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News & Highlights
Traffic info goes mobile

BY CYNTHIA PETERSON
News Straits Time Online
2 December 2004

MANY people are resigned to grinding through the rush hour traffic on a daily basis. Holiday seasons are also partially spent in traffic jams.
Information and communications technology (ICT) is playing an increasingly important role in offering road users traffic information, and a company offering such a service says it has enabled real-time data to be accessed while on the move.
“The advantage of ICT is, we have infrastructure such as Wi-Fi, GPRS (general packet radio service) and soon, 3G (third generation).
“Along with the availability of mobile broadband, this creates a good backdrop for the introduction of mobile traffic applications which provide convenience and value to users,?said Lim Kian Khoon, chief executive officer of iNavigate.
The MSC-status company's solution called m-Traffic became available this year when DiGi launched its enhanced data rates for global evolution (EDGE) network. Apart from multimedia messaging service over GPRS or EDGE phones, the application, which is developed over iNavigate's m-Apps middleware, can be accessed on multimedia messaging service (MMS) over 3G phones.
“The applications and technology are ready, and we are leading in this space,?Lim said.
M-Traffic offers live traffic information with moving pictures as well as still pictures of several traffic jam-prone areas in the Klang Valley and Penang , with more locations elsewhere planned. Still pictures became available in May while live traffic was launched in August.
DiGi determines the sites, and there are now more than 20 locations, including Jalan Damansara (Eastin Highway towards Kuala Lumpur), Awan Kecil (KL) on Kesas Highway, Jalan Kewajipan (Subang Jaya) on Kesas Highway, Sri Petaling (Petaling Jaya) on Kesas Highway, Sunway East (Petaling Jaya) on Kesas Highway, Federal Highway, and Gurney Drive and Komtar in Penang.
DiGi is currently offering a promotional rate of 30 sen per picture, and the normal GPRS charges of 10 sen per kilobyte for prepaid and postpaid customers each time they log on for this service.
Lim said live traffic, which has a two- to five-second delay, is currently in the process of being rolled out. It is available for Jalan Damansara with the Federal Highway next.
Access to the information via the mobile phone offers the highest value as compared to desktop due to its immediacy, Lim said, as it offers users the opportunity to see the traffic situation and take the necessary measures.
"A visual beats a text message in this instance because the word ‘jam' is subjective. What might constitute congestion to one person may be tolerable traffic to another.?
Lim said there is interest from other telecommunications companies in this mobile traffic service, and the popularity of it on DiGi's network has “increased a lot? particularly the viewing patterns of jam hotspots.
He added that other countries have tried similar mobile traffic solutions with mixed results. “In Thailand , they did try doing this, but due to technical issues, they reverted to using SMS (short message service). In China , they have a semi-manual method."

The major challenge for mobile traffic is the availability of a reliable wireless broadband service as the quality of the service is still a little patchy. In the future, automatic, regular updates could be on the cards as people may be able to get traffic information at a set time daily.