Tapping cell phones to monitor traffic

People at Atlanta-based AirSage (www.airsage.com) think they have found the secret to accurately monitoring traffic flow on major and secondary roads in real time.

People at Atlanta-based AirSage (www.airsage.com) think they have found the secret to accurately monitoring traffic flow on major and secondary roads in real time.

AirSage is so sure it patented their technology, which converts ordinary mobile phone signals into traffic flow information. “We take the network signaling data from cell phones, aggregate it, and match it with computerized street maps via proprietary algorithms to calculate travel times and speeds along specific road segments,” said Tom Bouwer, vp sales & marketing. “It’s important to note that all the data is aggregated and anonymous. We have multiple layers of privacy protection to ensure that no proprietary, customer-identifying data is accessed or released from the secure environment of the wireless carrier.”

For AirSage, the wireless carrier is Sprint/Nextel, with whom they have a nationwide agreement. “There are 220 to 230 million cell phone users in the country today and some 50 to 60 million of those phones are in cars moving along the highways most of the time,” pointed out Bouwer. “Today, there are road sensors on only about 10,000 miles of road and GPS is mostly found in large trucks, which often travel different roads and routes than other motorists. Our system provides information about all routes, major highways and the alternatives.

“Historical traffic data can tell you that there will be heavy traffic on Friday night,” he continued, “but it can’t tell you just how bad it will be. What’s more, according to the FHWA and the Texas Transportation Institute, 55 to 60% of traffic congestion issues are non-recurring.”

AirSage provides the traffic data in an XML stream to an application, a navigation device, or to a radio or television station. “We are the only company that has really been able to make this work,” said Bouwer, “and that has just been in the past six months or so.”

The company is currently testing a new application for their data that may be of particular use to companies with regular regional routes. According to Bouwer, users will be able to set up four or five locations to which they travel frequently. Then, after calling an 800 number on a cell phone and providing point of origin and destination, the system will provide the best route and best alternative route, in voice.

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