Mobile monitoring

Drivers in the San Francisco Bay Area will soon be able to tap into new technology that promises to transform traffic monitoring.


Drivers in the San Francisco Bay Area with GPS-enabled mobile phones will soon be able to tap into new technology that promises to transform traffic monitoring.


Moments before midnight on Monday 10 November, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, and Nokia Research Center, Palo Alto, will publicly release pilot software that turns cellular devices into mobile traffic probes, providing real-time information on traffic flow and travel times.


Anyone can download the free software at www.traffic.berkeley.edu.


It will work on most GPS-enabled cell phones operating on GSM networks (such as AT&T and T-mobile) that are capable of installing and running Java applications.


As vehicles pass through the system’s virtual trip lines (geographic markers defined by GPS coordinates) the phones will send anonymous speed and location readings to servers.


The data will be integrated into traffic models that produce an estimate of traffic flow, before being relayed back to the mobile phones and posted online.


The software is being developed as part of the Mobile Millennium project by researchers from UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering, NokiaResearchCenter and UC Berkeley’s CaliforniaCenter for Innovative Transportation.


The new system uses digital mapping data from Chicago-based NAVTEQ, which was recently acquired by Nokia.


Heading the research teams are Alexandre Bayen, assistant professor of systems engineering in UC Berkeley’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Quinn Jacobson, research leader at NokiaResearchCenter.


The release of the pilot software comes nine months after researchers put the new technology to its first major road test, dubbed Mobile Century, using Nokia’s N95 GPS-enabled mobile devices placed in 100 cars.


The pilot software to be publicly released on Monday night is based upon the prototype version tested during that field experiment.


The researchers said the system could eventually spread to include any area with mobile internet connections, including secondary side streets and rural roads not currently monitored by traffic sensors.