The app send motorists free text messages of where they are and the traffic conditions, including recommending a route to take to avoid a traffic jam. Currently, it is available on two mobile telecommunication networks: Airtel and Safaricom.
Users in Nairobi can sign up for the service by dialing *384*3# on their Safaricom line, or by dialing *381# on mobile phones connected to the Airtel network.
It bases its recommendations on a central system that uses image recognition algorithms to process the traffic camera feeds and a separate algorithm to predict traffic on streets not covered by the cameras. Users can get recommendations via SMS or on a map interface.
IBM Research Africa partnered with AccessKenya Group, an Internet service provider that has webcams in Nairobi’s central business district for streaming traffic images.
Drivers, as well as road users, initiate the query by sending a text message to our server stating the road they want traffic information about. The server then provides feedback by texting the driver about the traffic situation.
Uyi Stewart, chief scientist of IBM Research Africa, says traffic jams contribute to loss of KSh50 million (around US$600,000) a day in Nairobi because of lost productivity.
IBM is trying to position its research to serve the growing number of African countries transitioning from resource extraction to service economies. “Data is the next generation of resources in Africa.
The lab is also involved in setting up systems that make it easy to collect useful economic data, such as agricultural performance, weather, pricing, and finding ways to capitalize on the information. Farmers, for example, could obtain access to certain data themselves in return for participating in mobile phone surveys.