menu

IBM Turns Cell Phones Into Sensors To Monitor Public Transit

IBM Turns Cell Phones Into Sensors To Monitor Public Transit
Design

The technology and research giant is using aggregated phone records to track and support community services.

Ryan Gerhardt
  • 6 may 2013

Everyone knows that when a company gathers personal information about you, via cookies on the web or settings on your smartphone, they’re likely to sell that information. Then, you end up on the receiving end of much unwanted contact, emails, phone calls, etc, from the company that bought the data. But what if this data sharing among companies could work to your advantage?

In theory, that’s exactly what IBM’s trying to do.

In an effort to improve urban development and public transportation, an IBM research team worked together with the telecom company Orange to tackle some of the service issues with bus routes in the Ivory Coast. Working around the nation’s largest city, Abidjan, Orange released 2.5 billion call records from five million cell phone users in the Ivory Coast. (The records were cleaned of personal identity before release).

IBM was then able to take this unprecedented mass of mobile data, and essentially turn cell phones into sensors and measuring sticks (conjuring images of the Joker-location system from The Dark Knight. Don’t worry – it’s not). IBM was able to use data such as aggregate communication between towers, mobility traces for location and movement, and categorical identifiers that indicate larger population trends.

IBM-bus-routes

While the data is rough due to phone capabilities and use-frequency in less-industrialized nations, IBM was still able to use this unique strategy to better inform urban development with more efficient bus routes. For example, of the possible improvements found, the team suggested that

adding two routes and extending an existing one would do the most to optimize the system, with a 10 percent time savings for commuters.

The project also holds greater implications for mobile-data-driven research. Francesco Calabrese, a researcher and coauthor of the report for IBM, thinks

This represents a new front with a potentially large impact on improving urban transportation systems . . . People with cell phones can serve as sensors and be the building blocks of development efforts.

The records used for this pseudo urban planning project are months old, and not very useful for predicting what may happen once the improvements are put in place. However, this certainly appears to be a promising start in using non-descript mobile data for improved urban interaction. If the model could eventually be adapted to make use of real-time data, life in the fast lane will get that much faster.

 

IBM

MIT Tech Review

Images via AP/Kristin Murphy and MIT Tech Review

Design
Trending

PSFK's Workplace Vision: How The Nurturing Of Seeds Will Come To Define The Onboarding Process

Brand Development
Media & Publishing Today

CNN Launched An Entire Drone Division Of Their News Network

CNN AIR incorporates aerial footage into the corporation's ongoing news coverage

Advertising Today

Uber’s Breathalyzer Cards Let You Know If You Are Sober Enough To Drive

A new campaign from the ride-sharing service raises awareness about the importance of a safe trip home

Trending

Get PSFK's Latest Report: Future of Work

See All
Design Today

Milk Proteins Could Be The Packaging Material Of The Future

A newly discovered casein-based alternative is biodegradable, sustainable and even edible

Technology Today

Intel’s New System Will Help Technology See And Understand The World

Joule is a tiny board for developers designed to bring powerful computer vision to cheap and easy-to-make prototypes

Design Today

This LA Hotel Is Designed Specifically For Cocktail Drinkers

The Walker Inn is a new Los Angeles "Bed and Beverage" experience that offers guests an intimate setting for their night cap

Education Today

Bringing Virtual Reality And Telepresence Robotics To E-Learning

This Learning Management System is embracing new technologies to reallocate teaching resources to where they should be going

Advertising Today

Interactive Art Exhibition For Dogs Provides Endless Fun

Installations created by artist Dominic Wilcox are based on activities loved by canines, such as fetching tennis balls and splashing in water

PSFK LABS REPORT

Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders
NEW

PSFK Op-Ed august 23, 2016

Modern Workplace Culture: No More Fat Cats Or Kissing Ass

Samar Birwadker, CEO & Co-Founder of Good & Co, on designing shared organizational values to optimize employee happiness and success

PSFK Labs Yesterday

PSFK’s Workplace Vision: The Annual Review Becomes An Everyday, Collaborative Activity

Our Future of Work vision is a web-based platform through which teams can collaborate on and monitor performance reviews across all channels, ensuring a happier workplace

Beauty Today

Design Your Own Custom Watch Faces

Customize your wrist device with Garmin's new app that lets you display personalized images or patterns

Syndicated Today

How The Olympics Taught Us Lessons In Cloud Analytics

Dan Vesset, group VP for analytics and information management at IDC, tells how cloud-based business analytics support decision-making

Beauty Today

Retail Expert: What Sustainability Means To The Millennial Generation

Jo Godden, Founder of RubyMoon, discusses how brands can limit their environmental impact worldwide

Arts & Culture Today

Artist Shuts Down Sexist Comments By Turning Them Into Images

Rora Blue explores social stigma in a photo series titled 'Handle With Care'

Arts & Culture Today

Japanese Face Wash Creates A Perfect Rose Every Time

Kanebo's latest addition to the Evita line includes an application that dispenses cleanser in the shape of a flower

PSFK LABS REPORT

Innovation Debrief: Boston
Business Concepts Born In 'The Hub'
AVAILABLE NOW

Mobile Today

Twitter Bot Will Warn You If You Are A Troll

An online tool developed out of Intel's Hack Harassment movement helps filter out or notify cyber bullies

Retail Today

Passengers Can Now Earn Airline Miles For Sharing Their Location Data

The Frequent Flyer app measures background data and gives travelers points that can be exchanged for tickets with participating airlines

Advertising Today

The NBA Is Releasing Two Original Shows To Stream On Twitter

The sports league announced a deal that demonstrates an interesting expansion of its content strategy

No search results found.