30 September 2014

How Live Traffic Works?

What is Live Traffic? 
In short - it is real-time distribution of road conditions. This means that drivers gets information about traffic congestion, detours and accidents. Drivers can avoid traffic problems if they know about problems. All modern GPS applications can smartly use live traffic information and reroute driver if it can find better variant.
There are different live traffic providers (for example: Google, TomTom, Here…). In core, their approach are similar, but their technologies have some differences. At least road coverage and update frequency are different. Some systems also use history data to predict when congestion can occurs. Just for example – TomTom updates their traffic information every 2 minutes. As soon as something strange is found on your route, GPS application reroute you to an alternative (faster) route.

Live traffic (Here.com) for Slovenia

But how they get real time traffic information?
Usually they use three types of information:
- Real-time incident data from third party providers (government departments of transportation, private data providers, road companies, police, cameras, counters…).
- Flow data on the movements of vehicles with connected devices and phones.
- Historical data.
The most interesting is second type of information. You all know, that telephone companies always know where your phone is. They use triangulation with cell towers so your position is pretty accurate even if you don’t have GPS enabled. With GPS enabled, your position is very accurate (forget abnormal conditions).
Nowadays almost all people use smartphones and this means that crowd of information are available for analyzing. You probably know that your phone sends anonymous (hm?) bits of data back to Google (or other service). This data can describe how fast you are moving. And if all phones move in the same direction and this direction is the same as road on map ... that can be an important information. Of course live traffic services have to exclude some anomalies which can occurs. And more data comes from users, more accurate live traffic information we gets.
If we have enough information and if our algorithm can extract something meaningful from them, we can show how traffic go on.

Did you think of privacy?
Google explains that people can opt in or opt out of sharing their travel data under Android settings. If we believe them – Google says that they don’t know what data is coming from which user and they cut off first and last minutes. I don’t believe them, because on my Google Location History I can clearly see all my trip.

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