New system estimates traffic from mobile device signals

March 2, 2017, University of Granada
From left to right: Pedro Castillo, Antonio Fernández Ares y María Isabel García. Credit: University of Granada

A team of scientists from the universities of Granada and Jaén has designed a new computer method to monitor the movement of people or vehicles using the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals emitted by their mobile devices.

Among many other applications, this system allows real-time measurement of in at different times of the day, the number of people in a group, or the people who come in and out a mall each day.

The project has been implemented thanks to the collaboration of Granada's Mobility Area. Its main novelty it is small and non-intrusive, and easily installed in heavily trafficked areas.

"We only need a place with electricity and an Internet connection to install the device, which is also much cheaper to manufacture than other similar devices that already exist in the market," says researcher María Isabel García Arenas.

In the case of measurement, the software designed at the UGR accurately monitors the number of vehicles passing near the traffic light where the device is located, based on the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals emitted by their cellphones. That way, the system counts how many cars per minute pass through that point and automatically sends this information to the Twitter account @mobywit to make it public. It can tell the user how long would it take to get from one point of the city to another, for example.

So far, researchers have tested this system at various traffic lights in the center of Granada to measure traffic, and at the entrances and exits of the Higher Technical School of Information Technology and Telecommunications Engineering of the University of Granada (ETSIIT, from its abbreviation in Spanish) for monitoring the number of students entering and leaving the school.

"The possible applications for this new system are many and varied," says Pedro Castillo Valdivieso, another of the UGR researchers involved in the project. "For example, we can estimate how many people participate in a protest based on the signal of their cellphones, or how many people attend to a concert. We could also monitor the path that tourists follow in the center of a city, which is a greatly useful information for municipalities wishing to improve accessibility, for example, or to increase security through police officers or the installation of traffic lights."

Explore further: New inexpensive and easy to implement computer software provides real-time and highly accurate data on traffic

More information: Comparing Wireless Traffic Tracking with Regular Traffic Control Systems for the Detection of Congestions in Streets Smart Cities. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-39595-1_5

Related Stories

Traffic monitoring to generate knowledge

June 16, 2015

Researchers at UPM have developed an application that generates traffic information for cities and roads by detecting a Bluetooth device boarded on vehicles.

Calgary rolls out Bluetooth travel time system

December 9, 2012

(—The City of Calgary, Alberta, now uses Bluetooth-based tracking to give people real-time information about travel time during their commute. The system collects information from Bluetooth devices and estimates ...

Recommended for you

Printing microelectrode array sensors on gummi candy

June 22, 2018

Microelectrodes can be used for direct measurement of electrical signals in the brain or heart. These applications require soft materials, however. With existing methods, attaching electrodes to such materials poses significant ...

EU copyright law passes key hurdle

June 20, 2018

A highly disputed European copyright law that could force online platforms such as Google and Facebook to pay for links to news content passed a key hurdle in the European Parliament on Wednesday.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.