BirdsEye, a Geographical information systems company has introduced traffic updates for the cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Gurgaon, Noida and Ghaziabad at its website Traffsol.com. The company relies on probe vehicles that it signs up with, and collects GPS based data from taxis, cars, buses and call center vehicles. Brijraj Vaghani, co-founder Birds Eye, told MediaNama that they have over 2000 vehicles in the Delhi-NCR and Ghaziabad region, and around 500 vehicles in Mumbai, and information from them is being plotted live on the map.

Unlike updates from the traffic police on Twitter and Facebook, Vaghani says that they get the actual speed of the car, whereas the social media updates tell you whether there is a jam or not, and speeds are high or low. That is subjective. They get actual speeds (like 13.2 kmph) and have mapped roads as class A and Class B, and depending on the average speed of traffic on a road and the time of day, the traffic is shown as Slow (red), Medium (blue) and Smooth (green) on the map. “For example on the Noida toll bridge, 40 kmph is smooth speed, but 30 kmph is lower than expected.” For the first year, they are only doing category A and B roads. “If there is an intersection, we can even tell you how much time a user has to spend at an intersection. We calculate that right now, but right now its not displayed at the website.”

Why They Are Not Using Triangulation

Vaghani says that in India the first challenge is that triangulation won’t quite work because the distance between roads can be less than 50 metres and 100 metres. The other problem with using triangulation is that you don’t quite know whether the person carrying the phone is in a bus, car, or a cycle, so the speeds will be different. “It’s not like the US where there are highway sedans moving, but it’s not that it cant be done.”

He adds that they would eventually have to move towards a triangulation and use user content to supplement the data, so users have incentive to get the data.

Why Online First? Mobile App Plans

“It was the easiest way for us to launch, and showcase it to customers. We will be rolling out apps. There is an effort to integrate with personal navigation devices, but I can’t name the partners yet,” Vaghani says. It’s worth pointing out that the first deployment of BirdsEye’s services was with MapMyIndia when they launched their traffic updates last year. “Once we deliver the smart phone app, we know you’re getting into a jam, and can give you route suggestions. It’s not easy to integrate police alerts on jams because they look at cctv cameras in the police rooms and send an alert. That comes down to manual interpretation.”

Funding & Working With Telcos

So how has BirdEye funded this deployment? The company is bootstrapped, with some backing from IIM Ahmedabad’s CIIE. “We have one paid customer and we’re looking to expand now. We are talking to angel investors.”

Why would a vehicle deploy their system and how do they monetize the service? “At this point in time, and we have a business arrangement, revenue share and upfront cash. We make money by selling this to Map companies, and we’ll be doing VAS services. We’ll do SMS alerts, a mobile website. We’re working with telcos on this, and we’ll be charging the users, which we’ll finalize with the telcos,” Vaghani adds.

Usability

One of the things we noticed was that in comparison with the earlier MapMyIndia deployment, which marked a road as red or green, the current deployment has dots on either side of the road. “With the previous deployment, users weren’t able to distinguish between two sides of the road – one going up and one going down. Having lines drawn on both sides is not efficient. I would prefer to do lines.” Each represents a vehicle being tracked, and the side indicates the traffic on that side of the road.