Boston picked the brains of a gaggle of IBM engineers who came in to figure out how to consolidate and analyze existing traffic data feeds as well as new data sources including Twitter, to ease the city’s notorious traffic jams.


I’m betting no, but then again I’m from Boston where negativity is a way of life.

Boston won the opportunity to pick the brains of six IBM engineers — including one from Tokyo — who flew in to check out its traffic situation and figure out a way to consolidate, analyze and use existing traffic data feeds as well as new data sources including (of course) Twitter feeds, to ease the city’s notorious traffic jams. The effort was reported in Friday’s Boston Globe.

The Internet of things links data flowing from traffic lights, CO2 sensors, even cars themselves, in a way that could automate traffic re-routing in what could be a time- and gas-saving assist for  commuters.

“There are literally millions of data points per second — from GPS and cellphone technology — that can be analyzed and made intelligent,” Steve Wysmuller, an IBM Global Services exec, told the Globe.

The IBM experts, along with techies from Boston University and the Boston’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, were to come up with a plan to better manage traffic — by spotting problems faster — and to minimize carbon emissions with better bicycling, parking and traffic management policies, according to the City’s web site.

In what may come as a shock to a city that perversely prides itself on its awful traffic, researcher Inrix ranks Boston tenth on its list of most-car-choked U.S. cities after Honolulu (number 1), L.A., and (gasp) New York (see chart.)

It is not clear how much it will cost for Boston to actually implement IBM’s proposed changes. There’s plenty of data, but the infrastructure needed to connect it and manage it to make it actionable, still needs work.

Feature photo courtesy of Flickr user David Boyle

  1. Good question – they had an article/whitepaper where they made some solid improvements in Stockholm(?). Would be interesting to see a published follow-up on that project.

    1. good idea i’m googling around and most of the info on stockholm/ibm project is from –you got it — ibm press relations. I’ll keep looking

  2. Traffic is a problem that is ripe for tech companies with capability to cruch big data. Back in May 2010, I wrote about an imaginary service/product called Google Traffic that does this: http://tech.desiblogs.net/2010/05/notes-from-future-google-traffic.html

  3. Where are the M.I.T. Urban Planning Folks. Boston should be a continuous lab course for them.

  4. Gary Brunner Monday, July 2, 2012

    Boston should start with the attitude of their drivers. The worst in the country. No interest in obeying any driving laws or showing any common sense.


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