Commuter 'Pain' Fuels Smart Solutions - InformationWeek

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8/10/2010
01:21 PM
Michele Warren
Michele Warren
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Commuter 'Pain' Fuels Smart Solutions

IBM and its technology partners are using data from the vendor's Commuter Pain Surveys to make transportation systems more intelligent. The most recent study, whose findings were revealed just a few weeks ago, was conducted globally, not just in the United States, for the first time in three years.

IBM and its technology partners are using data from the vendor's Commuter Pain Surveys to make transportation systems more intelligent. The most recent study, whose findings were revealed just a few weeks ago, was conducted globally, not just in the United States, for the first time in three years.Transportation is just one area where IBM has been focusing its Smarter Planet efforts in the past year and a half. Under the Smarter Planet initiative, companies of all sizes are working to streamline their operations and work "smarter," but midsize players are leading the way, in many cases using technology to completely re-invent the way they do business.

In the transportation milieu, tremendous strides have been made already by subscribers to the Smarter Planet philosophy. With a smart card system, the Singapore Land Transport Authority has reduced congestion and upped the appeal of public transit. Air Canada developed smart-phone applications that allow travelers to download e-boarding passes, check in, and book rental cars remotely. France's SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer franÇais, or French National Railway Corporation) has deployed a predictive maintenance system with intelligent sensors to prevent accidents, reduce delays, and slash maintenance costs. And the city of Stockholm has reduced traffic by 20%, cut emissions by 12%, and decreased wait time in traffic by 25% via a dynamic toll system.

Yet there's still so much more to be done. In its latest survey, IBM surveyed 8,192 motorists in 20 cities across six continents to gauge their perceptions of the transportation systems and traffic where they live. Among participants, 57% overall say that roadway traffic has negatively affected their health. In the more densely populated regions of the world, that number is significantly higher -- 96% in New Delhi and 95% in Beijing. Twenty-nine percent overall say that roadway traffic has negatively affected their work or school performance; 49% say that roadway traffic has gotten worse in the past three years; and 16% say they would choose to work more if commuting time could be reduced.

IBM compiled the survey results into an Index that ranks the emotional and economic toll of commuting in each city on a scale of 1 to 100, where 1 indicates a trouble-free commute and 100 represents a trouble-laden one. Factors figured into the index include stop-and-go traffic, commuting time, and time spent stuck in traffic. Beijing and Mexico City scored highest, with 99 apiece, while Stockholm scored lowest, with a 15. Surprisingly, New York scored fourth lowest, with a 19. Houston's index was 17, and in Los Angeles it was 25.

"Traditional solutions -- building more roads -- will not be enough to overcome the growth of traffic in rapidly developing cities," said Naveen Lamba, global industry lead for intelligent transportation at IBM, in a press release. "New techniques are required that empower transportation officials to better understand and proactively manage the flow of traffic." Such techniques include intelligent technology solutions such as automated tolling, real-time traffic prediction, and intelligent route planning. To implement these kinds of solutions and improve transportation systems around the globe, IBM is working with a worldwide team of scientists, industry experts, and technology solution providers.

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