Big Data Rules the Road

While driving to Savannah earlier this year I used Google Maps to guide me through the maze in Atlanta. As I approached downtown a pleasant female voice from my phone informed me of a quicker route around an upcoming gridlock. I glanced at the route being displayed on the phone and was dumbfounded. She wanted me to get off the highway and drive through a few streets in downtown Atlanta to avoid a traffic accident on the Interstate.

Thinking this would be a good test, I took Google up on it, and before I knew it, was back on the highway past the wreck, and driving 65 again. Ok, I really wasn’t driving 65, it’s Atlanta. More like 35, then 60, then 25, then 65.

Perplexed, and curious, I had to find out how an App on a smartphone could help me navigate through traffic jams in real time.

It all comes down to Big Data, the internet, and GPS.

You see, Google anonymously tracks the speed of all those Smartphones using the Maps App, and by using the aggregated movement they can get a good picture of the live traffic condition. It’s called crowdsourcing, and they have been doing it all over the United States for years.

When Google bought the traffic app “Waze” in 2013, they got an even better traffic picture using driver input to indicate actual accidents, and road construction.

Over the years Google has compiled enough data to create accurate models to predict traffic levels for different periods of the day and week for urban areas.

Now, stop and think of the amount of data that is being sent, analyzed and then made available for millions of users, visually through an App.

I’ve tested this real time traffic feature while driving through Nashville, Birmingham, St. Louis, and Orlando, and it’s pretty accurate. My destination arrival time has been within 15-20 minutes of their ETA for most of my travels.

A great example of how Big Data helps us, the consumer.

Amazing times we live in……..


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