HERE released Living Cities today, a time-lapsed visualization of the traffic in five cities over a 24-hour period. Users can choose the city, zoom in and view a wide range of statistics that HERE garnered from its data: traffic speeds, points of interest and how often they update the maps — all of which can be shared via Facebook or Twitter.
The project is a collaboration between HERE — itself a result of Nokia’s (s NOK) 2007 acquisition of GPS mapmaker NAVTEQ — and geospatial appmakers CartoDB. HERE aggregated a month’s worth of anonymized data, fed by a billion devices, including Nokia phones, here.com and its navigation devices found in cars such as BMWs and Hyundais.
The result shows viewers when and where traffic problems arise, with larger masses of light demonstrating congested areas. A handy, elegant illustration at the upper right displays the time of day in London, Rome, Chicago, Helsinki and Mumbai with a waxing/waning moon and sun.
Unfortunately, there are only two zoom options—neither of which makes smaller areas like neighborhoods visible. So while you can move across Mumbai, see that traffic never really stops and also learn some statistics about why, this isn’t yet a tool that would give you a viable alternative route (if there were one).
The project is mostly an attempt for HERE to showcase its data collection and invite other developers to use it. “We’re sitting on a mound of data available through our API so that developers can develop our visualizations,” HERE Product Manager Reno Marioni told GigaOM. “A lot of people want to use the data that’s untapped for useful purposes,” he said, adding that Living Cities is only one way he hopes the data will form.
Marioni believes the data could also be used for humanitarian and enterprise purposes. As an example, he said by looking over credit card usage in Barcelona, banks could choose where to locate their ATMs based on traffic patterns throughout the day and night.
Others, including Waze, have visualized traffic data before, but Living Cities offers more options for interactivity. Over time Marioni said the data will be used both to come up with historical conclusions and to predict future traffic solutions. “It will find the shortest, fastest, most optimized route depending time of day.”
For now, it’s a good-looking illustration of traffic as it stands.