Nokia's GPS Based Road Traffic Monitoring System Model – Possible Problems
Roping in Cell Phone Service Providers
The first and foremost problem that may interfere with Nokia's GPS-based road traffic monitoring system is the fact that different people use different service providers for their cell phones. As all the residents of US cannot be persuaded to use the same service provider, all the different service providers in US will have to be roped in so that the model works offering full data on vehicle movements.
Even if one service provider backs out, the model will yield partial results. However, Quinn Jacobson, Nokia Research Center's research leader is confident that there will be no problem as these service providers will only benefit from being part of the GPS-based road traffic monitoring system. Also, drivers will not let the service providers back out as there are additional benefits to the GPS-based road traffic system than just traffic updates. According to Jacobson, "Integration of traffic information with functions such as calendar and online timetables means that the mobile device can act as personal travel planner. With the increasing number of vehicles, a proper road traffic monitoring system will help drivers save time and precious fuel by taking alternate routes based on real time traffic information."
Assuming that the cell phones in Nokia's model of GPS-based road traffic monitoring system send out signals every three seconds, the system will require a huge bandwidth considering the number of cell phones active at any given point of time. Alexander Bayen, professor of systems engineering at Berkeley’s California Center (the institute is also part of Nokia's GPS traffic monitoring research), says that they are working on a solution to find an optimum subset of the entire data so that the model does not need such a huge bandwidth. However, I could not get any clue anywhere as to what kind of solution they are considering.
User Privacy: A Major Problem
Most of the users of the cell phones will not want their phones to send out signals indicating their whereabouts that can be intercepted by unwanted sources, too. According to Jacobson, if users are not willing, they can turn off the GPS feed in the cell phone. This will not affect the proposed GPS-based road traffic monitoring system as it will disassociate the data with the cell phone and use it anonymously employing SSL (bank type encryption) so that the data is not used by anyone else, thereby protecting the privacy of the cell phone owner. Read our article on GPS Cellphone - Ethics Violations.
Unwilling Users – People not Willing to Participate in the Monitoring System
There will be drivers who will not be willing to contribute. They may not use GPS-based cell phones or may turn their GPS off. There will be a hard time persuading such drivers. However, considering the benefits of this GPS-based road traffic monitoring system, the percentage of such people will be very low. The results of computing at the central server will not be affected, so the servers will still be able to upload real-time traffic information to the Internet.
I also went through some other proposed models for GPS based road traffic monitoring systems, out of which, one was more stable than the Nokia model but it was not as cost effective as the model discussed here.