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TFL shelves plans to monitor mobile phone data during London Olympics

31 Jul 2012
Commuters waiting on platform of underground station

Transport for London (TFL) has told V3 that it has shelved plans to monitor mobile phone data during the Olympics and Paralympic Games.

The original plans were supposed to enable TFL to track the movement of huge numbers of people around London during the city's busiest period in history.

"In short, we did not go ahead with this," said a TFL spokeswoman, refusing to elaborate on why the plans had not been put into practice.

Mark Evers, director of Games Transport at TFL, first discussed the plans with V3 in April, suggesting there were potential benefits in using anonymised mobile phone data as a "real-time monitoring tool".

However, Evers said at the time that the idea may not go ahead, stressing the importance for TFL in achieving a balance of gaining the right amount of useful information on the public's whereabouts, while avoiding overloading itself with too many data sources, many of which would not be used.

TFL is already tracking a number of data sources to assess crowds and congestion during the Olympics, including Oyster Card information and CCTV footage. It has also expanded the use of its sophisticated computerised system, Split Cycle Offset Optimisation Technique (Scoot), which monitors traffic control systems in London so that they can be adapted according to traffic and congestion.

In recent weeks it has also emerged that TFL has made major changes to the phasing of the 1,300 traffic lights across the capital to help free up traffic on dedicated Olympic lanes, reserved for competing athletes.

A TFL spokeswoman told V3 that the lights will respond to traffic flows in real time, with the red light being prolonged at some junctions if the dedicated lanes become too congested.

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Rosalie Marshall

Rosalie Marshall is the special projects editor and chief reporter at V3. Previously she was a reporter for IT Week and channel editor for online television site Rosalie covers government IT, business applications, IT skills, open source technology and social networks.

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