06 1 / 2013



(Image credit: A.Koblin for RadioHead)

This is a phrase that has stuck with me since Tim O’Reilly uttered some form of it two years ago. Tim was talking about online cartography, saying it’s not the maps that matter: it’s getting to our destination. Maps are a half-step short of that…

03 7 / 2012

Boston won the opportunity to pick the brains of six IBM engineers — including one from Tokyo — who flew in to check out its traffic situation and figure out a way to consolidate, analyze and use existing traffic data feeds as well as new data sources including (of course) Twitter feeds, to ease the city’s notorious traffic jams. The effort was reported in Friday’s Boston Globe.

The Internet of things links data flowing from traffic lights, CO2 sensors, even cars themselves, in a way that could automate traffic re-routing in what could be a time- and gas-saving assist for  commuters.

“There are literally millions of data points per second — from GPS and cellphone technology — that can be analyzed and made intelligent,” Steve Wysmuller, an IBM Global Services exec, told the Globe.

The IBM experts, along with techies from Boston University and the Boston’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, were to come up with a plan to better manage traffic — by spotting problems faster — and to minimize carbon emissions with better bicycling, parking and traffic management policies, according to the City’s web site.

In what may come as a shock to a city that perversely prides itself on its awful traffic, researcher Inrix ranks Boston tenth on its list of most-car-choked U.S. cities after Honolulu (number 1), L.A., and (gasp) New York (see chart.)

It is not clear how much it will cost for Boston to actually implement IBM’s proposed changes. There’s plenty of data, but the infrastructure needed to connect it and manage it to make it actionable, still needs work.