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Cell Phones to Monitor Traffic Flow 88

Posted by Zonk
from the hi-there dept.
PCOL writes "The Baltimore Sun reports that Delcan technology will soon begin fullscale deployment of a system in Maryland that will mine cellphone data to determine traffic conditions such as jams and slowdowns. As long as a user's phone is turned on, the cellphone network notes the time of handoffs from cell to cell to calculate the location and speed of vehicles. Researchers say the program will reduce congestion by quickly delivering alerts on road conditions to drivers. The company says they will not track the movement of individual drivers. However, a staff attorney for the EFF says that tracking might violate federal law and 'increases the chances that information will be used for more invasive purposes in the future.'"
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Cell Phones to Monitor Traffic Flow

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  • First DUPE!!!! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Viceice (462967) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @08:30AM (#14070018)
  • by ezzzD55J (697465) <slashdot5@scum.org> on Saturday November 19, 2005 @08:33AM (#14070022) Homepage
    You don't have to do any tracking of handsets to estimate how busy the roads are - just count the number of handoffs coming in going out (per cell per handset). The quicker they are, the faster the cars are moving.
    • by Tatarize (682683) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @08:44AM (#14070042) Homepage
      Just wait til they track the individual cell phones, and use the calculations to catch speeders. Location and speed they travel. Then just get a bunch and find out who the cellphones belong to and ticket them.
      • Not accurate enough. It's possible to triangulate a phone's position on demand down to a few metres using 3 or more towers and best-signal feedbacks, but if all it's logging is cell hand-offs then it could be a phone from any point in the cell switching to any other point in the other cell.
        • Triangulation...hand-offs....were'd you get this stuff? ...besides your imagination, I mean :)

          The technology they (we) are using, as one example, includes multipath reflections (CDMA) and time-delay measurement. All that's needed is the location of one BTS, which is constantly updated using standard GPS. Spread spectrum usage has advanced significantly, and fine grain accuracy is sufficiently progressed to be able to pinpoint which user among hundreds you may want to id. Since it even works indoors, you
      • by zippthorne (748122) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @09:48AM (#14070192) Journal
        I wish they would catch EVERY speeder. Then there'd be enough clamor that we could get the damn speed limits increased to reasonable levels. and maybe we'll stop using the rediculous rhetorical device of "if it saves one life its worth it" to pass bad laws.

        The only thing that keeps bad laws on the books is arbitrary enforcement of bad laws.
        • and maybe we'll stop using the rediculous rhetorical device of "if it saves one life its worth it" to pass bad laws.

          This country suffered over 98,000 deaths from medical errors in 1999 alone. We wont force improvements in medical records, pharmacy errors, or poor IT systems in our medical system, but we will slow down the economy by 10 mph for a few lives.

          http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=168404&cid=14 0 40211 [slashdot.org]

        • Yeah, they should have chips in cars to check speed, and not only ticket every speeder but ticket them correctly. If you want, you can speed, but you'll get a speeder tax like (mph over limit)*(time in minutes)*($.10). So you could drive 160 but it would cost ten dollars a minute.

          It is pretty stupid to force everybody to speed so they don't go so crazy slow as to impede traffic. At least it's not 55 everywhere still.
    • by Macka (9388) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @09:38AM (#14070174)

      I'm writing this from the City of Sheffield in the UK, about 200 miles away from where I live. I just drove up this morning. On 3 occasions I called the Orange traffic info line to check what was happening on the motorways (freeways) ahead of me. Apart from getting info on specific motorways (punching the number in on the car keypad) one option is to get traffic information near to where I am. It takes only a couple of seconds, then they announce the A road or motorway I'm traveling on, the direction I'm traveling in, and then proceed to give me a full report on what happening ahead of me and in the surrounding area. It's bloody useful.

      It's also possible to be too paranoid about things to you own detriment !!

      • It's also possible to be too paranoid about things to you own detriment !!

        Normally, I'd agree with you. But THEY told me if I did, they'd get me for it.
      • It's also possible to be too paranoid about things to you own detriment !!

        Right on! If someone is broadcasting a signal, I should have a right to track it or record it or whatever. If they care about their privacy, they shouldn't be broadcasting a beacon! Making it illegal to track signals from cell phones smacks as a DMCA-like restriction to protect bad technology by making scientific curiosity illegal.

        Or this is like making it illegal to sniff packets just because people are too lazy to encrypt stuff.

        L
        • Just what we need.. more drug dealers filling up our prisons, when there are actual criminals being freed to make room for them. I think it's kinda funny too, because many people desire drugs, and so because they are illegal the price shoots up. So making them illegal actually CREATES the monetary incentive for people to perform illegal acts to sell the drugs, drug turf wars, kids selling them at school for a profit, etc.

          If drugs were legalized, they wouldn't go away, but their price would drop to nothing
          • One more thing I forgot. If the drugs were legal, I truly believe they would lose their "cool"ness. Cigarettes used to be everywhere and it was considered impolite to suggest that a smokers cigarette stank. Now, smoking is becoming more and more widely seen as something stupid to do, not something cool to do. The same will happen with drugs, if they are no longer legal, they people using them will be seen for the idiots that they are and it will cease to be cool.

          • Hmm, this is going way off topic, but I want to comment anyway.

            I don't think it will ever be possible to legalize drugs the way you suggest for one reason and one reason only. The amount of time strong mind/behaviour altering drugs like cocaine, crack and heroin stay in your system. Most people can regulate the amount of alcohol they consume so they're only affected from 6-12 hours. But with class B and class A drugs thats not the case. The last thing we as a society needs is a pandemic of people drivin
            • I don't think it will ever be possible to legalize drugs the way you suggest for one reason and one reason only. The amount of time strong mind/behaviour altering drugs like cocaine, crack and heroin stay in your system.... The last thing we as a society needs is a pandemic of people driving cars and working in sensitive jobs that are still experiencing judgment impairing effects of drugs, days after they've consumed them, with no recourse to stop them because they're not doing anything illegal.

              The psychoa


              • The psychoactive effects of most recreational drugs last for minutes or hours, not days

                Thats not a universal truth. I had a friend years ago who used to pop acid tabs. Sometimes she's have flashbacks from 2-4 days later, some pretty scary ones too. Besides, you're just looking at the length of the "high" effect, but the downer that follows can be just as bad. E's for example can leave you feeling down the next day after the high effect has warn off. The cravings that come from Heroin and Crack addic
                • Thats not a universal truth.

                  Hence the word "most".

                  I had a friend years ago who used to pop acid tabs. Sometimes she's have flashbacks from 2-4 days later, some pretty scary ones too.

                  Flashbacks can occur years after any intensely emotional experience, positive or negative, drugs or no drugs.

                  Besides, you're just looking at the length of the "high" effect, but the downer that follows can be just as bad.

                  In terms of perceptual impairment? No, really, it can't.

                  E's for example can leave you feeling down the

                  • Hence the word "most"

                    You should have used the word "few". As most DO have effects that impair judgement beyond just a few hours. If you believe otherwise you're deceiving yourself.

                    Flashbacks can occur years after any intensely emotional experience, positive or negative, drugs or no drugs.

                    Bollocks. You've obviously never seen anyone experience a flashback. Its more than just reliving a vivid memory, its like tripping out all over again. For example, my friend described having a normal chat with her da

                    • ...most DO have effects that impair judgement beyond just a few hours. If you believe otherwise you're deceiving yourself.

                      Do you understand the difference between intoxication and addiction? You must, to have written this:

                      I don't think it will ever be possible to legalize drugs the way you suggest for one reason and one reason only. The amount of time strong mind/behaviour altering drugs like cocaine, crack and heroin stay in your system. Most people can regulate the amount of alcohol they consume so the


        • Let the gubberment track cell phones! It could put a hell of a lot more drug dealers in jail.

          <sarcasm>
          Yes, because drug dealers are the worst of society's ills. Focus on the drug dealers instead of rapists, murderers, wife-beaters, and terrorists!
          </sarcasm>
          • murders and rapists just do evil in onsies and twosies... drug dealers ruin whole neighborhoods and sometimes whole countries (Columbia, Afghanistan, North Korea).
            • True -- and they do so because of the black market that exists to trade drugs.

              Legalize currently-illegal drugs, and the black market -- and the massive profits which flow through it back to the druglords in the nations you mentioned (particularly Columbia) -- disappears, due to lack of what is currently an extraordinary incentive to produce and sell drugs... (It's not like we don't have the example of the Prohibition and the rise of Al Capone in Chicago as an historical example of what happens when drugs a
              • diamonds are legal and look how well that works out. I doubt legitimate businesses will have a chance to compete with the drug lords, who are very well established.
                • But grocery stores sell alcohol now, don't they? As do gas stations.

                  And alcohol was once illegal, just like the drugs that the drug lords, well... lord over.

                  The main difference I see is that alcohol was illegal for a much shorter time span than cocaine, marijuana, etc., giving the drug lords a longer time to build up their criminal empire, making them more well-financed foes. They're powerful enough and sophisticated enough now that they buy mainframes to crunch their drug-peddling data, after all!

                  But in
                  • Diamonds mostly come from lawless regions of the world and a s a result criminals control the means of production. Drugs are the same way, the drug trade originates in countries with week governments who will be unable to control drug lords after legalization... during prohibition alcohol was supplied by domestic producers and producers in Canada and Europe...
                    Just look at history and see what the opium trade did to China when it was legal. Poppies and Cocaine will do more damage if they are legalized. M
  • It's just a few small steps from this measure to MIND CONTROL CHIPS EMBEDDED IN OUR BRAINS!!!111
  • invasive (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anne Thwacks (531696) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @08:51AM (#14070057)
    We have a similar system in the UK.

    Introduced to provide traffic speed info (provided you subscribe - about $50 per month).

    Now beiing used to find stolen cars, terrorists (recently anyone who disagrees with a government minister) and people who owe parking tickets - who have their car clamped until they pay.

    George Orwell was only 20 years too early - he got most of the rest right.

    • Now beiing used to find stolen cars

      Car thief privacy is important.

      terrorists (recently anyone who disagrees with a government minister)

      I don't know how it goes on your side of the puddle, so maybe that's true, but I'm going to need to see data on that.

      and people who owe parking tickets - who have their car clamped until they pay.

      Who gives a damn? I understand being angry about parking tickets, but they're going to make you pay them, and this is a fairly innocuous use of the technology.

      Since I don't yet buy
      • Interesting that you condone the use of state violence to enforce "morally ambiguous laws".
      • Re:invasive (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I'm going to need to see data on that.
        here [scotsman.com]
        more here [monbiot.com]
        One nice quote:
        Every day sometimes several times a day the protesters were stopped and searched under section 44.(12) The police, according to a parliamentary answer, used the act 995 times, though they knew that no one at the camp was a terrorist.
        Another:
        Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely (Lord Acton, a historian)
    • Re:invasive (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Hosiah (849792) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @09:29AM (#14070155)
      George Orwell was only 20 years too early - he got most of the rest right.

      I've thought this so long, and have seen so many others say the same, that I'm supporting Orwell's canonization as an official prophet. God knows, he had a better batting average than most prophets.

    • This is only the first step, a new technology referred to as telemeatics [atxtechnologies.com] will soon replace any need to track your cell phone. Our cars are full of computers, just waiting to be wirelessly connected. Soon, such services will be able to:

      - Detect vehicular crashes, alerting both the nearest emergency services, your family and your insurance company.
      - Monitor your vehicle, suggesting maintenance.
      - Allow your Insurance company to track the number of miles driven, your average speed, percentage of quick
      • "- Allow your Insurance company to track the number of miles driven, your average speed, percentage of quick stops, etc..."

        That will never fly. It is the fear of the screwing people will get (as if they aren't getting it anyway) that keeps things like this out as well as the political backlash involved with it. That doesn't mean they won't try....

        B.
    • Provided the information in this comment [slashdot.org] is accurate, privacy concerns in this case are largely unfounded. There is good potential benefit for a system like this. I'd love to be able to dial up a map of the Boston metro area and see the congested roads marked in red (Never mind that /all/ of them would be red in Boston...).

      I'm fully in support of such a system provided (and this is a neccessity) the information provided to the state is fully randomized. If, as you suggest, the UK system is being abused t
      • Just because the system has a little switch that says "violate privacy", and that switch is currently "off", doesn't mean there is no need for concern. History has shown that governments will abuse any power they are granted.

        In some way or another, we're all paying for these "useful services" that just happen to also be useful for tracking us like animals.

        Would you help your neighbor build a nuclear weapon, as long as he promises not to detonate it? What if he forcibly extracted money from you in order to
        • Just because the system has a little switch that says "violate privacy", and that switch is currently "off", doesn't mean there is no need for concern. History has shown that governments will abuse any power they are granted.

          This is a valid point, but if the poster I quoted is correct the switch is under the control of the cellphone company, not the government. And, I actually trust the cell phone companies more. I think a lot of users would complain if they found out their company was sending personal lo
      • "There is good potential benefit for a system like this. I'd love to be able to dial up a map of the Boston metro area and see the congested roads marked in red (Never mind that /all/ of them would be red in Boston...)."

        And how do you automatically make the leap that this MAJOR privacy concern (think of the massive potential abuses) isn't one? And it isn't going to be at all accurate given the amount of people that don't (and won't) own a cell phone. So your map of Boston would be totally wrong.

        B.
    • People who never read and do not understand Orwell keep using his novel 1984 as a kind of synonym for oppressive societies. Can we get this straight? Orwell was a member of the British ruling classes - went to Eton - and 1984 is a satire on British upper middle class life in 1948 (reversal of last two digits.) The "Proles" are all the people who did not go to public (=private) school. The "Ministry of Truth" is the BBC, churning out propaganda for the Government. Members of the upper classes (the Party) led
      • Orwell was a member of the British ruling classes

        Eric Blair (George Orwell) started out life as a (rather low-ranking) member of the ruling class. After his service with the colonial police in Burma, he wanted no more of it, and became a vocal leftist and anti-imperialist. This stance is pretty obvious if you read any of his non-fiction writings. His disagreements with the other leftists of his day (most notably about the Soviet Union - see "Animal Farm") don't change that.

        1984 is a satire on British upper
        • I'm not sure what you mean by "a (rather low-ranking) member of the ruling class". The point was that he ranked in it, was a "party member" and not a prole. I wonder if you are writing from first hand experience of the British class system?
          Read the history of Renaissance Italy and you will see that one the two themes you mention in 1984 has a long history. (The condottieri raised the use of continuous war with shifting allegiances intended to obtain and keep power to a fine art. ) The use of language to sh
    • I don't know if this is something to worry about. IMO, if the government wants to track you, they'll just go ahead and do it with or without having 'sanctioned' access to this data. Hell, they probably ALREADY use this method to track people, so we might as well get some good out of it. They can subpoena this stuff without your knowledge anyway. In general, I think there's a good deal of security through obscurity when it comes to the threat of government surveillance. If they want to watch you they're
  • Uh oh (Score:3, Funny)

    by wootest (694923) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @08:55AM (#14070072)
    Can you hear me now? Are we there yet? Can you hear me now? Are we there yet? etc.

    I'm not looking forward to this ;)
  • Switch off (Score:2, Insightful)

    by slashmojo (818930)
    Don't want to be tracked? Just switch your phone off while you are driving.. safer for everyone on the road anyway..
  • Obligatory (Score:3, Funny)

    by codeshack (753630) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @09:31AM (#14070163)
    Of course, it can't track you if your number starts with $sys$...
  • by HangingChad (677530) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @09:34AM (#14070167) Homepage
    However, a staff attorney for the EFF says that tracking might violate federal law and 'increases the chances that information will be used for more invasive purposes in the future.

    With National Security letters blowing like leaves in the wind, that will be about 15 minutes after it's activated.

    • Absolutely.

      A local news outlet will be airing a story about how the much-lauded automated camera would help to curb speeding, and make roads "safer". Well, it seems that some people are receiving citations who weren't even in the area when the infraction was supposed to have occurred. There were over 170,000 citations issued last year, and NONE of them were dropped. This leads two very worrisome prospects:
      1. If you are accused, but you aren't guilty, how do you prove your innocense (let alone that
  • I've seen a demo by the Maryland Highway Department personel involved with this technology. Each cell phone is given a random ID by the cell phone provider, so that the phones that are being tracked cannot be associated with an individual. All they know is that phone xyz is taking so long to get from one cell to the next. There are no privacy issues here.
  • The issue isn't.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Zunni (565203)
    The issue with this isn't the current implementation. Everything that's created to better mankind or to deliver a service starts off being utopian and pristine. It just takes time for people to start finding and using the more sinister applications of this or any other kind of service.

    Examples: Email - Started off with being a convenient, quick and easy way to exchange information.. Now - Cialis and Viagra ads as far as the eye can see

    Web surfing - Intended as a way to access massive amounts of informa
    • So in conclusion this may provide a useful service for the first year or so, then once the government realizes they need to find a specific person, or the cell phone companies need to find out how many of their subscribers travel which roadways

      What makes you think this doesnt happen already?

  • Like not track me in PUBLIC with my Cell phone BROADCASTING DATA ...

    If people think this is a privacy violation ... they need to get their heads checked.

    It's times like this I *know* activist groups need to get a hobby to carry them through the dry spells.

    Tom
  • Your cell phone provider is collecting that data anyway -- maybe not storing it for extended period of time -- but the data is collected. You can do this kind of tracking in a two ways: the right and the wrong.

    To do it right way, you use temporary identifiers (GSM network uses them anyway) that are anonymious and drop all routes that have too few mobile phones; like if you are living in a rural area and are the only one that takes specific route. After you have made analysis, you drop also temporary ident

  • I was thinking, "Well gee, all you have to to is... turn them off!" Then I realized that maybe that's what they are hoping. It's certainly what I hope this makes people do.
  • I hope they remember to "flag" those guys flying into town with their cell phones switch on...

    especially since the FCC decided to allow this...
  • We can use cell phones to monitor traffic flow!!!!!

    A severed foot is the ultimate stocking stuffer.
  • What is the chance that the Police will use this system for speeders? I bet they would just love this new little trick. In fact, I don't think the true reason for this technology is for traffic management. The gains for running this project for traffic regulation benefits nobody's pocketbook. But, if law enforcement could use it as proof on speeders, then it all makes sense! They would know who you are, where you are going, where you were, how fast you were going at a specific time when no police were aroun
  • ...that I'm in my car? In Chicago, trains run down alongside the expressways, how can they tell the difference between the people on the train, people waiting at a train station, and the people actually driving?
  • Well the privacy problem remains even if this story has been posted already a zillion times.
    We only need to convince ourself that the world can go fine even if we turn that cell phone offAs well as our life!
  • I think it's about time to let Faraday out of his cage.
  • This is the third time this article has been presented in as many months. Yes, I can hear you now.

    Funny enough, the word/image that I had to type in to get my article posted was "unneeded".

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