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Bluetooth Used To Track Traffic Times

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the hows-it-look-out-there? dept.

Canada 133

First time accepted submitter ChanukahZombie writes "The City of Calgary, AB has introduced a new traffic congestion/timing information platform for drivers. 'The system collects the publicly available data from Bluetooths to estimate the travel time and congestion between points along those roads and displays the information on overhead message boards to motorists.' Currently only available on the Deerfoot Trail (the city's main highway artery) but will be 'expanded in the future to include sections of Crowchild Trail and Glenmore Trail in the southwest.' As for privacy concerns, the city says it cannot connect the MAC address collected to the device owner."

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133 comments

But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42124767)

They can log everywhere they see the device. Just don't get into any trouble..

Re:But... (2)

jakimfett (2629943) | about a year ago | (#42124961)

the city says it cannot connect the MAC address collected to the device owner...until they enforce mandatory registration of device MAC addresses

There, FTFY

Re:But... (2)

plover (150551) | about a year ago | (#42125709)

the city says it cannot connect the MAC address collected to the device owner...until you renew your license at the DMV while wearing your MAC-transmitting Bluetooth enabled device and they sniff it from you.

I figured your non-fix deserved my non-fix.

The non-fix fix of the non-fix needs fixing... (1)

Gription (1006467) | about a year ago | (#42126371)

the city says it cannot connect the MAC address collected to the device owner...until they figure out how to hook a camera with a license plate reader to the Bluetooth sniffer.

[sarcasm] Outlandish as it may seem but someone might have the technology [/sarcasm]

Re:But... (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#42127777)

why would they need that?

you only need traffic and security footage to enable them to connect it to a certain car.

anyhow, just put the bluetooth off?

Re:But... (3, Insightful)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year ago | (#42125131)

Because everyone knows it's impossible to spoof a mac address...

Re:But... (4, Funny)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#42125765)

Oh, that could be fun. With a few buddies you could make their system think you were going 500 MPH or so. Do it with enough devices and you could probably get their signs to say something like: Avg Time to Vancouver - 1 hour.

Re:But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42125919)

Mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling ;) Spin up the FTL drive...

Re:But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42129429)

They could've used something like this down here in south Florida a few months ago after a
state trooper pulled over an off-duty county cop doing 120mph in a marked cruiser while he
was commuting home ! A major investigation of records by a local newspaper revealed how
pervasive the problem was, and there's been a long overdue crackdown, finally. They used
data from the automatic toll booth collection records.

However, the problem is that at that speed, the doppler shift might screw up the monitoring equipment...

F1r$T P0$T!!!!1111 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42124791)

F1r$T P0$T!!!!1111 L0lz0rz!

What's so new about this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42124803)

Isn't this what TrafficCast has been doing for years?

http://www.trafficcast.com/

Re:What's so new about this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42124847)

furthermore, they've been using this to study a lot of things beyond car traffic. they've used it in stadiums and train stations to track how people navigate them

Re:What's so new about this? (5, Informative)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#42125143)

Google Maps already does this with Android phones feeding google traffic density and speed data.
Its eerily accurate.

Traveling over the holiday weekend we got into some crawling slow traffic on the freeway. Google maps traffic layer said the red zone would end ahead as soon as we passed a particular location which just happened to be near a car dealership. As soon as we drove by that dealership traffic resumed normal flow.

And they do this with zero additional infrastructure. Why is Calgary wasting tax payer money installing additional sensors, when they could buy the service from Google, or probably just use it for free?

Re:What's so new about this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42125203)

Because there needs to be a significant density of Android phones for this to work well.

I don't find Google Maps traffic to be a great indicator in Calgary. Better than nothing - but far from ideal.

Re:What's so new about this? (5, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#42125309)

There is a significant density of Android phones. Just about everywhere.
I just whistled up a map of Calgary, and turned on the Traffic layer [google.com] . I can see every traffic jam in the city in real time.

If you can't see that, perhaps you need to learn how to actually use your phone.

Re:What's so new about this? (3, Insightful)

petman (619526) | about a year ago | (#42125789)

I wonder how Google is able to map the traffic density in countries where Google Map navigation is not available. For example, Google Map navigation is not available here in Malaysia, so I use a modded version of the Google Map android app that allows navigation internationally. Surprisingly, I can turn on the Traffic layer in the app and it would show the traffic density. Is Google actually getting the data from the modded apps? I would be surprised if so many people here are actually using the modded version instead of the official app that disables navigation.

Re:What's so new about this? (1)

evilviper (135110) | about a year ago | (#42126217)

Is Google actually getting the data from the modded apps?

Yes, Google is certainly gathering analytics from navigation handsets, but that is never their ONLY source of traffic flow information.

In the US, various government agencies make near-real-time traffic information publicly available. In addition, a number of private companies aggregate that info with their own additional sources, and re-sell it to other companies who need traffic information.

Re:What's so new about this? (2)

citizenr (871508) | about a year ago | (#42126461)

Is Google actually getting the data from the modded apps?

I suspect they pull that data directly out of their asses. I just checked my city. Its 5 in the morning, street in front of my house is empty yet Google maps is showing heavy congestion :)

Re:What's so new about this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42127035)

It could be that someone was walking down your street while running gmaps and google interpreted this as heavy traffic?

Doubt it but still...

Re:What's so new about this? (1)

denbesten (63853) | about a year ago | (#42127289)

I just checked my city. Its 5 in the morning, street in front of my house is empty yet Google maps is showing heavy congestion :)

I'm guessing that you upgraded to iOS6.

Re:What's so new about this? (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about a year ago | (#42129203)

That's because there are too few samples to calculate a reasonable average, so the result is essentially a divide-by-zero error.

What Google ought to do is either not show the traffic overlay for that segment, show a gray overlay, or show a confidence measurement in a tooltip.

Re:What's so new about this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42126279)

Thanks for the asshole reply.

I live in Calgary and use Google Maps very often. The traffic accuracy is far from ideal. Often it will show slow spots where there are none, and vice versa.

But, surely you know better.

Re:What's so new about this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42126757)

Because it's not very wise to rely on a sole vendor for a public service.

Re:What's so new about this? (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about a year ago | (#42129171)

Indeed, it's so accurate that state DOTs are just buying data from Inrix (the same company from which Google gets its data, I think) instead of bothering to install loop or video detection.

Re:What's so new about this? (1)

FrigBot (1459361) | about a year ago | (#42130805)

I love the Traffic layer. It works so good. It feels like the data is never really more than 5 minutes old, and when I'm on Highway 2 going home from Nisku to Edmonton every shitty day, I can see exactly where that day's traffic jam starts and ends, and it is like usually bang on. I use it to avoid messes all the time. So good.

LOLWUT? (1)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | about a year ago | (#42124855)

As for privacy concerns the city says it cannot connect the MAC address collected to the device owner.

Until they arrest someone and subpoena any data related to that person's MAC. Then they've got a nice bit of tracking data.

Re:LOLWUT? (2)

Mashiki (184564) | about a year ago | (#42125405)

The city is bound to the privacy act in this case. And in turn, they won't be able to subpoena the information related to the mac without showing that an actual crime was committed. That would be a fishing expedition in Canadian law. And both the Superior Court, and SCC would flush this down so fast that any Crown who tried it would still be reeling from the blow.

I have to say though, having driven along all of these routes, especially Deerfoot Trail and Glenmore Trail, this is welcome and needed badly. With the mass influx of people the entire highway system there is a mess. It wasn't designed to take the massive influx of people in the last 5 years that they've seen. Last I heard, it was somewhere around 30-40% over capacity due to the boom because of the oil patch and mineral patch work.

Re:LOLWUT? (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year ago | (#42125949)

And in turn, they won't be able to subpoena the information related to the mac without showing that an actual crime was committed.

So, I guess if you carry a bluetooth device and commit a crime, you are hoping that nobody commits a crime that the police can show actually was committed so they can subpoena MAC data for.

If you commit a crime that isn't a crime, what is the sound of one hand being handcuffed?

Re:LOLWUT? (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about a year ago | (#42126487)

Doesn't work like that here. You'd only be able to subpoena for the mac of the specific device, not all devices.

And if you commit a crime that isn't a crime, you're committing a violation not a crime.

Re:LOLWUT? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42125407)

I'm sorry but this needs more mods for if the city does collect tons of information about citizens who travel their roadways, they could eventually lead to license plates, then to addresses and then identities. Dats scary chit maynor.

Wait.... what about the hidden systems in google that already do this..... [bye buy phone, bye bye connectiveness, hello happiness, now no one can bother me nah ah, goodbye phone goodbuy ha]

Re:LOLWUT? (2)

Amazing Proton Boy (2005) | about a year ago | (#42127091)

There is nothing to subpoena. This particular device does not store MAC addresses at all. When a Bluetooth device is detected, the first thing that is done is to pass the MAC through a one-way hash. The actual MAC address is immediately discarded and only the hashed value is stored.

What gadgets are being monitored? (4, Insightful)

aNonnyMouseCowered (2693969) | about a year ago | (#42124873)

TFA is low on details re: what Bluetooth devices are being monitored. I know my cellphone and laptop have Bluetooth support, but I keep that mostly turned off. Do all cars in Canada come with built-in Bluetooth tracking technology? Triangulating from actual cellphone signals appears to me to be a more fool-proof if not spook-proof technology. The limited range of BT devices do make them a better choice in terms of privacy.

Re:What gadgets are being monitored? (5, Informative)

zerro (1820876) | about a year ago | (#42124907)

You don't need to monitor every bluetooth device. You just need a decent sampling of users passing through points in your "system". This is just one of several ways you can uniquely identify a particular object to track overall flow of the herd.

Re:What gadgets are being monitored? (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#42128565)

You would be surprised how many you can pick up too. A while back the place I worked bought a Bluetooth spamming machine that tried to send messages to any device in range. We had a few hundred hits an hour as people drove past the shop, and it wasn't even on a particularly busy road.

I wonder how sustainable it is though. Most new devices make sure they are not discoverable until you push a button to make them visible for a minute or two. In ten years time it might not work so well.

I'd love to see an open source cloud system based on low cost devices people could buy and place in their homes to monitor passing traffic, then upload the data to a central server to produce accurate traffic maps.

Re:What gadgets are being monitored? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42125003)

a lot of car GPS's have bluetooth, also modern car audio systems

Re:What gadgets are being monitored? (2)

wbr1 (2538558) | about a year ago | (#42125053)

Any on devices. Pretty simple really, scan for bluetooth devices at points a,b,c. See devices x,y,z pass at times t1,t2,t2. Solve for speed since distance is known. Viola, congestion report. And a handy database of MAC addresses. Sure, they cant tie them to specific devices now, but subpoena the manufacturer, seller, or after an arrest, and you do have a tracking mechanism for people. However, post warrant/arrest, most people already have a tracking device in their pocket. A mobile phone.

Re:What gadgets are being monitored? (0)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year ago | (#42125187)

OMG this is slashdot. How can you people not know that MAC addresses are as transient as IP addresses?!? If you own the entire network you're operating in, then yes, you can be relatively sure that a mac address is real, but on a public network? No way in hell. Most network cards allow you to change mac addresses at will, most android devices as well. I have a Bluetooth audio receiver that I bought several of because it was really handy. Unfortunately I can't use them anywhere near each other because they all have the same MAC address hard coded on the chip. I have one in my car and one in my wifes... if they could really uniquely identify you by these my wife and I heading in opposite directions to get to work would really fuck up their trial.

Re:What gadgets are being monitored? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42125305)

and hopefully you aren't programming the mac addresses while driving at 120KM/h.

Re:What gadgets are being monitored? (1)

jayveekay (735967) | about a year ago | (#42125331)

Can someone impersonate your car's or phone's BT MAC address? Yes. Does the average person have the knowledge and ability to do so? No.

So, if the government database shows that a BT device with a MAC address matching that of your car or phone was on Deerfoot Trail at 2am on Monday, then it is likely, but not certain, that your car or phone was on that road at that time. Note that the presence of your car on phone on the road does not mean that you were there. Similarly, the absence of your car's or phone's BT MAC in the database does not mean that your car or your phone were not there since BT could be turned off, jammed, or if you were an expert hacker you could potentially alter your BT MAC address.

Would I convict someone (or exonerate them) solely on the basis of BT MAC address evidence? No.

Re:What gadgets are being monitored? (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year ago | (#42125381)

What is an "expert hacker"??

Apparently someone with a rooted phone that can download a single file and type:

> adb push wlan_config /data/local/tmp/
> adb shell chmod 777 /data/local/tmp/wlan_config
> adb shell /data/local/tmp/wlan_config --dry-run bt=

Mac Address changed. What's your mac address? I might take a trip up to Canada and get you some speeding tickets...

Re:What gadgets are being monitored? (1)

jayveekay (735967) | about a year ago | (#42125503)

Yes my definition of an expert hacker is anyone who can root their phone and type in commands like "chmod" to modify their MAC address.

Re:What gadgets are being monitored? (1)

plover (150551) | about a year ago | (#42125787)

Don't panic. It doesn't matter for this application if your phone is tied to your identity. All they care about is if the average times of devices detected that passed points a, b, and c. They don't have to perfectly scan every phone, or perfectly know every MAC address. They're just trying to learn the average speed of the traffic moving on a particular stretch of road at a particular time.

They can get equal information from a spoofed MAC.

Now, what they probably aren't expecting is a concerted effort by hackers to time the spoofing of a bunch of MAC addresses so as to make traffic appear to be averaging 200/kph, and then driving the course in reverse.

Re:What gadgets are being monitored? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42130317)

They can get equal information from a spoofed MAC.

Now, what they probably aren't expecting is a concerted effort by hackers to time the spoofing of a bunch of MAC addresses so as to make traffic appear to be averaging 200/kph, and then driving the course in reverse.

That's why they should have a hacker or two on staff.

Spoofing MACs to mess with the system was literally the first thought I had.

Re:What gadgets are being monitored? (1)

vux984 (928602) | about a year ago | (#42126005)

Well, there's a relatively recent 'distracted driving' law there that prohibts handheld electronics while driving amongst other things.

So there are more than -plenty- of people to monitor driving around with a bluetooth handsfree solution of some sort.

Re:What gadgets are being monitored? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42126817)

Probably, they are only looking for BT devices that are discoverable. Notably, most car and phone BT systems have discoverability turned off except during the discovery phase.

The discovery process requires a device to send a ping and listen for any responses that come back. I have noticed in my office (about 80 people in the area near me) there are 5 or 6 people who have discoverable phones. (There are 60 people with discoverable laptops though...)

So, to defeat this (if you don't trust the dept. of transportation), simply make your BT device non-discoverable)
--

Another option is to listen passively to the BT traffic. This is more expensive (from a technical standpoint) but it doesn't require the devices to be discoverable they just have to be in-use. Many drivers have BT headset that is connected to their phone while they drive, or the vehicle audio system may support a BT handsfree connection.
In this situation the audio data is most likely encrypted, but there will be many non-encrypted packets that expose the MAC address.

To defeat this method of tracking you will need to make sure your device is non-discoverable and also that it is not connected to any devices (so that it will not be transmitting). The safest thing would be to turn off the BT device entirely.
--

It is probably pretty difficult to identify a user by their BT address. You might already know their WiFi MAC address and then you might infer that the BT address is very similar (add or subtract 1). However, that is not always true as many phones use different vendors for the BT and WiFi hardware.

Likewise, it is probably going to be difficult to impersonate someone based on their BT address alone. (Newer BT systems even use a more secure pairing process that is impervious to man-in-the-middle attacks.) However, knowing someone's BT address could allow you to perform a denial of service.

Re:What gadgets are being monitored? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42126841)

Oh, and when I said that the second option was more expensive from a technical standpoint, I mean that they will either need a sophisticated software-defined radio and probably some really neat beam forming antennas (if traffic is wizzing by at 100 km/h) or they will need 36-72 BT radios with custom firmware that can listen on every BT channel simultaneously.

The SDR portion has already been worked out by a company called Elisys, but their hardware is a lot more expensive than an off-the-shelf BT USB-dongle. So, the expense for the more robust solution goes up from tens of dollars to thousands of dollars.

Considering the nature of this project, I doubt they have $50-75 thousand in the budget just to set up 6-10 detector stations along a small stretch of road.

Riiiight (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42124965)

"the city says it cannot connect the MAC address collected to the device owner."
Not yet. But soon enough.

Re:Riiiight (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42125189)

All it takes is a letter to device manufacturers asking for an association table for IMEI to BT MACs.

Sounds like a good tech that would be abused (4, Interesting)

bjdevil66 (583941) | about a year ago | (#42125041)

Of course no government or private entity would ever start tracking speeds of drivers and start sending owners of the phones speeding violations if they're deemed to be speeding, right?

Re:Sounds like a good tech that would be abused (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year ago | (#42125201)

God damn it, that's not even remotely possible.

Re:Sounds like a good tech that would be abused (2)

jayveekay (735967) | about a year ago | (#42125435)

Cars have unique identifiers (VIN). When you register your car with the government (as you are required to do to drive it on public roads) you provide your name and the VIN to the government.

The car manufacturer assigns the VIN to the car. For a factory installed Bluetooth system in the car, the car manufacturer also knows (or could get) the BT MAC address and store that in a database matching the VIN to the BT MAC. The government could require the car manufacturer to make this database of (VIN, BT MAC) pairs available to them.

The traffic control system could compute the time that a BT MAC address took to travel between 2 locations of known driving distance along a freeway. Computing the average speed is simple. If the average speed exceeds the allowed speed by some amount, they could map the BT MAC to the VIN to the registered owner.

Doing this would be a bad idea. BT MAC can be spoofed so pranksters could make trouble. Speeders could turn off BT in their cars.

However, I do think it is very technically feasible to do it.

Re:Sounds like a good tech that would be abused (1)

Pulzar (81031) | about a year ago | (#42125679)

Doing this would be a bad idea. BT MAC can be spoofed so pranksters could make trouble. Speeders could turn off BT in their cars.

However, I do think it is very technically feasible to do it.

Wait, so you're saying the system is easily corruptible and bypassable, but it still makes it feasible? To use the common phrase around here, I don't think that word means what you think it means.

Re:Sounds like a good tech that would be abused (4, Insightful)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year ago | (#42126149)

Wait, so you're saying the system is easily corruptible and bypassable, but it still makes it feasible?

Back in the 60s, they had these things called "payphones". Little slots you put money in, you got to call other people. There was info around specifying what kind of washer (and the mod to it) would substitute for a quarter. Easily corruptible. Some of the phones, all you had to do was short the microphone case to the phone and you got free calls. Easily corruptible. Very feasible.

In the 70s, the uni library had a copy machine system that people could put a card into and charge copies to their accounts. A simple plastic card, with an internal layer that was opaque to IR -- except for the holes punched into it before being laminated between two IR transparent but visibly opaque covers. Easily corruptible. (All you had to do was punch holes in a standard playing card until the system accepted it as valid...) Very feasible.

Every so often, the road department puts out traffic counting systems to determine how many cars use certain roads. Used to be a simple hose with a pressure sensor. Yeah, someone could jump up and down on the hose and create fictional cars. Easily corruptible system, but very feasible.

Any system where the expectation of being gamed is low enough that the cost of being gamed is covered by the honest people is still easily corruptible but quite feasible for regular use. Most people aren't going to be spoofing their bluetooth MAC address while driving down the road, if they even know how to do it. That makes this easily corruptible system quite feasible for measuring average traffic speeds.

Re:Sounds like a good tech that would be abused (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42125527)

God damn it, that's not even remotely possible.

Measuring the amount of time the same MAC address passed from sensor A to sensor B between two fixed points.

I really didn't think it was "remotely possible" for someone here to not grasp that 4th-grade concept.

Re:Sounds like a good tech that would be abused (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year ago | (#42125645)

No, because you can't give me a speeding ticket for being a passenger in a car, taxi, bus, train, back of a police car...

Re:Sounds like a good tech that would be abused (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42125921)

While that's true, photo radar traps don't care who is driving. The ticket goes to the registered owner of the vehicle. If it were plausible to get readings that would hold up in court and could be tied to the vehicle, then the ticket can be issued regardless of who's Bluetooth device in the car was tracked. However, it seems a bit of a stretch to me that this would be possible.

Heh (1)

capebretonsux (758684) | about a year ago | (#42125047)

Of course, if you live in Calgary and you have to drive anywhere via Deerfoot, Crowchild or Genmore anywhere near rush-hour times you're painfully aware of how congested the traffic is, no need for realtime updates when there's 40 cars of stop and go in front of you.

I liked it during the pilot (1)

dstyle5 (702493) | about a year ago | (#42125223)

When they ran the pilot last year (or was it two years ago) I found it useful and actually was fairly accurate. Deerfoot bottlenecks and congests at certain points every day and once you are past those it moves along OK if there aren't any accidents, blizzards, etc. If I see an estimated time that is way larger than the usual time including bottleneck congestion I'll probably try a different route. I was surprised and happy to see it up and running yesterday.

Re:Heh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42125231)

Yup. I've never thought this was a particularly great idea myself. But hey, we've apparently got money to burn.

Logging? (1)

Smallpond (221300) | about a year ago | (#42125157)

If they only need the MAC addresses for the time that the device is traversing the system, then there's no reason to log the data for long term. TFA doesn't say how long they keep the data. Were the journalists too stupid to ask that obvious question, or did the government say "We'll get back to you"?

Re:Logging? (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year ago | (#42126047)

If they only need the MAC addresses for the time that the device is traversing the system, then there's no reason to log the data for long term.

"If they only need information X for a short time, then there's no reason to log information X for the long term." Insert your own phrases for "information X" and see how it applies to government (or private corporation) systems. Try "web query" and then think about how many websites log that information for a very long time. (Mine keeps logs back to ... mid '90s, probably. Definitely more than five years.)

How about "gun purchase background checks"? How many years are those kept?

How about "GPS road-tax tracking data"? Oregon keeps pushing the idea, but can never seem to answer the question of who keeps the data and how long.

They even keep denying that they'll be tracking who goes where -- despite a time/location dependent tax rate being one of the selling points for the system! I.e., if you drive main roads during congested hours, you pay more road tax than someone who drives the same roads at 2AM. To be able to do this, they MUST keep track of WHO (who has to pay) is going WHERE (which roads you are using) at WHAT TIME (peak vs. off-peak.) And they deny they'll keep track of any of this.

So, yes, they don't NEED to keep the data, but why would you imagine they'll throw out perfectly good data once they have it?

Re:Logging? (1)

Smallpond (221300) | about a year ago | (#42126711)

why would you imagine they'll throw out perfectly good data once they have it?

I realize that asking people to read the article they're commenting on is a stretch, but they say "without tracking other information about the traveler to minimize the impact to the person’s privacy", hence the question about logging..

Bluetooth? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42125165)

I always have bluetooth disabled because I don't use it for anything and don't know anyone else who does. Used to be used for ear pieces but now most smartphones have perfectly fine speaker phones that make having an earpiece pointless. They are also uncomfortable and you look like a crazy person when using them.

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I'm all for privacy and limited gov't powers... (1)

pongo000 (97357) | about a year ago | (#42125401)

...but come on, does anyone here really believe that if you choose to enable your Bluetooth device that others are not free to interface with your device to the extent that they can uniquely identify it? If you don't want to be tracked, maybe you should think twice about turning on Bluetooth.

Re:I'm all for privacy and limited gov't powers... (2)

Technician (215283) | about a year ago | (#42125579)

Bluetooth, Tire pressure monitors, Cell phones, Keyless entry fobs, seriously, are you going to just shut them all off while traveling. Bluetooth is just one of many ways to track the travel times of an individual vehicle. Add ANI to the list. A growing database can figure out of you took the alternate route, worked late, or detoured to the taven on the way home from the historical data collected.

The question is is the data compiled or discarded daily? This was not mentioned. Dept of transportation may use the data for traffic travel times. States may use it to enforce restraining orders, sexual preditors, and DHS may use it to track drug dealer's movements.

What is the data collection retention period and is it collected into a database?

Re:I'm all for privacy and limited gov't powers... (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year ago | (#42125757)

Not just turning on Bluetooth, turning on discovery too. Although a lot of bluetooth car kits/head units default to on+discoverable.

You people are you paranoid (5, Insightful)

petman (619526) | about a year ago | (#42125853)

Personally I think this is an ingenious use of technology. You people are so paranoid about privacy. You seem to be able to find a sinister side to everything, don't you? Come on, get over it. Let's celebrate creativity instead of always raining on people's parade.

Re:You people are you paranoid (1)

ThePeices (635180) | about a year ago | (#42126117)

Did you realise you are reading Slashdot?

Your interjections of common-sense based reasoning and mildly optimistic outlook are not wanted here.

Paranoia exists here because *they* really are out to get us. The world really is only a finger width away from total annihilation and the zombie apocalypse is not only plausible, but inevitable and about to happen at any minute.

As every single reader of Slashdot is an American, we all have our fully automatic firearms ready and loaded ( and concealed ) , waiting for the signal to start a shootin' at the government. Yeehaw.

Re:You people are you paranoid (1)

ThePeices (635180) | about a year ago | (#42126133)

And in case you really are new here, the above post was actual sarcasm.

Re:You people are you paranoid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42129411)

the above post was actual sarcasm.

Lies.

Re:You people are you paranoid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42127167)

Anything that can be misused will be misused. That goes double where cops and/or corporate profits are involved. The only way to prevent misuse of information is to not have it or allow others to have it in the first place.

This drives me nuts about some geeks. I'm sure whoever came up with this sincerely meant well (no sarcasm intended). However, when we invent things we have got to have an eye twoards how they can be/will be misused.

Re:You people are you paranoid (1)

DamageLabs (980310) | about a year ago | (#42127811)

The fact that this comment has been modded insightful and not funny is a very real proof that the Slashdot readership is far removed from the hot grits days.

Re:You people are you paranoid (1)

bjdevil66 (583941) | about a year ago | (#42129619)

Personally I think this is an ingenious use of technology.

I totally agree. In the end, however, my paranoia is your naivete. People in positions power tend to maximize that power (or profit) over time. It's simply "good business" or "strong governance". If they could turn at system like this into information to use against you (or to legally take money out of your pockets), they will.

Here in Arizona there are technology company lobbyists working all the time to increase the surveillance on us, marketing it as a safety/improvement measure but always with the ultimate goal of increasing their company's bottom lines (I'm talking to you, Redflex and ATS). If they had that kind of tech at their disposal, they'd turn it into the most profitable system that they could, and their shareholders would be angry with them if they didn't.

Already doing this in Houston (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42125973)

They are already doing this in Houston. See here: http://traffic.houstontranstar.org/bluetooth/transtar_bluetooth.html

cameras? (1)

bored_engineer (951004) | about a year ago | (#42125999)

It seems that every comment so far has centered on the privacy implications of the collection of MAC addresses, I'm a little more concerned with where the collection of a few more bytes of data could go. I'm a few years out of the parking industry now, but the big new technology just few years ago was the use of OCR to collect license plate numbers in real time. I recall an industry presentation hawking a handheld device that could take a picture, and do the computation with little noticeable delay. It seems to me that it's not a huge technical leap to combine these, and build a super-duper tracking system. They've already tied your license plate data to your identity, after all.

Where have I heard this before? (1)

evilviper (135110) | about a year ago | (#42126137)

A bit off-topic, but have you heard they're going to be tracking cell-phone (and accessories) signals to monitor traffic patterns? It's amazing! Why doesn't Slashdot ever accept a story on the subject?

You can read more here:

http://slashdot.org/story/05/11/19/143247 [slashdot.org]

http://slashdot.org/story/05/11/19/0745248 [slashdot.org]

http://slashdot.org/story/05/11/01/159241 [slashdot.org]

http://slashdot.org/story/05/10/16/076217 [slashdot.org]

http://slashdot.org/story/02/12/30/1243247 [slashdot.org]

http://slashdot.org/story/02/06/13/0428229 [slashdot.org]

http://slashdot.org/story/06/08/10/2337259 [slashdot.org]

http://slashdot.org/story/07/08/31/168228 [slashdot.org]

http://slashdot.org/story/12/11/28/2318245 [slashdot.org]

http://slashdot.org/story/06/11/05/2220211 [slashdot.org]

http://slashdot.org/story/02/10/14/1224244 [slashdot.org]

There, that's better. Hopefully, one day they'll come to their senses, and post a story or two on the subject.

Waze crowdsourcing already suffices (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42126277)

... and didn't cost huge bucks that will probably be in our next tax budget.. sigh.

Waze is seriously cool, we've gotten out of town on Friday rush hour many a time, using it to avoid accidents and congestion. Anyone who has a phone (and a passenger who can safely enter data as you go to report trouble areas) should contribute; the more, the better.

This research came out of UC Berkeley (1)

FlyingGuy (989135) | about a year ago | (#42126311)

The basic idea is that you use a set of Bluetooth receivers interspersed along a traffic corridor and attempt to track unique MAC addresses through the corridor and thus you can come up with an average, near real time, travel time through that corridor.

Some of the more interesting parts of doing include a car full of people, each with a cell phone and a laptop and quite possibly the car's own Bluetooth system. So while it is good for averaging speed and validating other measurement methods, it is not very good for counting the number of devices moving through a corridor.

waste! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42126379)

Another friggin example of how Calgary keeps wasting my tax dollars. First the distraction law, then a noise law (96dB, my bike's stock exhaust is illegal), now some stupid monitoring system... I'll tell you the real-time traffic on deerfoot, if its rush hour..its slow hour, if there's a single snowflake in the air...its a parking lot, if it's below 0.. parking lot, rain... parking lot too!

So let me get this straight... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42126897)

Google collects WiFi MAC Addresses, and possibly some random data which was broadcasted in the clear and never encrypted in the first place, and they get yelled at.

They collect BlueTooth MAC addresses and say it's ok.

I mean either way it's a MAC address.. jeez.

California had real time traffic data for decades (3, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | about a year ago | (#42127071)

CALTRANS uses loop detectors in freeways and major roads to monitor congestion. They just count cars in each lane and measure how fast they're going. They've been doing that for over two decades. You can see the result at . LA used to have a dedicated cable channel with that data. No privacy-invading user-identifying technology needed. [511.org]

The data is used in several ways. The most important one is that when the system detects high traffic density at slow speed at one sensor, and lower density at higher speed at the next one in the same direction, it means trouble, usually an accident. The traffic detectors report the lanes separately. If something is blocking a lane and traffic is going around it, that's detected too. Cell phone and Bluetooth monitoring won't give you that.

CALTRANS has had cameras (which you can watch on line) [ca.gov] on high poles over freeways for decades. Some have pan, tilt, and zoom capability, so when the automated system detects trouble, someone can use a camera to look at the problem area and dispatch whatever is needed.

Another use of this data is to control the metering light system at on-ramps. Freeway throughput peaks at 35 MPH (at higher speeds, the cars have to space out more) and cars are deliberately delayed a few seconds at on-ramps when speeds drop below that level.

Both of these functions require reasonably accurate data, but there's no need to identify cars individually. This all works quite well without it. Probably better. Counting all the cars on a second by second basis is more useful for detecting problems fast than some statistical measure of some of them.

The data also goes out to web sites, apps, driving time predictors, etc. There's an free API [511.org] , integration with transit data, integration with CHP incident info, a developer group, etc.

A truism of traffic management is that fast response to trouble on a freeway increases the capacity by about one lane, and it's a lot cheaper than adding a lane.

So I'm not too impressed with some small-scale trial that snoops on Bluetooth headsets.

Nothing new (1)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | about a year ago | (#42127701)

It's been done in the Netherlands on dozens of locations already. Also, "anonimized" cell tower information (GSM/3G) is being used by TomTom to do the exact same in several countries.

Similar in Philadelphia (1)

paulej72 (1177113) | about a year ago | (#42128703)

Some of the highways around Philadelphia now have a similar system, but I believe they may use the EZPass toll collection RFID tags to get travel times.

New technological solutions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42129309)

if it is to improve our daily acts think we should try to implement new technological solutions.

Try It [games4aliens.com]

Not such a new thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42129501)

The city of Houston, TX has been doing this for a few years with great success. It's more accurate than using loop detectors in the roadway and not to mention cheaper. Instead of having to shut lanes of traffic down to cut the roadway to install detectors, they just have to mount antennas near the side of the road.

Boston, Massachusetts, too. (1)

Frightened_Turtle (592418) | about a year ago | (#42129545)

The same system is being installed around Boston, MA and other localities. I love seeing the sign and knowing how long it is going to take me to reach a certain point. It takes a lot of stress out of being stuck in traffic. Less stressed drivers means traffic loosens up and moves more freely, instead of people bunching up on each other's cars and causing a traffic jam.

Additionally, the data will be publicly available, so mapping applications on GPS devices and smart phones can show traffic congestion in realtime, giving people the opportunity to plan alternate routes more easily to avoid congestion, and thereby reducing congestion.

Waste of Money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42129937)

Personally I think all of these traffic monitoring and display the results on big expensive signs for motorists to read systems to be a waste of money. The monitoring side makes sense from a traffic monitoring/control point of view. Its the big expensive signs to tell motorist the results that I think is bogus. If I'm driving all I need is a green/yellow/red light, possibly arrow shaped, to tell me which lanes to get out of, into or worry about. I don't need a bunch of signs each costing 100's of $1,000 to buy/install/maintain. People need to remember the difference between data and information. Information is useful data.

City Wide Reality in Houston, Texas (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42129975)

The Houston, Texas TranStar traffic mapping system already uses bluetooth and other wireless systems to track traffic. They go into detail on their website.

> Houston TranStar's AWAM System detects vehicles equipped with enabled Bluetooth networking devices, including cellular phones, mobile GPS systems, telephone headsets, and in-vehicle navigation and hands-free systems.

http://traffic.houstontranstar.org/bluetooth/transtar_bluetooth.html

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