Monitoring urban traffic with mobile phones

July 1st, 2007

Real Time Rome visualizes traffic using mobile phone location dataA recent BBC story, Beating congestion with mobiles, describes an interesting experiment in collecting real-time traffic information. MIT’s Real Time Rome aggregates data from mobile phones, buses and taxis in Rome to model traffic in real time. The project is focused on collection, analysis and visualization and collects mobile phone information using Telcom Italia’s LocHNESs system.

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

There is also a short article on this in the March 2007 Economist Technology Quarterly.A next step in these and related projects is what to do with the data — how to distribute it and to whom and for what purposes. Interesting work.