Nokia is preparing to begin a large-scale traffic monitoring project called Mobile Millennium, for which it will invite up to 10,000 members of the public to provide anonymous GPS tracking data through their cellphones. The first stage of a plan to provide real-time traffic information throughout cities rather than just on main routes, Mobile Millennium is being partly sponsored by the US Department of Transportation; it relies on a small Java app that both anonymously submits GPS data as well as receives amalgamated congestion updates.
Mindful of the potential privacy criticisms, Nokia is stressing the lengths to which they have gone to in order to preserve anonymity. Mobile Millennium uses banking-grade encryption to secure data being transmitted over the cellular networks, stripping individual device identifiers from the transmitted traffic data, and only ever bringing in information from devices located in targeted roadways where traffic information is needed.
Existing traffic monitoring systems use pavement-embedded sensors, roadside radar and cameras, which are expensive and have limited repositioning flexibility. Nokia is hoping that Mobile Millennium will be a cheaper and further-reaching alternative, and will be working with UC Berkeley's California Center for Innovative Transportation (CCIT), the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and NAVTEQ to design, execute and analyze the traffic system.
Anybody with a GPS enabled cellphone on the compatibility list (which includes more than just Nokia handsets), the ability to run Java apps and an unlimited data plan is eligible to take part. You can find out more details, plus download the Mobile Millennium app, at the project page here.