Nokia collaborates on traffic data collection & analysis pilot program

Nokia collaborates on traffic data collection & analysis pilot program

As part of its open innovation model, Nokia Research Centre is collaborating with UC Berkeley's California Centre for Innovative Transportation (CCIT), the California Dept of Transportation (Caltrans) and NAVTEQ to design, execute and analyse the traffic system.

Based partly on the results of an earlier experiment, Nokia believes that a community of users with GPS-equipped mobile devices can help reduce traffic and the amount of time spent on the road. Providing real-time information about traffic congestion helps drivers make more informed decisions – such as whether to take alternative routes, public transport or reschedule their journey.

"The global proliferation of GPS-enabled mobile devices has driven tremendous growth in location-based experiences," said Henry Tirri, vice president & head of Nokia Research Centre. "Mobile Millennium, with its unique collaboration of private and public stakeholders, is designed to demonstrate that everyone can help address problems such as traffic congestion."

Traditional traffic monitoring systems include pavement-embedded sensors, roadside radar or cameras to provide data for changeable message signs or traffic reports. But with such systems being expensive to install and maintain, they only cover limited stretches of today's roads and highways.

Using GPS-enabled mobile devices can provide a richer, complementary source of traffic data without the need to invest in expensive new infrastructure. Traffic flow data can be expanded to include city side streets, rural roads or any roadway where a cell-phone can get a signal.

The Mobile Millennium traffic data is based partly on the backbone technology of NAVTEQ Traffic, which provides nationwide aggregated traffic data in the US from a variety of sources, now including real-time data from GPS-enabled mobile phones in vehicles travelling on the highways.

Participation in Mobile Millennium is open to anyone with a GPS-enabled mobile phone from a range of manufacturers, an unlimited data plan and the ability to install and run Java applications. The Java application enables participants to receive real-time traffic data and incident reports for main thoroughfares throughout much of the US.In the Northern California area, a number of arterials and highways that are not currently equipped with sensors will begin to show traffic data as more users join the network.

While the user-generated content is completely anonymous, each data point contributes a piece to the traffic picture. The pilot will operate over a four to six month period, and up to 10,000 members of the public community can participate.

Protection of personal privacy was built into the very core of the reporting technology used in Mobile Millennium. From inception, researchers built safeguards into the system, such as stripping individual device identifiers from the transmitted traffic data, using banking-grade encryption techniques to protect the transmission of data, and drawing data only from targeted roadways where traffic information is needed. This Privacy By DesignTM system continuously filters information to remove data that can be tied to a particular phone, minimising the amount of sensitive information ever created, transmitted or stored.

Berkeley is contributing its expertise in traffic modelling and systems engineering to this complex system.

Mobile Millennium is being partially funded by a grant award from the US Dept of Transportation under the SafeTrip-21 initiative. Locally, Caltrans, who is also assisting in the logistics of trial and enabling comparison with the data collected by the existing sensor networks, aims to find a lower-cost and more reliable solution than that which is available today.

"Real-time traffic information collected through this community-based technology is of great interest to transportation agencies," noted Randell Iwasaki, chief deputy director of Caltrans, adding that the goal is to increase information flow to and from travellers in a cost-efficient, effective manner.

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