SOURCE: TrafficGauge

November 09, 2007 06:00 ET

The Question Begs to Be Asked... How Accurate is Traffic Data? Where Are Companies Getting Their Data?

TrafficGauge® Can Answer That -- at Least for Themselves

SEATTLE, WA--(Marketwire - November 9, 2007) - Now that the novelty of getting traffic information via a cell phone, computer, in car device or hand held unit has become a given, it is time to ask the question just how good is the data that consumers are getting? TrafficGauge, the leader in traffic data technologies and traffic applications, raises the question as frustration levels with traffic data go unanswered.

TrafficGauge invested heavily in its own traffic aggregation server technology upon its founding in 2001 and has continued to evolve the technology. The server incorporates real-time data from Departments of Transportations (DOTs) and private traffic information vendors. The difficulties associated with traffic data feeds are threefold; each data feed is uniquely formatted, error prone, and has challenges with the collection mechanisms making the server technology complex. Thus, the aggregation server applies numerous algorithms to enhance or discard the vast amount of erroneous data that is used to create the traffic map delivered to end-users.

The company's technology is the best in the industry due to having the largest numbers of paying subscribers who provide feedback via the 800-telephone number on the TrafficGauge handheld product. No other traffic aggregation company has 'real' customers who help by providing feedback that's used to learn, tune, and enhance server technology. In particular, the mobile market is much more demanding than the web-based market, given that traffic information can be disproved in real-time by a commuter.

One of the largest challenges in the industry is that data is known to have problems because of the data collection challenges that are inherent in all traffic flow measurements utilizing any technology.

Sources of Traffic Flow Information

Throughout the world Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) projects have been deployed to help efficiently control traffic congestion using technology. As a result of some of these projects, inductive loop sensors have been embedded in roadways to collect traffic data. Over time these systems have been extended, and information made public on DOT servers. With the popularity of the Internet and the need for better traffic information, websites that display traffic maps have become increasingly popular.

The DOTs initially developed loop sensors for reasons other than reporting traffic flow information to commuters. Each DOT has a unique start in ITS, but it's common that sensors were initially deployed for annual reported traffic counts required by the state DOT's funding partner, the United States Department of Transportation's (USDOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

Later, the technology began to be used with ramp metering system to dynamically control the flow of vehicles entering the highway. As the data needs and real-time nature of the ramp metering systems increased, so did the availability of real-time data. This real-time repository of data next led to tools for traffic management sensors, which eventually led to the development of publicly accessible traffic maps and data feeds.

The state DOT systems all operate independently from their common funding partner, FHWA. This has naturally led to major technology differences between data collection techniques amongst the cities where data is typically collected in real-time. Given the lack of government agency standards and the complexity of collecting data in a harsh and inconsistent environment, it's a difficult technical and business challenge to collect and disseminate aggregated traffic information.

Private companies have also engaged in the business of collecting real-time traffic information. They use a handful of unique technologies like cell phone tracking, GPS automobile tracking and government funded sensor deployments. Sole-source government contracts, new technology and other issues complicate private efforts of these promising technologies.

Traffic Data Aggregation Server

The key technology developed by TrafficGauge is its traffic aggregation server which is the technology underpinning all of its products and services. Each DOT and private traffic data provider has a different approach to generating a traffic data feed. TrafficGauge's server architecture elegantly handles these different formats and converts the various data feeds into a standardized format combining the strengths and masking the weaknesses of each data source.

Often what data providers report is plagued with erroneous data. Algorithms are applied to scrub the data before creating the output data. Thus, the server takes in what is often flawed data and outputs what customer feedback has been proven to be good data. As an example, the Los Angeles traffic sensor network typically has over 60% failed sensors. The server automatically weeds through this data mess with logic created from years of consumer and data experience. TrafficGauge maintains strong relationships with DOTs, engineers, academia, local and federal governments to assure the best knowledge is applied to its algorithms.

Data Quality

Users of traffic data have high expectations in mobile applications where services are being put to the test on the road and being directly compared to the taillights directly ahead. TrafficGauge has always had mobile offerings since its inception with a subscription service. The company is constantly evaluating new technologies.

The benefits of TrafficGauge's server technology and experience as it relates to accurately aggregating and disseminating traffic information goes unmatched in the marketplace. Others often incorrectly report levels of congestions and leave out numerous data points painting an incomplete picture to the end user. In addition, TrafficGauge's unique map design method conveys vastly more information in a short amount of time compared to literal maps while still maintaining a much smaller display area. Finally, recent acquisitions of Navteq, TeleAtllas, and Traffic.com have left TrafficGauge as one of the only independent companies that provides traffic aggregation services.

TrafficGauge's method of data aggregation is patent protected. A white paper further describing and demonstrating data quality inconsistencies between products is available at http://www.trafficgauge.com/presshtml/trafficgauge_white_paper.pdf

The company's product line-up includes the TrafficGauge handheld device and free download services TrafficGauge for PC, TrafficGauge for iPhone™ and the TrafficGauge Widget Suite (for Mac, Vista Sidebar, iGoogle and Yahoo).

For additional information visit TrafficGauge www.trafficgauge.com.

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