A new service that will enable Canadians to access data on traffic jams is getting its information from an unusual source: the cellphones of motorists.
IntelliOne, a traffic information firm based in Atlanta and Toronto, announced on Thursday it has reached an agreement with Rogers Wireless to use the company's data on the location of the cellphones in its network to create a real-time map of traffic congestion across Canada.
When cellular phones are searching for reception, they send "pings" or electronic signals that can be picked up by as many as six cellphone towers. The company said the new technology records these pings and uses them to create a three-dimensional map of where the signals originated.
It then discards those signals — based on speed and movement patterns — that appear to be coming from pedestrians and stationary mobile users.
The new service, called LiveTraffic, will develop traffic congestion maps, with updates provided every 30 seconds, based on the cellphone signals it believes originate from motorists. Traffic updates will be available either through the web or through text message updates.
While the pings will be used to track the location of the phone, all of the personal identifying information will be stripped off, IntelliOne said.
Bill Tapscott, IntelliOne's managing director for Canada, said the service could help reduce people's frustration with traffic jams by providingup-to-date information on the traffic flow of highways and major streets. And unlike other services, it won't require use of Global Positioning System technology.
"With our platform supporting every mobile phone without the need to upgrade to GPS, we believe the new service offerings will be very well-received by consumers and businesses alike," he said in a statement.
The new service is expected to launch in February 2008, Rogers Wireless spokeswoman Odette Coleman told CBC News, though pricing is not yet available.