First we had the news that IBM was helping clean up crime in the US and UK, now it seems that Sweden is getting a touch of the Big Blue Brother effect. The city of Stockholm is launching a project using IBM's streaming analytics technology in order to gather real-time information on, well, pretty much everything that moves.
Working in collaboration with the KTH Royal Institute of Technology the project is already gathering real-time data from the GPS devices installed in some 1500 taxi cabs and will soon add delivery trucks, traffic cameras, traffic light sensors, rail systems and weather information to the 'we are watching you' party.
Unlike the UK which is drowning in CCTV cameras that watch our every move, and all under the government spun umbrella of 'preventing terrorism and crime' which is meant to somehow make it appear less invasive and more worthy, the citizens of Sweden should not fear any creeping state surveillance it would appear. Not least as Big Brother is not watching you, the resident, but rather the traffic within the city of Stockholm and doing so in order to provide both the city and residents real-time information on traffic flow and so provide the best commuting options.
So, for example, a Stockholm resident will be able to send a text message listing their location and desired destination which would initiate a real-time traffic, rail and weather information analysis to provide anticipated travel times via car and public transportation, giving the texter an accurate and instant view of the fastest way to get to their destination. Sort of satnav on steroids for everyone, if you like.
Over the last year, IBM has worked with the city of Stockholm in monitoring traffic flow during peak hours using a congestion management system (also known as congestion charging, although that's a little less media friendly) which has already reduced traffic in the Swedish capital by some 20 percent and further reduced the average travel time by close on 50 percent. If that were not impressive enough, emissions have dropped by 10 percent.
While Stockholm might be leading the way, this project is relevant to cities around the world. America’s congested roadways cost $78 billion annually, when you combine the billions of hours in lost productivity and 2.9 billion gallons of wasted gas. With population rates growing and more people moving from rural to urban areas to the traffic congestion problem isn’t going to solve itself. Cities face financial and physical limitations when it comes to expanding their roadways.
"IBM streaming analytics technology’s ability to combine different types of data and analyze it in real time is critical in pushing the boundaries of our research" said Haris Koutsopoulos professor, transportation and logistics division, KTH who concludes that "together we are changing how people will think of their commute and how cities manage traffic".