It was unfortunate that the Transport for London, the main regulatory authority for controlling and monitoring the flow of traffic in the city of London, decided not to implement its plan for monitoring mobile phone data while the Olympics 2012 were underway in the city.
Proponents of the project for quite optimistic regarding the outcome of the introduction of the mobile phone data tracking system which according to them, would have given the TfL a great opportunity for trying out a system through which they could have easily managed the surge of commuters on the city’s roads.
London’s infrastructure happens to be the finest in the world and is renowned for its efficiency and effectiveness, and is composed of the Underground and an elaborate bus transit system. Millions of people use the system on a regular basis for travelling from their home to work and other places, and by using the mobile phone tracking system, the TfL could have easily tracked the movement of the people present in the city. In fact, London’s roads and streets experienced the busiest period in their history, and in order to manage things effectively, the TfL had installed a number of systems and implemented programs so that things get along fine.
Under the original plan, the TfL was going to implement the program but announced its cancellation after the Olympic Games had already begun without giving any reason.
In fact, a TfL spokeswoman announced:
“In short, we did not go ahead with this”
during a press conference without elaborating on the reasons why the idea was dropped in the first place.
Experts had been quite excited about the implementation of such a program since this would have given them a real life insight regarding the potentials of this system which is still in the process of being developed. On the basic level, a large number of companies from around the world are engaged in the development of modern versions of mobile tracking software and have come up with new apps for smartphones through which you can track down the mobile phone user from any part of the world.
However, the system which had to be introduced by the TfL has received a lot of criticism from human rights group which consider to be an invasion and infringement of one’s privacy.
It is a fact that a large number of intelligence agencies, most prominently the FBI, have been using a mobile tracking system for which they have faced the wrath of rights groups. Therefore, it might not come as a surprise that the TfL might have shied away from using this system in order to avoid criticism in the future from such groups. The prospects of the mobile phone tracking system being used on such a massive scale were raised when the director of the Games Transport, a department established at the TfL for developing and controlling the flow of traffic during the London 2012 Olympics, Mark Evers, announced that the authority is discussing ways through which they can resolve traffic problems during the games, and suggested the use of mobile data anonymously collected for monitoring the movement of people that would have come in very handy for ensuring the smooth running of the public transport system.
London had undergone a massive revamp of its public transport infrastructure, which included the development of dedicated routes leading to the Olympic venues, changes in the traffic light system, temporary suspension of parking spots, expansion of the East London Line in the Overground System, upgrading the light train infrastructure, the introduction of a new high speed train system together with a cable car system introduced for the purpose. However, traffic problems remained an issue at the end of the day, but overall, it was something that most experts had a consensus about and had predicted its implementation earlier considering the fact that the IOC had declared that London had lagged behind in its public transport when the city underwent review from the committee during the bidding process.
The idea of using the mobile tracking system was to gather data regarding the influx of crowds into the city during the Olympic games
Mr. Evers had also mentioned that the idea of implementing this system was to gather information that would have been useful in detecting congestion zones, places where the public moved but also, however, the authority also wanted to avoid overburdening itself with too much unneeded information that would just go underutilized with the authority ending up wasting money uselessly. Therefore, the authority’s decision might have been somewhat justified in the sense that the idea of using the mobile tracking system was to gather data regarding the influx of crowds into the city during the Olympic games, and in this regard, several other systems had been already in place. While the mobile tracking system would have been a welcome addition considering how sophisticated the system is, but at the end of the day, the authority made a decision for not going ahead.
For those of you wondering as to which technology would have been used, the GSM technology seems to be the most likely. This is because the GSM technology is being used currently, by the departments of different governments from around the world. For example, the FBI being one of the most high tech organizations uses the GSM mobile phone technology known as the Stingray through which they have located several criminals and made arrests. While this might sound like an act of espionage, but for TfL, it could have been about tracking the movement of people only and planning the traffic system accordingly.
However, such a situation does not undermine the future prospects of this technology which has a lot of potential for development and would be used in ensuring better flow of traffic in large cities especially those in the developing world. In fact, reports from Beijing indicate that the traffic authority over there is actively considering implementing such a program considering the fact that the city is notorious for its traffic jams which are the worst in the world.