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CATT Technology Sees Fireworks

CATT Technology Sees Fireworks

Researchers at the Center for Advanced Transportation Technology test Bluetooth technology during the July Fourth celebration on the National Mall. The technology was developed at CATT to help measure traffic flows by utilizing Bluetooth wireless communication technology, found in electronic devices such as cell phones, car radios, and personal digital assistants (PDAs).

The Bluetooth technology which was developed at CATT has now been commercialized by Traffax, Inc. Traffax along with the Washington, D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) and assistance from Transportation Perspectives, Inc. collaborated in the July Fourth demonstration and test to measure vehicle and pedestrian traffic flows during this special event.

The preliminary results of this demonstration show the potential of the Bluetooth technology to effectively measure travel conditions in urban areas. The data, which was collected along Seventh Street, N.W., shows the influx of pedestrians before the beginning of the Independence Day celebrations, and the flood of pedestrians and vehicles at the conclusion of the fireworks. Congestion in the vicinity of the Metro stations could also be identified. Additional analysis will be performed by Traffax and the Transportation Perspectives to confirm this conclusion and develop a complete picture of the operations along Seventh Street in the vicinity of the data collection sites.

The traffic data collected by the Bluetooth equipment can be used to manage vehicle and pedestrian traffic flows in various applications such as retiming traffic signals, directing motorists and pedestrians to less congested corridors and transit stations, and dispatching appropriate personnel to bottleneck locations. The information collected for DDOT during the July 4 fireworks will be used to develop improved computer models of the D.C. transportation system, enhancing their ability to plan for special events and emergency evacuations.

Travel time is increasingly being used by transportation officials to judge the quality of service they are providing, as opposed to more subjective measures of congestion, which have been used in the past. Until now, it has been impossible for transportation engineers to accurately measure the travel times of either vehicles or pedestrians in urban areas.

Unlike other traffic monitoring methods, which might threaten personal privacy, the Bluetooth equipment operates in a manner that protects the public from potential abuse. The Bluetooth addresses being received cannot be associated with specific individuals, vehicles, or devices.    The received data is used to produce statistical summaries that ignore the movements of any particular electronic device. The records of specific addresses are discarded during processing.  As a result, the privacy issues associated with technologies such as cell phone location, closed circuit television monitoring, and license plate reading, are avoided.

This technology was initially developed at the University of Maryland Center for Advanced Transportation Technology using funding provided by the I-95 Corridor Coalition and the Maryland State Highway Administration. The State Highway Administration, the Maryland Industrial Partnerships program, the Chesapeake Bay Seed Capital Fund and the Federal Highway Administration have provided Traffax with continuing support for further development and commercialization of this Bluetooth product. Traffax was established in 2008 under the University’s VentureAccelerator program.

For more information about this technology or the recent test, contact Philip Tarnoff at 301.403.4619 or at Additional information can be found at and

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July 9, 2009

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