Mobile traffic data will pressure local radio
Google has just released maps for use on mobiles, that indicate traffic congestion with four color levels from green to red, across 30 US cities. This is one of those applications that has been obvious forever, and it’s only been a question of time until it’s implemented well (which is not quite yet). When people are navigating traffic and choosing alternate routes, they have until now been guessing which way to go, having available at best a trickle of information in from the radio. In fact, traffic information is one of the main reasons that people listen to local radio. Once you can get far superior traffic information from other sources, you might as well go to the radio that gives you your preferred music or talk, which is unlikely to be local radio. Next steps include not just current traffic intensity, but also predicted traffic intensity. As I wrote in my book Living Networks, UK company Applied Generics has a product called RoDIN24, that anonymously monitors the movement of mobile phones relative to cell towers in order to provide extremely detailed and live views not just of where traffic is slow (mobile phones moving slowly), but also where traffic is converging to. Beyond that, computers will be able to predict reasonably accurately how long different routes will take, enabling drivers to make route choices without gazing at screens too much. Of course, these predictive devices will play off against each other – if every one made the same recommendation to their drivers, that route in turn would become congested. But in the long run, in congested urban traffic we will see the different possible routes taken even out, so that it takes a similar time whichever of the major possibilities you choose. Resource Shelf gives an overview of other traffic data resources. The US dominates, with some services also in the UK. As with good GPS mapping, there will be a several year lag for effective mobile traffic services to reach most other developed countries. As with many of these applications, it is the cost of mobile data that is a key driver. Cheap mobile data in the US is driving these kinds of applications. In countries where mobile data is very expensive, including Australia, it will, unfortunately, take a long time for mobile applications such as traffic data to take off.