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Tracking Your Cell Phone for Traffic Reports 129

BostonBTS writes "IntelliOne Technologies has just launched a real-world test of Need4Speed, a real-time traffic-monitoring system that tracks drivers' cell phones. From their website: 'Unlike any other solution available today, the IntelliOne Roadway Speed Measurement System produces live roadway speeds for all highways and surface streets where mobile phone coverage exists, accurate to within three miles per hour.' Of course, any compulsory phone-tracking system raises privacy concerns. According to an article on LiveScience, 'the personal identification data of users will be stripped from cell phone signals before they are processed by IntelliOne's software.' The cell phone companies have this data, but IntelliOne says they won't be keeping their copy."
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Tracking Your Cell Phone for Traffic Reports

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 10, 2006 @08:22PM (#15885647)
    'the personal identification data of users will be stripped from cell phone signals before they are processed by IntelliOne's software.'

    Yes... and only their 10 digit user id/phone number will be left behind.. no names...
    Oh wait... sorry... wrong company
    • ... but it reads parts of number plates. It's called Trafficmaster. For readers in the UK who don't already know, these are the blue cameras that look like the RADAR unit on top of a traffic light, only bigger. It contains a doppler speed detector and a camera that reads the middle digits of a number plate - deliberately designed to be unable to read the full plate. Data from this is sent by PACNet to a control station, that then pages out to receivers which each pick up two capcodes. This is then bro
  • Now all they need (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CrazyJim1 ( 809850 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @08:23PM (#15885655) Journal
    They need maping software and route planning software that will give you a nifty detour around the latest car wreck. This has been discussed in other Slashdot conversations anyway.
    • Re:Now all they need (Score:3, Interesting)

      by garcia ( 6573 )
      Route planning software doesn't need to have maps. In fact, using my Garmin GPSMap 76CS I routinely leave it on the text directions rather than the map screen because I like to know a couple steps ahead of what the map shows me (especially for city driving).

      If they were going to re-route people they could send a couple of SMSs (or the entire message if you have a decent cell phone that merges "large" SMSs into one) with the text directions of where they need to go.

      That way it might be worth the privacy imp
    • Re:Now all they need (Score:5, Informative)

      by stox ( 131684 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @09:20PM (#15885895) Homepage
      They have had this for some time. it is called TMC (Traffic Message Channel), which is uses RDS (Radio Data Service) to send messages to the navigation unit. Garmin has units that support it, and I am sure there are others.
    • [] In summary, cars talk to cars that talk to a wireless roadway infrastructure for traffic, road, safety conditions, etc. I am about to start working on this project, as it seems to be slowly making progress between all the contributors but suffers overall management issues... mainly from all the car companies trying to make it a subscription-only service and other such nonsense. Write your reps and let them know we need this sooner than later, and not as some jacked up add-on se
      • How long until come company gets hold of this and start analyzing driving habits and sending SMS ads to peoples' phones?

        OTOH, when traveling, I can't say it wouldn't be nice if I received a TXT message letting me know to detour before getting stuck in a traffic jam as a result of an accident. But only at the user's request.

        I also don't like the idea that I'm walking around with homing beacon in my pocket.

        All your phone are belong to us.
      • "Write your reps and let them know we need this sooner than later, and not as some jacked up add-on service."

        I'd just soon opt out for all the tracking programs...I'd like to stay as invisible and anonymous as possible. Please don't get the gov. involved in all this.

        • Well, I never expected anyone to read the spec but a major part of this project is to keep the privacy of its users intact. In other words, your CAR will report the road conditions, speed, etc. in a similar manner that an Anonymous Coward posts to /. except in this case, it actually has to be anonymous or it won't be implemented.
  • Of course! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dotslashdot ( 694478 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @08:26PM (#15885668)
    And of course, AOL won't be releasing your search terms, the NSA won't be listening to your phone conversations or tracking your surfing habits, private companies won't be stockpiling huge warehouses of data to give to the government and you can trust a president who choked and fell while eating a pretzel to check and balance himself.
    • by Travoltus ( 110240 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @08:37PM (#15885722) Journal
      I'm utterly appalled at the way you make fun of America's growing surveillance system. What's wrong with sacrificing privacy for safety? Your opposition to the free market usage of your personal information smacks of Godless communism. What do you have to hide? Aren't you aware that surveillance is needed to defend our constitution from our enemies? And please stop making fun of the good people at the NSA, they only have your best interests at heart.

      [end neo con parody]
      • And they know who you are, travoltus, and you, dotslashdot.

        DSD will be sent to Guantanamo for being an enemy noncombatant, having uttered demoralizing words against the corpocracy. Travoltus, will be sent to Guantanamo for being suspiciously patriotic.

        I will, of course, be sent there for having revealed the truth about you two being sent there.

        Anyone reading this comment will be sent there for reading classified information which, when you read it was declassified, however since new rules apply, well ...

      • Those who sacrifice privacy (constitutional rights) for saftey DESERVE NEITHER.
    • I was thinking the exact same.
  • they say they won't keep it, but come on, they will still have all the numbers cataloged somewhere.
  • Just like you can "delete" mail from you gmail accont. you can't see it anymore!
  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @08:29PM (#15885686)
    Who needs Soviet-style internal passports when they can not only GPS-track your cell phone, but can also track how fast you are moving. Here comes version 2.0: it automatically calls the police and tells them approximately where they will need to be to catch you based on your current speed and direction!
    • Or the police send you an SMS speeding ticket!
    • It's news like this that makes me glad my cell phone still has an off button.
      • by Kesch ( 943326 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @08:38PM (#15885725)
        Most cellphones have a few back doors, being OFF isn't always good enough. To truly make sure that your cell phone is inert, you have to remove the battery. (And I do have to do this now and then to conform with security policies involving cell phones and secure areas at my worksite.)
    • This is not GPS (Score:2, Interesting)

      by RingDev ( 879105 )
      Hell, this isn't even about YOUR cell phone. It's about tower traffic. Could it be used by police to locate you? Sure, but it already is! They don't need stripped down traffic information to find out some child molester is heading north bound on hwy 78.

      Is it possible for this system to be abused? Sure. Is it likely? Not really. The amount of data the company will be dealing with would make extended storage retarded. Most likely they'll be purging data as soon as the can convert it to summarized information
      • Re:This is not GPS (Score:5, Insightful)

        by StikyPad ( 445176 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @09:10PM (#15885860) Homepage
        The other huge boon to this is for the state. Imagine if you could see traffic trends by the minute covering trends over months. You could quickly identify dangerous traffic areas, distractions, traffic quirks, and all sorts of oddities that could be engineered around to reduce injuries, fatalities, and expenses.

        Well that's the best case, but I'd find it much more likely that the state would look for stretches of road where the average speed exceeds the speed limit, aka "areas of potential revenue and quota filling."
      • they could even open source the code, in this case, the code is worthless with out the contracts with the cell providers

        Except that the cell providers themesevles could then enter the market themselves and then undercut the service price of the company that developed the software. The phone companies are experts in this type of competition. After all, the phone company won't really be paying itself for the raw data, much like they don't really pay themselves for the wire pair that the use to provide your

        • "Except that the cell providers themesevles could then enter the market themselves and then undercut the service price of the company that developed the software."

          Ahh the joys of patents, copyright, and licensing. Sure, they would need one hell of a legal team to squash anyone who may have so much as glanced at their code with the intent in making a competetive package, but again, the money is in the contract, not the software.

      • I was living in Georgia years ago and had a pre-paid cell phone. I was at a car dealership wrapping up my car purchase when I looked across the street into the "mobile residence" and saw a dude DRAGGING HIS WIFE OUT OF THE TRAILER BY HER HAIR! I called 9-1-1 and told the operator what was happening, the guy I was buying the car from was inside signing the title and I didn't know the address, only the street. The operator told me no problem, they were able to tell by my phone. I was shocked.

        On a good no
      • The other huge boon to this is for the state. Imagine if you could see traffic trends by the minute covering trends over months. You could quickly identify dangerous traffic areas, distractions, traffic quirks, and all sorts of oddities that could be engineered around to reduce injuries, fatalities, and expenses.

        Funny, I thought that is what accident reports were for. It is law to fill them out (for more than X dollars of damages). An accident report includes details. Just having data saying that the

    • Easy. When you want to go on a 185mph run, just pull the battery and/or antenna. Problem solved.
    • Who needs Soviet-style internal passports when they can not only GPS-track your cell phone, but can also track how fast you are moving.

      You couldn't turn-off your "Soviet-style internal passports" whenever you felt like it, and they certainly weren't opt-in (this is just one more reason to trash your cellphone).

      Ridiculous paranoid extremism is just as bad as (the more common) public apathy.

  • There's an interesting project called Place Lab [] that is building a database of, among other things, cell tower ID to physical location mappings. Their goal is to allow you to "[provide] low-cost, easy-to-use device positioning for location-enhanced computing applications."

    Now, they don't have all the data that these guys have, since they just sample the tower that your phone currently happens to be talking to, so you may not be able to get accurate short-term speed readings, but I bet a lot of you could t

  • by demonbug ( 309515 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @08:31PM (#15885691) Journal
    This is why I always keep my cell phone in a lead box.
    • by Kesch ( 943326 )
      Aha! You have just given me an idea to make billions. I will sell a lead cell phone enclosure fashioned like an old bulky 1980's cell phone. I will then start a big FUD campaign to make people afraid of a transmitting cellphone.

      The doubleplusgood combination retro-style and cellular safety will have millions of sheeple clamoring to buy a Cell-be-safe signal blocking case.

      Oh shit, I just said this out loud didn't I?

      Oh well, first one to the patent office wins. Runner up might be able patent doing it on the i
    • This is why I always keep my cell phone in a lead box.

      A lead box? I hadn't realized that they were selling atomic-powered cell phones.
    • Lightweight. This is why I don't have a cell phone at all.
  • by wbean ( 222522 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @08:33PM (#15885697)
    My bet is that they will find that they have a systematic error in the traffic speed. The cell phone users are driving more slowly than the rest of the cars. Might help to predict accidents, though.
    • Maybe they should report the cellphones currently in use as potential accident zones.
    • What "rest"? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Poromenos1 ( 830658 )
      The rest of the cars? Here in Greece, at least, everyone has at least one cellphone. I literally do not know anyone over 15 years old that doesn't have a cellphone. Except grandpa.
      • Here in Greece, at least, everyone has at least one cellphone.

        Congratulations on blandly demonstrating that different countries are not exactly the same as every other.

    • It's not that they're driving more slowly, it's just that they don't drive in straight lines [], so it takes them a little longer to get there.
    • Given that it'll probably be something like:

      Cell1 is infront of Cell2 by about 50 yards.

      Cell1: 50mph Cell2: 50mph
      Cell1: 40mph Cell2: 50mph
      Cell1: 30mph Cell2: 50mph
      Cell1: 20mph Cell2: 50mph
      Cell1: 10mph Cell2: 50mph
      Cell1: 00mph Cell2: 50mph
      Cell2: 00mph Cell1: involuntarily 10mph

      Can I have a special warning ring tone for when the idiot behind me is on his/her cell and paying no attention whatsoever to my speed. One that I don't have to worry about picking up - just a ring tone that warns me I'll get hit if I d
      • Yes, we should all drive far enough back that, with reaction times included, we can still come to a complete stop even if they had infinite deceleration but, in the real world, that's called "leaving a space for someone else to pull in to" and doesn't actually work.

        It may vary by region, but here (Pacific Northwest) it actually does work. Most people will stay in their own lane. A few people will pull in front of you, in which case you just back off and let them in; it's not that many people and will only
        • For the most part, I agree. I almost always give myself enough space to stop, regardless of what the driver in front of me chooses to do, even as I cruise at around 78. (I say 'almost' because you just wouldn't believe me otherwise.) The few people who don't understand that I'm not going any slower than the car in front of me will try to get around me in foolish and dangerous ways, and it happens. My reaction is just slightly different from my parent's; I back off, add a friendly gesture (normally a sar
      • Re:Warning Calls (Score:3, Interesting)

        by caluml ( 551744 )
        I have access to my own phone's location data, and I (apart from doing all sort of other funky stuff with it) set up a system to measure my speed.
        It didn't work well.
        First, I could only poll it every 15 minutes. Secondly, cells overlap. Thirdly, it just gives you a triangulation based on which towers you can see.
        So basically, on a drive to London along the M4, I stuck at exactly 70mph for the test, and it showed me doing everything from 59 to about 84, with one sector at 97. It's not accurate enough. Un
    • Cell phones retransmit periodically, and towers keep some level of estimate of where their subscribers are, whether they're talking or not. How do you think you can receive phone calls when tooling down the Interstate at 70MPH? If you don't believe me, put your cell phone next to an amplified speaker some time. Every so often you'll hear a "bipida bipida bipida," or some other pattern, depending on what standard your carrier runs.

      When you're stationary, such events are widely spaced. But, when your pho

  • Tinfoil hat thoughts aside, this seems really cool. For general purposes you can get average roadway speed data for any segment of pavement with cell phone reception and cell-toting drivers on it. They also include an opt-in service where they will keep the personal info attatched so to bprovide a tracking service.(There are valid uses for this!)

    Personally, I look at this as a nice benefit of data mining techniques.
  • Tickets for all (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Jthon ( 595383 )
    If this is really accurate to 3mph I can imagine police in the future just mailing tickets to people based on cellphone data. It's annoying enough as some places are installing cameras/radar sensors to just mail you speeding tickets.

    Can you imagine if anytime you happen to go above the speedlimit in cell range you get a ticket? Everyone will be driving 5 miles under the speed limit all the time to "protect" themselves. I can also see this being used by insurance companies to increase rates on people who
    • Re:Tickets for all (Score:2, Interesting)

      by antagonizt ( 613384 )
      Not going to happen... I, for example, carpool and would fight a ticket issued because my carpool leader was speeding. There is no way to distinguish between driver and passenger.
      • You would do the exact same thing you currently do when you lend someone your car and they decide to go speeding and get caught.
      • Happens in Winnipeg, MB right now. Vechile gets caught speeding by a camera. Registered owner gets 167.00 speeding ticket for going 13 km/h ( about 8 miles/h ) over the speed limit.
    • My question is when the records from this sort of tracking on police/government vehicles will be published in the newspaper. If I had to bet money on the statie blowing by at 80 every morning, I'd say "donuts" rather than "child molesters" as the object at the end of the highway.
    • The data only says there's a cell phone in this position in this doesn't identify you unless you use the opt-in path which is a different probe. From everything I've read about this technology - and now seeing reports from the ground truth test sites - this will save tax dollars, give eveyone better information about traffic, through its use will help cut down on greenhouse gases from emissions, will help first responders find people stuck in an evacuation (by showing where groups of cell phon
  • Ya, sure. We heard that one before. Tell us another fairy tale.
  • Your location is your business. Anyone who uses this information, even stripped of your name, should ask first and maybe even pay you compensation.
    • It is opt-in. You opt-in when you buy a mobile. You opt-in when you go with this particular company. If you are already with the company on a contract, I'd be ringing up their customer support to cancel the contract (at no charge for you of course. And I'd fight them until they gave me what I want. I've found most of the time they'll cave in relatively quickly, if you survive the automated phone system coupled with call waiting. And always remember to ask for their name before you start talking).
  • by pjwhite ( 18503 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @08:58PM (#15885809) Homepage

    This shouldn't work on single occupant vehicles, since drivers should have their phones turned off at all times on the road for safety.

    But I'm sure it will work anyway because enough drivers will ignore safety concerns and leave their phones turned on to allow good coverage.

    • ????
      What planet are you on?
      Since when does having a phone turned on, but not in use, constitute a safety issue?

      Using a phone (hell, talking to the passenger, eating, pretty much anything) diverts your concentration and possibly your hands, and thus represents a danger as far as that goes. In some estimates it's as bad or worse than being drunk. However, I can see no reason having a phone turned on is going to cause this sort of trouble.

      • Having the phone turned on means that it is likely to ring, distracting the driver.
        Then, answering the phone involves fumbling for it, looking at the caller ID, finding the right button to press in order to answer it, etc. Talking on the phone while driving has been discussed at length in other forums and I won't go into it here, but let's just say that I (and many others) agree that it's a Bad Idea.
        • I agree that talking on the phone (also fumbling for it, checking CID etc) are bad. But drivers need to put driving first, and that means not answering the stupid thing when you're driving. You don't need to turn it off for that.
          Too any people seem to think that phones demand attention. A ring is a request, nothing more. Anyone who's been "on-call" should have worked that out. :-)
    • There's a fabulous invention called hands free.

      Although I agree that the majority of people having their phone turned on while driving without a passenger won't have a hands free phone.
    • It's not like we're all Pavlovs dogs. You do NOT have to answer your cellphone the second you hear it! Leave the cell phone on in the car. Then you'll at least know to check for voicemail or pull over to take the call -- OK, that last one isn't applicable to freeway driving.

      I probably let it ring through to voicemail more than half the time. It's a good habit to make sure people don't expect you to answer the phone 24x7.
  • Who cares what any of these corporations say about "protecting our privacy"? When was the last time anyone successfully sued a corporation for privacy policy violations?

    When will my mobile phone encrypt everything it transmits? Privacy violation over wires was bad enough, but broadcasting traffic over the air is begging for trouble, even if practically no one realizes it.
  • by failure-man ( 870605 ) <> on Thursday August 10, 2006 @09:21PM (#15885899)
    What if we took matters into our own hands by all getting HAM radio sets and patching through an encrypted stream? It could be like, the geek's anonymous communication system for the postmodern world.
    The only way to track you would be to visually notice the HAM Radio license plates and two-meter antenna stuck to your hatchback. What could be less suspicious!
    • Encryption over HAM bands is illegal. This was mostly to enforce FCC regs that prohibit profanity or commercial activity, and to ensure that all HAM communications have clear self-identification.

      However, encryption over unlicensed (ISM) bands is wide open AFAIK.
  • My question is how can this system be accuret in large citys where some times walking and riding bikes is actully faster then the cars moving on the streets ? Data like this could display a street as being open and moving faster then the next road over when infact its backed up just as far.
    • In order for it to get the two confused, it seems like there'd have to be almost as many bicyclists/pedestrians going faster than automobile traffic as there would be actual automobile traffic to get the two confused. If you have 200 cars going 3.4 miles per hour, and maybe 10 bicyclists going 10 miles per hour, obviously the vehicles going 10 miles per hour are not traveling in the same lane(s) as those going a third that. It seems like it would be simple enough to just drop the rare incidence of a creatur
  • Okay... I admit, there's new information here, so it's not exactly a dupe... but still. Observe:

    Note that the second and third links were actually duped in the same day.

  • 'personal identification data of users will be stripped from cell phone signals'

    But of course they can just track you to your house.

    I'm glad Australia takes a few years to take away our rights (DMCA) when the US tells it to.

    Land of the free my ass.
    • 'Land of the free my ass.' .....I should have put a comma in there somewhere.
  • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @01:55AM (#15887193) Journal
    A bit off-topic, but have you heard they're going to be tracking cell-phone signals to monitor traffic patterns? It's amazing! Why doesn't slashdot ever accept a story on the subject?

    You can read more here: [] 8 [] [] [] 7 [] 9 []

    There, that's better. Hopefully, one day they'll come to their senses, and post a story or two on the subject.
    • From the article:

      Called Need4Speed, the test will run from Aug. 7 to 18.

      All of the stories you link to talk about how our phones "are going to be" tracked by such systems in the future. This is the first Slashdot mention of a system currently in use.

      • And I rather tiredly refuted the people who called us conspiracy theorists and tinfoil paranoiacs in almost all of the those threads. Now, it's happening. AND they still call us paranoid, even in this thread. Some people just like fascism, and you can't make them see sanity.
      • You should actually READ before you make an ass of yourself:

        AirSage President Cy Smith says that the AirSage-VDOT system is now "up-and-running and providing live data,"

        In 1999, the Washington Post reported that Virginia and Maryland had partnered with a cell phone carrier to track traffic patterns by monitoring cell phone usage on roadways. The two states tested the technology on a 15-mile stretch of the Beltway, between the Springfield interchange and Route 5.

        More than that, all the stories are quite old,

  • I've seen this before. Months ago exactly the same system was set up over here. But nothing is sent to any mobile phone, nor is there any need to store any private data: The only thing one needs to measure is the frequnecy of handovers. A handover is when a mobile phone in a cellular systems hops from one cell to the next. So when you measure per cell the amount of phones comong into the cell and the amount of phones leaving the cell, you get a very good idea of the traffic: If incoming is about equal to
  • The company I work for, LogicaCMG, already has done a few similar implementations for a number of clients in the Netherlands. I am project manager of these projects, and the most interesting one is in the province of Noord-Brabant, where we cover 5500 kilometers of road. It's in operation for over three years. A website can be found at URL:hhtp:// The technology we use is remarkably like the one Intellione claims is patented. We use Appliedgenerics' Rodin24 software as
  • I, for one, welcome our new cellphone tracking overlords
  • So if a car is in traffic travelling at 3mph, I am jogging past at 5mph, and a motorbike rider drives past at 50mph, all parties have a mobile phone... What is the speed?

    I can't see it working until lots of people subscribe, and lots of people will not subscribe to inaccurate data... ...will they?

  • I threw my cell at 97 mph
  • the data you refer to in your last sentence does not exist, if you read the article carefully, you will see that the information gathered by the IO system is already stripped of individually identifying characteristics other than geopositional data
  • I can't tell if this means that any cell phone passing through this will have it's information passed on to this service, or if you would have to have a specific device which did it, and have allowed them to do it.

    I'd be really concerned about any third party being given free access to my cell location records without my permission. And I don't believe anyone who says they'll strip data they have in order to protect my provacy. They shouldn't ever see that data, then they'll have nothing to strip, and not

1 Angstrom: measure of computer anxiety = 1000 nail-bytes