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Smarter Traffic in Nairobi?

April 14, 2011 – Notorious ‘Nairobi Jams’ have become a part of everyday life in Kenya’s capital.  Depending on the time of day, day of the week or even week of the month; Nairobi Jams are fluid situations that make your estimated time of arrival at your destination often a guessing game.

Despite a significant improvement of the roads in recent years, with the number of vehicles on the road rising exponentially, Nairobi’s road network will most likely remain overextended. So would high-tech help from IBM soothe our daily commute in Nairobi?


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Enter: IBM Predictive Modeling

IBM claims that their predictive modeling determines traffic conditions an hour in advance.  But, will an algorithm be able to predict the unpredictable jam, which often happens within minutes (especially if you add water to the equation)?

IBM is looking to capitalise on what every city in the World is battling – an increase in demand and an inability to build sufficient infrastructure to cope.  IBM’s recent study found that 57% of respondents claimed traffic has negatively affected their health.  But in cities like New Delhi and Beijing where there are millions of vehicles on the roads, the percentage soars to as high as 96%.

IBM’s Predictive Modeling, founded on the principle of networked traffic sensors combined with historical traffic data and weather forecasting, will generate information to drivers through in-vehicle navigation systems and to electronic road signs if your city has them.

IBM also hopes to partner with mobile service providers to collect anonymous location data to track the status of roads, thereby creating a richer predictive modeling algorithm and real-time traffic updates.  Do I sense possible personal security breaches?

At the end of the day, algorithms will not be able to predict unexpected events – like riots at the University of Nairobi, or a trip by President Kibaki and his massive convoy from one part of town to the other.  Perhaps IBM Predictive Modeling will be able to make us smarter commuters, but until a high capacity and affordable mass transit system is launched, Nairobi jams will still be part of our identities as Nairobians.

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