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Nokia’s solution to Traffic Problems

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Last Monday, Nokia launched Mobile Millenium, which is a public pilot, whose main objective is to collect and analyse traffic data. Instead of using data from expensive devices installed on the roads such as sensors, cameras or radars, information comes from you, me, and everyone else having a GPS-enabled mobile device. The pilot will be extended to 10,000 participants with a GPS-enabled device, an unlimited data plan and a Java apps-capable phone.

Nokia is working along with UC Berkeley’s California Center for Innovative Transportation (CCIT), the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and NAVTEQ to help reduce traffic and the amount of time people spend in their cars driving every single day. Paraphrasing Henry Tirri, Vice President and Head of Nokia Research Center, GPS-enabled devices are delivering a new kind of location-based experiences for users. Nokia is letting us know that we can all help solve problems such as traffic jams.

Nokia and the other parties involved had a great idea with a lot of potential in terms of helping the community. If living in a big city, who hasn’t been in the terrible situation of getting stuck in a traffic jam for more than 1 or 2 hours? I know I have and I hate it, so I would really be thankful for having the benefits of a service such as Mobile Millenium, especially in big crowded cities such as Mexico City which is where I live. Another benefit that comes to my mind that wasn’t mentioned in the press release, is the reduction of air pollution produced by cars, due to the reduction in driving times. Going even further, traffic jams mess with one’s mind and body, people get stressed and it induces road rage; so numerous advantages can be derived from this program.

Nokia is a Finnish telecommunications company ranked as #1 in smartphone sales. Many of these devices nowadays have integrated GPS chips, such as the N95, N85, E71, and 6210 Navigator. Nokia Research Center is always focusing on developing new technologies and strategies to keep the company up-to-date. Since GPS-related applications have been increasing in use and diversity, they have been trying to widen the range of available software applications.

The entire press release can be read below and you can also visit the Mobile Millenium website if you’d like to be a participant in this program.

Nokia Research Center puts Mobile Millennium in gear to help reduce traffic congestion
November 10, 2008

Large scale public pilot to gather and analyze traffic information using GPS-enabled mobile devices

Palo Alto and Berkeley, CA – Nokia today launched Mobile Millennium, a public pilot that will collect and study traffic data received from GPS-enabled mobile devices, such as the Nokia N96, Nokia N95 and Nokia E71. As part of its open innovation model, Nokia Research Center is collaborating with UC Berkeley’s California Center for Innovative Transportation (CCIT), the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and NAVTEQ to design, execute and analyze the traffic system.

Based in part 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 and Head of Nokia Research Center. “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. Nokia is proud to be part of this research.”

Traditional traffic monitoring systems include pavement-embedded sensors, roadside radar or cameras to provide data for changeable message signs or traffic reports. But such systems are costly to install and maintain and so 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 in part on the backbone technology of NAVTEQ Traffic, which provides nation-wide aggregated traffic data in the US from a variety of sources, now including real-time data from GPS-enabled mobile phones in vehicles traveling 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 United States. 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 which can benefit the entire user community. The pilot will operate over four to six months 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 Design(TM) system continuously filters information to remove data that can be tied to a particular phone, minimizing the amount of sensitive information ever created, transmitted or stored.

“Berkeley is contributing our expertise in traffic modeling and systems engineering to help make this complex system come to life,” said Alexandre Bayen, professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Berkeley. “As part of a public university, we are thrilled to be working on a project with such enormous potential for public benefit,” Bayen said.

Mobile Millennium is being funded in part by a grant award from the US Department 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.  “Our goal is to increase information flow to and from travelers in a cost-efficient, effective manner.  We are excited about the potential benefits of a system such as Mobile Millennium,” Iwasaki added.

Information about Mobile Millennium, supported devices and the software download can be found at http://traffic.berkeley.edu.

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By , International Correspondent on Nov 14th, 2008 GMT +2

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