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Planning Bus Routes Using Cell Phone Data

What's the Latest Development?

Using 2.5 billion mobile call records from five million cell-phone users in Ivory Coast, IBM has created a system of bus routes estimated to cut workers' commute time by ten percent. "While the results were preliminary, they point to the new ways that urban planners can use cell-phone data to design infrastructure, says Francesco Calabrese, a researcher at IBM’s research lab in Dublin, and a coauthor of a paper on the work. 'This represents a new front with a potentially large impact on improving urban transportation systems,' he says. 'People with cell phones can serve as sensors and be the building blocks of development efforts.'"

What's the Big Idea?

It's no surprise that researchers are increasingly turning toward massive data reservoirs to innovate. Never before has so much information been at their fingertips. "Cell-phone data promises to be a boon for many industries. Other research groups are using similar data sets to develop credit histories based on a person’s movements and phone-based transactions, to detect emerging ethnic conflicts, and to predict where people will go after a natural disaster to better serve them when one strikes." The next step for researchers to make such data available in real time, rather than months after the phone calls are made. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

Read it at MIT Technology Review

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