Doing urban modeling with real data
July 3rd, 2007 by JTJ

Once again, O'Reilly's Radar tips us to an interesting application of cell phone GPS data, this time to illustrate daily traffic activity in Rome.

Real Time Rome: Using Cellphones To Model a City's Movements

Posted: 02 Jul 2007 01:14 PM CDT

By Brady Forrest

rome at different times of the day

MIT's Senseable City Lab is using cellphone data to model Rome's populations. The project is called Real Time Rome. It is an exhibit at architecture conference La Biennale di Venezia's show Global Cities (shown Sept 10 – Nov 19 2006).

There are descriptions about the exhibit from an MIT article about the exhibit:

Real Time Rome features seven large animations, projected on transparent plexiglass screens. One screen shows traffic congestion around the city, while another screen shows the exact movements of all the city's buses and taxis. Another screen is able to track Romans celebrating major events like the World Cup or the city's annual White Nights festival (Notte Bianca, which will happen on Sept. 9, the evening before the Biennale's architecture exhibition opening). Additional screens show how tourists use urban spaces and how cars and pedestrians move about the city.

and how the data was collected:

Ratti's team obtains its data anonymously from cell phones, GPS devices on buses and taxis, and other wireless mobile devices, using advanced algorithms developed by Telecom Italia, the principal sponsor of the project. These algorithms are able to discern the difference between, say, a mobile phone signal from a user who is stuck in traffic and one that is sitting in the pocket of a pedestrian wandering down the street. Data are made anonymous and aggregated from the beginning, so there are no implications for individual privacy.

This certainly would be a more cost-effective method of gathering traffic data for determining commute times. Imagine if predictive systems could prepare us for the onslaught of traffic from a baseball game just letting out by watching the fans head towards there care. Or let us know that a highway is about to be flooded by traffic from a side road. Would you put up with your location being (formally) tracked in exchange for this service?

[BBC via Data Mining]


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