Tracking traffic the new-fashioned way

Engineering students at Purdue University have come up with a new method to track traffic: Bluetooth. The students tracked Bluetooth signals from cell phones and other devices carried by football fans as they drove home from a recent Penn State game.

While I love going to large events like Giants games or the circus, I hate dealing with the traffic afterward. Finally though, some good has now come out of the frustration of after-event traffic.

Engineering students at Purdue University have come up with a new method to track traffic: Bluetooth. The students tracked Bluetooth signals from cell phones and other devices carried by football fans as they drove home from a recent Penn State game.

The method uses each signal to constantly update how long it takes vehicles and pedestrians to travel from one point to another. Darcy Bullock, professor of civil engineering at Purdue believes that "Harnessing the wireless signals represents a potentially low-cost leap in technology to provide information for everything from the speed of the morning commute to the sluggishness of airport security lines."

Since each Bluetooth signal is unique, each device can be tracked by its travel time using detectors installed at intersections or along highways. In the most recent study, the students used a special antenna to identify 1,520 Bluetooth addresses in the crowd of more than 57,000.

The students then used 13 tracking stations to monitor the Bluetooth signals as fans drove home from the game at Purdue's Ross-Ade Stadium along two routes leading to Interstate 65: a 4.2-mile southern route and a 5.2-mile northern route. They then determined which routes from the stadium had the fastest times.

Graduate student Mary Martchouk said "We found that the postgame travel time along the southern route was up to 28 minutes, but the travel time along the northern route was only 12 to 14 minutes, even though the northern route is one mile longer".

The researchers came to the conclusion that using the Bluetooth was far more effective than alternative methods. Typically traffic trackers employed the use of camcorders and spotters to record individual license plate numbers on cars as a means of tracking.

Seems the Bluetooth method is about 200% less invasive, since license plate tacking identifies the person being tracked.

The students will be hosting a national webinar, scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Dec. 3, that's open to the public.

 

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