you took the back roads.

Re:Interesting, but only useful if widely adopted (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 5 years ago | (#25674985)

No you don't.

Being the only two people in the area who have the tech, you take the back roads which nobody else used, because they don't have the enabled tech to tell them to not use the interstate.

You still get a clear journey.

Re:Interesting, but only useful if widely adopted (2, Insightful)

Pervaricator General (1364535) | more than 5 years ago | (#25676005)

Traffic is traditionally modeled as a fluid, with all points assumed to be moving within a very small tolerance of some speed. When do you see someone NOT going within 10 of the speed limit who isn't an outlier? They are either parked on the road or blazing through traffic.

While recent research has suggested that a gas-based model might give better predictive results, you shouldn't need that kind of fine granularity to be accurate in the near-term.

Re:Interesting, but only useful if widely adopted (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675111)

I would think that the system would require widespread adoption in a particular area before it would even start to be useful

Not really. Initially, I would bet it is only extrapolating based on location and speed. I know somewhere like seattle (and I would be surprised if SF is much different) will have i high enough concentration of geeks w/ toys to bring back data on the major routes. If you have 1 data point on the I5 going at 15 MPH, you can guess that traffic sux. Given the volume of the people, a fairly low adoption rate will give data.

More data points will always make the system better, of course.

One of the big advantages to any of these traffic knowledge programs is that they benefit both people tapped in to the program and those not. For example, super tech guy A checks this program and sees that Road N is slammed today. He, or hopefully his software, will plan a new optimum route based on the traffic data. This removes tech guy A from the problematic traffic pattern. Luddite guy B, doesn't know any of this but his traffic pattern is eased b/c the group of people like tech guy A have avoided exacerbating the problem. As a side benefit, you have utilized your road infrastructure more completely. (recent research about limiting paths being more efficient notwithstanding)

It would be interesting to see what sort of equilibrium is reached - if enough people use it and move off main roads; side roads start to slow while main roads improve. This could result in people returning to the main roads; resulting in the opposite and a move to side roads.

It could result in some steady state level of use or a blinking Life equilibrium between two patterns.

The algorithm would be interesting - they could through out the outliers before averaging to eliminate the stopped by the side of the road and cutting in and out drivers; or just report the mode for any length of road.

Re:Interesting, but only useful if widely adopted (1)

Pervaricator General (1364535) | more than 5 years ago | (#25676259)

Traffic is modeled best as a fluid or gas in motion (I posted above, if a little less coherently). This type of equilibrium can be heard when your pipes creak in a large building as pressure equalizes.

This will probably help in the short term by recommending quicker routes OFF the interstate (get off one exit earlier, for example). Long-term benefits will only be see by cities using this data to shape traffic: time lights (valves in a fluid or gas model), add bus express lines and carpool incentives, etc.

It is, however, the ability to non-invasively gather data is the biggest boon from this program. Cities already spend thousands of dollars on traffic surveys (ever run over the double tubes on the road, seen someone at a stoplight with a clicker?), so this would (once widespread enough) save money for government.

That being said, the worry of this distributed computing project turning into a financial boon with no remuneration to the people who provide the data, (or worse, the data being exploited for control), is a big downside to adoption.

Re:Interesting, but only useful if widely adopted (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 5 years ago | (#25676353)

That won't work in downtowns: how do you identify which phone is walking or driving?

Re:Interesting, but only useful if widely adopted (1)

charlesj68 (1170655) | more than 5 years ago | (#25678363)

The walkers wait at intersections and then proceed at about 3-4 miles per hour. The drivers wait at intersections and then proceed at 35 until the next intersection.

It's the bicycle messengers that will really mess up the stats.

Re:Interesting, but only useful if widely adopted (1)

2short (466733) | more than 5 years ago | (#25679149)


  You don't care about downtowns. Downtown is the start point or destination; you take the street that goes to your office. For traffic data, all you care about is major arteries.
  I do data analysis that needs good (average, not real-time) speed data for all the roads. It's very frustrating - nobody has it because almost nobody else cares.

Re:Interesting, but only useful if widely adopted (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#25676483)

I know somewhere like seattle (and I would be surprised if SF is much different) will have i high enough concentration of geeks w/ toys to bring back data on the major routes. If you have 1 data point on the I5 going at 15 MPH, you can guess that traffic sux.

Actually, there's many, many places along I-5 where you can get that singular data point - and be dead wrong. That is, the data point can actually be *adjacent* and traveling parallel to I-5[1] but the inaccuracy of GPS[2] can make it appear to be *on* I-5. You'll need more than one data point and a spread of time to have any level of accuracy.

[1] On South Center Parkway adjacent to the 405 interchange, on portions of MLK Way, on a good chunk of Eastlake Way (near REI say...), to name just three of many places.

[2] GPS isn't a magic wand, my high end handheld (a Garmin 60CSX) can often have errors of up to 50ft or more if reception or satellite configuration is poor. I doubt the GPS in a $99 cellphone inside a pocket inside a car comes even close to that level of performance.

Re:Interesting, but only useful if widely adopted (1)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 5 years ago | (#25677375)

Or some places where the interstate is raised, and there is a local road *UNDER* the interstate, with stop lights. If you only look at lat/long on the GPS, it would look like there are a bunch of cars stopped in the middle of the interstate. The altitude would have to be accurate to within about 15 feet to positively say which road you are on. (I think I-70 a bit east of I-25 in Denver is like this)

Another issue, at least with my Garmin Venture CX GPS is signal reflections. I was on a mountain in CO at about 12,000 feet, and due to reflections my GPS thought I was bouncing all over the place, at one point saying I was at -1000 feet of altitude up to almost a mile away from where I actually was. That is with a dedicated GPS sitting on my shoulder, with no metal cage around me on an open hill side.

Re:Interesting, but only useful if widely adopted (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25674819)

This type of data is also very useful if paired with the extensive data already being captured by the local DOT, and a company called Traffic.com, since bought by NavTeq, which was subsequently bought by...wait for it............... Nokia.

Traffic/Nokia has sensors along all of the big highways in the top 30+ markets in the US. This takes a decent amount of $$ to install (and subsequently maintain), but it's already installed, up and running (hence the purchase by Navteq). If this "new" methodology proves worthwhile and usable, it can seriously augment/replace the build out necessary to cover an area. NOTE:(investors were asking traffic 5-6 years ago why you would install sensors if you could do this with a cell phone, good thing for them and their users they didn't listen/wait to use "free" resources).

And finally, this allows for the coverage of secondary and tertiary roadways that you would NEVER spend the money to cover with the more "traditional" sensor (i.e. senor = pole, battery(ies), solar panel(s), acoustic sensor, wireless modem); an installation can cost upwards of 50k per SITE (especially if you have to shut a lane down).

But that's why Nokia has sponsored it. IMHO

Re:Interesting, but only useful if widely adopted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675697)

This system has been running in Russia and Ukraine for months, and working. When the Java app is open, you download info from the server and automatically upload you position (and your speed as move) to the server. so the give and take of info is built in, you connecting and using you automatically give info.

and it works.

re: privacy, well if you have a phone on you, you are, in almost all cases, traceable.

Yeah but Helicopter crashes are more entertaining (5, Funny)

cavehobbit (652751) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673937)

Come on. Don't they know the reason we all listen to the half-hour-out-of-date traffic reports from the helicopter reporters is the same as why we watch Nascar and Indy car races? The chances of a crash and the anticipation of mayhem are the whole idea. Not to mention the cheesy chopper sound track they add.

This takes all that out of it. It guarantees a daily fender-bender on I-95 while drivers fiddle with the app. Whoop-de-doo.

Well, maybe if they keep the chopper sound effects.

Re:Yeah but Helicopter crashes are more entertaini (2, Insightful)

thedonger (1317951) | more than 5 years ago | (#25674639)

I think an even bigger issue with the immediately-out-of-date traffic report is that once the crash is cleared and the traffic at the front of the line starts moving they consider the problem resolved. They do not take into account the ripple effect sending echoing "shockwaves" of traffic stalls up and down the highway.

do what? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25673977)

This is so stupid, they're blindly assuming that everybody has good intentions.

It's like posting signs in an amusement park that say "your teeth will rot out by eating too much sugar" at the entrance and next to the cotton candy booths.

The point is, is that by having that extra amount of time, drug dealers, people seeking revenge and other criminals will likely take advantage of the system. This is going to help change things and make life better how?

Know what happened with Dash? (3, Informative)

Lord Satri (609291) | more than 5 years ago | (#25674003)

I of course wish them good luck. One of the last commercial attempts to do this, Dash Express [dash.net] , recently revealed it did no go as well as originally planned [zdnet.com] .

Re:Know what happened with Dash? (1)

e2d2 (115622) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675203)

Which brings up a great point. I really hope they have legal advice on this project because they are walking the thin line of IP here. I worked on a similar project around 1998-1999 for a large company and their IP was always precious to them. I've seen a few other commercial companies try also.

So the moral of the story above - CYA.

TomTom did it! (4, Informative)

wfberg (24378) | more than 5 years ago | (#25674009)

TomTom takes anonymized location information from mobile phone handsets in The Netherlands, and make traffic reports they call HD traffic [tomtom.com] .

The handsets are not (necessarily) equipped with GPS chips, but their location is triangulated by the GSM network itself. The mobile network (Vodafone NL) supplies the information to TomTom, who then process it into traffic reports.

They claim to cover 10 times more roadarea than conventional traffic detection that uses inductive loops embedded in the roads. (The conventional system is already quite extensive in The Netherlands, which is a small and densely populated country). I seem to recall TomTom also have some sort of patent.

Re:TomTom did it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25674289)

As it's been said, this system is already commercial in the Netherlands, and it will be rolled out with TomTom and SFR in france in 2009

Re:TomTom did it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25674741)

Except that TomTom expects you to pay for this service, while a cellphone-only project could potentially be free to use, where your contribution pays for the data you recieve.

(p2p traffic reporting?)

Re:TomTom did it! (4, Informative)

kitgerrits (1034262) | more than 5 years ago | (#25674859)

Actually, you can see the current HD Traffic status on their website for free.
The reason you need to pay for HD traffic on your tomtom is because it includes a 24x7 GPRS connection.
Mobile Data packages in NL tend to cost around â10 a month and so does HD traffic, surprise!
The added advantage of HD Traffic is that it uses a modem built into your Tomtom, so you are free to use your mobile phone for other things.
(unlike earlier versions of Tomtom Traffic).

Re:TomTom did it! (1)

caluml (551744) | more than 5 years ago | (#25674925)

This is actually why I started my Location Tracking [calum.org] system a few years ago.
Convince enough people to submit their data (pay them for it, per mile?) and then sell the aggregated data to people who wanted it. Road builders, government, people who want to know where congestion is.

Re:TomTom did it! (1)

CompMD (522020) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675389)

AGPS over cell phone networks is atrociously inaccurate and cannot be trusted for true position fixes.

Re:TomTom did it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25677715)

AGPS over cell phone networks is atrociously inaccurate and cannot be trusted for true position fixes.

As someone who works with GPS, I find the above statement just plain silly. There are no "true position fixes". All positioning techniques have errors and uncertainty. You just need to use a technique that's sufficient.

I see no reason to think that AGPS isn't good enough for traffic monitoring. In my experience it's as good as CA code. According to my searches AGPS has an error of 4-50 m. Sure it wouldn't work for surveying the road, but that's not the goal here. I don't really care if there is a 10% error on velocity for traffic data.

You'll actually have close to that much error with any GPS, since putting an antenna inside a car on a road is a horrible way to design a GPS survey.

Re:TomTom did it! - PacBell did it before them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25677239)

If you search the /. archives back some years, you'll see Pac Tel did the same thing in the bay area ages ago... they got towers, they got users phones, they can tell if they're moving or not.

And what would happen if... (4, Funny)

ngp (88217) | more than 5 years ago | (#25674011)

You and your 50 coworkers get to the office and forget to turn off that app? Massive non-existent traffic jam?

Re:And what would happen if... (1)

MarkovianChained (1143957) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675481)

I'm more worried about my phone trying to direct me into following that "set of cars" that just whizzed by at 80+ MPH.... on a train track.

Sharing (1)

b0ttle (1332811) | more than 5 years ago | (#25674045)

"The whole concept here is that if everyone shares just a little bit (...) then everyone can benefit"

That would solve a lot of the world problems, not just traffic.

non fee phones make it all a lie. (1)

gnutoo (1154137) | more than 5 years ago | (#25674475)

It's true that sharing is good but the non free nature of cell phones today contradicts the stated goal. This information is already collected without user consent or knowledge. The purpose of the project is really to make people comfortable with that kind of control and monitoring. If cell phones ran free software and their users were really their owners, voluntary programs with high moral incentives would make sense.

Has been done in Bangalore in a different way (4, Interesting)

ashraya (632661) | more than 5 years ago | (#25674053)

In Bangalore, they tried to do this in a different way by looking at the number of cell phones that connect to various towers etc., without using GPS. Check out the links at http://btis.in/live.htm [btis.in] ashraya

Re:Has been done in Bangalore in a different way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25674115)

Where else could/would they do such a thing but in Bangladore ? Eh ?

Re:Has been done in Bangalore in a different way (1)

justleavealonemmmkay (1207142) | more than 5 years ago | (#25674683)

forget about Bangalore, all Belgium (market penetration 100+ %) is covered. Can't remember the link though.

Re:Has been done in Bangalore in a different way (1)

epot (1402297) | more than 5 years ago | (#25674955)

In Belgium, at least one company does this with simple mobile phone signal, no additional software to download: http://www.be-mobile.be/ [be-mobile.be] Example in a national newspaper: http://trafic.lesoir.be/?act=infotraf [lesoir.be] (only tick "Bouchon" if you only want to see traffic jams ; colours show mean speed of cars). Of course, nobody never sign anything about using their phone signal to something else than making and receiving phone calls. Providers just did it without the consumer consent. And nobody said anything. That's Belgium ...

Re:Has been done in Bangalore in a different way (1)

justleavealonemmmkay (1207142) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675069)

I'm working for the Operator that provides the data. We have strong customer privacy protection rules that are reminded to us on a regular basis. Be certain the data is anonymized, and cannot be trivially datamined to find back the customer information.

Re:Has been done in Bangalore in a different way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675541)

The name is Bengaluru, you insensitive clod!

Tom Tom HD (2, Informative)

zoefff (61970) | more than 5 years ago | (#25674055)

It's already commercially available here in the Netherlands. Tomtom teamed up with vodaphone, which can locate their mobile phones location and speed (not necessarily GPS needed) . This is fed to tomtom, which displays it on your navigation system. More info here [tomtom.com]

Stupid... (1, Interesting)

g0dsp33d (849253) | more than 5 years ago | (#25674263)

There's already a cell-phone based system. People with phones call local radio stations when there's a delay. Unfortunately it probably won't help much. If there were a good alternative, there probably wouldn't be traffic to begin with. I commute on 95 & PA turnpike, and if its closed, I'm pretty much screwed into a 3 times as long commute. Getting an instant update won't really do anything other than give me a few more minutes of misery through anticipation.

Re:Stupid... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25674877)

Good thing not every consumer is the same eh?

Re:Stupid... (1)

xonen (774419) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675105)

If there were a good alternative, there probably wouldn't be traffic to begin with.

This alternative exists. Simply don't use a car, or if you can't, try not to use it daily. We all think we have the 'right' to drive car, our economy is based on it. I know how hard it is for an individual to make this choice between location of work and living and shopping and family visits, still, it's the only valid alternative. Anything else is deemed to fail sooner or later, or a theoretical solution, like perfect public transport.

We should focus more on a solution where job and house are located very closely, where you can transport yourself using a bike or your feet.

If you don't believe. Come to holland, you will see it is a problem that cannot be fixed by more roads and more technical solutions. Actually, we are even running out of space for more roads. Simply put: as soon as you fix it, it will attract even more traffic. Unfortunately no-one (or: no politican) wants to admit this.

Nothing new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25674379)

NaviExpert does it in Poland since 2007.

Java program - battery life? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25674401)

As opposed to the methods that other posters have already noted that rely on "how many connections to this cell tower", running some Java application on your phone is going to require a lot of battery usage isn't it? The "smart" part of the phone can't go to sleep can it?

Re:Java program - battery life? (1)

Soft Cosmic Rusk (1211950) | more than 5 years ago | (#25674551)

Especially bad since GPS in itself uses loads of power. When I turn on the GPS on my Nokia N82 the battery is flat after just a couple of hours. Having to transmit data over 3G won't make it better.

Re:Java program - battery life? (1)

what about (730877) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675467)

It has nothing to do with Java....

Any running application is going to draw power, if it is indeed running

I have Fring, a convergence application [fring.com] it is a pure Symbian application but I end up not using it because i drains the battery a lot

Re:Java program - battery life? (1)

Molochi (555357) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675647)

I drive with my phone plugged into a hands-free docking station or just a charger when in a rental. This app would encourage me to keep my phone topped off.

On the other hand, battery drain would discourage its use on foot, bike, the bus or train. Too bad as it would be nice to time my arrival at a stop in sync with the approach of mass transit.

In ex-Soviet Russia.... (1)

dp_wiz (954921) | more than 5 years ago | (#25674511)

There already such service [yandex.ru] operating for years. Local search (initially. now... you know..) service engine providing users with downloadable map app which can optionally use device's GPS to submit data and view traffic density based on that.

NaviExpert fanboy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25674557)

In Poland we have commercial on-line navigation systems for phones (including BT communication with external GPS) that IMHO works extremally well. I bought 2 years subscription for about 100 USD (200 PLN).
System consists of small java app with voice navigration and turn-by-turn guide on-screen with map preview including "autoroute view".
Novelty that you by default switch ON community feature that sends back data gathered by system.

Routes are created on server, based on average time to travel through a certain route, depending of time and day of the week.

Round and Round and Round.... (1)

GreatRedShark (880833) | more than 5 years ago | (#25674709)

hehehe... It might be kinda fun to take a phone on this system and go spin in circles for hours on a merry-go-round in a playground.
I wonder what other mischief you get into with one of these?

Re:Round and Round and Round.... (1)

Q-Hack! (37846) | more than 5 years ago | (#25677269)

Well, seeing as how most civilian GPS units are only accurate to about 100 feet. And most playground Merry-Go-Rounds are no more than 20 feet across... The system would just see you as stopped in one place.

albeit, maybe a bit dizzier.

Locating cell phones... (1)

Quantos (1327889) | more than 5 years ago | (#25674719)

This could have a far better use. As the technology develops and power consumption drops it could be a benefit to 911 services. Currently the technology to aquire the location of a cell phone call to emergency numbers is crude or non-existent. If a caller is unable to talk but still has the wherewithall to call 911 he is unable to tell them where he is, with a system like this it would allow response personel to still find them.

Few spolsports will kill it all (2, Interesting)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 5 years ago | (#25674753)

Ideas seems to be good on paper, but on reality it is going to go the way Citizen Band radio went. One dumb teen who thought he was a DJ would play his scratchy cassette player over the radio and knock everyone else within his broadcast radius. Something similar could happen to this method too.

The data streams are anonymous and users voluntarily download and install a java program. Wow! What can go wrong?

A few spoilsports will hack the java program to give misleading reports, multiple reports. Initially I don't see any benefit to the hackers. But the script kiddies do not think rationally. They do it anyway.

Why can't the cell towers simply track the number of phones each tower is pinging? Then the net gain and net loss of number of phones, plotted over time, gives the direction of movement of the population of cell phones. That should be enough to give a good idea of the traffic. This would be a better way to find/predict traffic congestion than asking thousands of peoples to actively report their positions.

Re:Few spolsports will kill it all (1)

Fnord666 (889225) | more than 5 years ago | (#25679073)

One dumb teen who thought he was a DJ would play his scratchy cassette player over the radio and knock everyone else within his broadcast radius.

That's what straight pins shoved through the antenna feed coax and clipped flush with the sheathing are for. Especially if you insert them at a reflection point based on the wavelength.

The trillions we spend (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675339)

to buy, maintain, store, repair, accommodate, tolerate, elevate, patronize, spiritualize and idolize the automobile.

It is truly America's heroin.

Already done in US! (1)

CompMD (522020) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675449)

Garmin and Navteq have had this out for a while...there is a radio receiver in some Garmin GPS units that receives traffic reports and will automatically create detour routes around traffic, accidents, or even construction.

Re:Already done in US! (1)

esampson (223745) | more than 5 years ago | (#25678301)

I believe that what's significant here is how the data is being generated.

The current systems (Garmin and Navteq are just two examples) work, as you said, off traffic reports. This requires a certain infrastructure like roadway sensors or a way for a human agent to gather information about the road.

In the system to be tested the data is automatically generated from the cell phones of drivers. This means no sensors need to be placed and no human agent needs to gather information.

they don't anonymize this stuff (-1, Troll)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675615)

We have a case on the news of some local woman who killed her toddler. This has made national news, the grandma thought the mother's car trunk smelled like death, then claimed it was a bad pizza, kid's still missing, etc. The cops are organizing a big body hunt out in the woods because they were able to localize her cell phone there at the time the child went missing.

WTF?!

This can only mean that the mobile companies are already keeping detailed logs of your movement and the Feds can track you whenever they want. Warrants? Where we're going, we don't need warrants. Cell phones will be our personal minder bracelets. It'll be a crime to allow your battery to die since the Feds can't track you then.

I don't like this, not one bit.

Re:they don't anonymize this stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675887)

-1 raving lunatic

a warrant from a judge will allow homicide investigators access to your cellphone provider's accumulated data, including tower connections. omg, the humanity!

this has nothing to to with the project being discussed

this also has nothing to do with the feds and real-time tracking.

Re:they don't anonymize this stuff (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#25676237)

-1 raving lunatic

a warrant from a judge will allow homicide investigators access to your cellphone provider's accumulated data, including tower connections. omg, the humanity!

And Britain's anti-terror laws won't ever be used for purely economic reasons against another nation, say Iceland. And the Patriot Act will never be misapplied to things like copyright violation cases, etc etc. Nope, nobody will ever misuse a tool for something other than its stated purpose because that would be wrong!

Tinfoil Hats (1)

dhermann (648219) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675773)

Don't worry, guys, I'm sure Lucius Fox will destroy the computer that holds all the phone calls recorded by this app. He's just going to use it to find the bomb. And then track down the guys who planted the bomb. Might as well find Osama while he's at it. Plus he should do a quick check on who's talking about the Nation of Islam. Wait-- don't turn your phone off! Don't you need to "call" your girlfriend tonight?

Redundant ? (1)

Sagara Sozou (726002) | more than 5 years ago | (#25676171)

Commercial GPS devices have been making use of traffic message channels (TMCs) not long after they were introduced. This will provide similar information for low traffic streets, but does tht make it very useful?

since what causes traffic jams is known... (1)

Uzik2 (679490) | more than 5 years ago | (#25676231)

from other studies, can we change this so we can figure out who the idiots
causing most of the traffic jams are? It can just automatically mail them
a ticket for being stupid?

Traffic jam or accident? (1)

BagOfSpotz (1255830) | more than 5 years ago | (#25676447)

So now people will be watching their phone screens more than they already are, looking for traffic updates.

"Hmmm... phone says traffic is slowing down ahe**WHAM!**"

Rear end collision! Phone sends update of new stoppage in traffic.

I Like the Idea but... (1)

Selfunfocused (1215732) | more than 5 years ago | (#25676711)

Is it the user's responsibility to turn it off when not in a car? Unless the system works absolutely in the background, I don't see it playing out that well. Testing this in the Bay Area, I foresee a lot of volunteers walking down the streets of San Francisco passively reporting as slow traffic (I assume the GPS isn't differentiating between the 5 foot gap from sidewalk to street). Not that I wouldn't find pedestrian foot traffic data interesting, but I'm doubting it's useful for Mobile Millennium purposes.

Tinfoil Hat time (1)

VindictivePantz (911136) | more than 5 years ago | (#25677013)

Take this concept a bit further. Let's say in 10 years, GPS is standard in enough vehicles on the road to make traffic status very accurate.

Assuming that fossil fueled vehicles are still present, why couldn't a government entity track your road time/route, calculate a pollution or road usage tax based on your actual driving activities and the known MPG rating of your vehicle? One already has to register his/her vehicle (including, year, make and model) with the state. Coupling that with the MPG rating and your driving data could easily be translated to a usage/pollution tax. The government could sell it as an incentive for purchase more fuel efficient vehicles, thus reducing pollution, and/or encouraging greater use mass transit.

possibly gaming the system? (1)

skywiseguy (1347553) | more than 5 years ago | (#25677149)

as a biker, i have to think that i and my fellow bikers would be reporting incorrect traffic data to the server since we are allowed to split the lanes in california. at this point there are probably not enough bikes on the road to make a serious dent in a normal use of the apps, but if all of us used it and very few cars did, would it not report incorrect traffic flow?

Re:possibly gaming the system? (1)

Fnord666 (889225) | more than 5 years ago | (#25679197)

... since we are allowed to split the lanes in california. at this point there are probably not enough bikes on the road to make a serious dent in a normal use of the apps,...

Why does it seem like a bad idea to mention lane splitting and serious dent in the same post?

Seriously though, lane splitting seems like suicide. How dangerous is it?

Re:possibly gaming the system? (1)

skywiseguy (1347553) | more than 5 years ago | (#25680735)

it's as dangerous as the driver who does it. i won't do it if traffic is going faster than about 40 mph, but you see guys doing at at 90+ mph, and *that* is definitely suicide, imho

Radar? (1)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | more than 5 years ago | (#25678705)

To really make this handy, they need to tie the phones into people's radar detectors and report that data as well.

Re:Radar? (1)

shot151 (1388155) | more than 5 years ago | (#25680519)

I've always wondered about cop cars being tracked. Either via GPS or the appropriate police radio band. Wouldn't it be possible to do some sort of fox hunt for whatever frequency and approximate if you are close or not to a cop car. Assumption is that they are sending traffic over the radio.
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