IBM Creates AllAboard Travel Optimsation Tool for the Ivory Coast

Researchers from IBM have created a map of potential bus routes for the Ivory Coast’s largest city, Abidjan, using data collected from more than 500,000 cell phone calls.

Today, 539 buses are supplemented by 5,000 mini-buses and 11,000 taxis to take people around the city, which has a population or more than 3.5m. The AllAboard team believes that re-designing the infrastructure around people’s movements could cut travel times in the notoriously busy city by 10 per cent.

As many phones in use in the developing world do not have GPS functionality, the data gathered from phone calls or text messages, which register with a nearby mobile tower. The person’s movements can be ascertained as the call is transferred to a different tower or a new call is made near another tower.

The anoymised data from 2.5 bn calls made by 5m phone users was gathered by Orange between December 2011 and April 2012 and released for use in its Data for Development project. This is the largest data release of its kind, according to MIT, which is hosting the NetMob conference where the rest of the projects will be showcased.

“This represents a new front with a potentially large impact on improving urban transportation systems,” said Francesco Calabrese, a researcher at IBM’s research lab in Dubli and a co-author of a paper on the project. “People with cell phones can serve as sensors and be the building blocks of development efforts.”

David Talbot, chief correspondent at the MIT Technology Review, said: “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.

“While in a number of past studies mobile phone data was used to infer travel routes and demand, IBM says this was the first time such data was used in an effort to actually optimize a city transit network.”

Written for Mobile Marketing Magaizne and first published here:

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