Smart data analytics to fight traffic jam:

Fraunhofer IAO and Telefónica Deutschland examine potential of mobile data for traffic planning

Stuttgart is facing huge challenges with regard to mobility and traffic: There are too many traffic jams, too much noise and stress and the quality of air is also in need of improvement. To this end, the state capital of Baden-Wuerttemberg, as are many other cities, is in search of solutions to optimize traffic planning. An important foundation for concrete measures is precise traffic data. In a study, the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO is currently examining whether mobile data could pose a reliable source of data for traffic planning and whether this is superior to those methods of collection previously in use. As a driver of the digital transformation, Telefónica Deutschland supports this research project by providing anonymized mobile data. Measuring flows of traffic has up until now been very time-consuming. Further, the results of these measurements often cannot represent the high situational fluctuations. If cities had better information on where an at what time people move around, specific infrastructure measures could be better adapted to actual needs. This is where smart analysis of mobile data can be of use: Mobile data is automatically generated as part of the standard business at Telefónica Deutschland, when mobile phones communicate with mobile communication cells, for instance during calls or when users access the internet. This data results in anonymous motion profiles. Using mobile data for traffic planning would be more economic, available at all times and provide a larger sample.

Study of Fraunhofer IAO to last several months

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Credits: Fraunhofer IAO
As part of a research project of three and a half months‘ duration, Fraunhofer IAO is studying whether mobile phone data is suitable for measuring flows of transport in cities and, as a result, superior to other methods. In a first step, the researchers analyze the status quo of traffic measurement based on expert interviews and case studies in general. Afterwards, the team of researchers compares the data from existing traffic surveys in the region of Stuttgart with the results generated from mobile data. A special focus is put on situational fluctuations, e.g. heavy rain events or big city events. This way, the potential of the data compared to other survey method can be evaluated. As research partner, Telefónica Deutschland provides the necessary mobile data. Customer data, however, remains fully protected. Thanks to a three-stage procedure (certified by TÜV Saarland), Telefónica Deutschland anonymizes the data used and removes any reference to individuals. Markus Haas, Chief Operating Officer at Telefónica Deutschland: “As a network provider we have access to a large amount of data through our core business. We would now like to have a renowned institute examine whether we can contribute to traffic planning by analyzing this anonymized data. This serves as an impulse for further projects in the area of smart data analytics.

Stuttgart as ideal trial city

Under the leadership of senior mayor Fritz Kuhn, in 2013 the state capital designed the action plan “Sustainably mobile in Stuttgart”. In nine fields of action, this plan lists and elaborates on central measures by the municipality. This is where the study of Fraunhofer IAO can provide important information, such as regarding imminent road works or regarding the local public transport service. Dr Michael Münter, head of the department for strategic planning and sustainable mobility of the state capital of Stuttgart, points out: “A large number of people have a reasonable desire for transport to be as individual as possible. This desire must be tolerably balanced against the interests of nature as well as of the city and the people that live there. In our action plan ‘Sustainably mobile in Stuttgart’ we also rely on innovative projects for sustainable urban mobility. We are therefore eagerly awaiting Fraunhofer IAO’s results of on the use of mobile data for traffic planning in Stuttgart.

Potential of data analysis for traffic and environment

With the results of the study, Telefónica Deutschland hopes to gain further valuable insights for its work in the area of Advanced Data Analytics. In a pilot project in Nuremberg, the telecommunications provider is already researching to what extent air pollution can be calculated based on mobile data. The results of Fraunhofer IAO offer further insights into the potential of data analytics for traffic and the environment. Prof. Anette Weisbecker, deputy director at Fraunhofer IAO: “The exact measurement of flows of traffic in cities is a complex undertaking. Our study generates important insights as to how mobile data allows for a more precise, efficient and economic traffic planning.” The survey is part of the holistic research work of Fraunhofer IAO concerning the field of mobility. In several studies, the institute examines how people today and in the future intend to be mobile. In doing so, it supports companies and institutions on the way to new business models and more efficient processes.