Densebrain Wants To Track Phones In the Subway

DensebrainBy tracking phones, the trains themselves can be tracked for the convenience of the people who ride them on a daily basis. This is the new free app released by Densebrain on Monday, which seeks to put the subway on the map, literally.

According to the Times:

“Densebrain’s project works by taking note of which cellphone tower a phone is communicating with. It then looks for disruptions in service followed by significant changes in location. If a phone located near Times Square suddenly loses service and reconnects at Prince Street and Broadway 15 minutes later, then it has almost certainly traveled there using the N or R trains.

This type of data, when taken from large numbers of phones and analyzed algorithmically, could give an accurate look at the performance of the entire subway system in real time.”

The people at Densebrain also had this to write about their latest creation, which actually has unrelated variants in other large cities where the commuter network plays an important role in everyday life:

“NextTrain utilizes the power of crowd sourcing, meaning that it will leverage a critical mass of commuters to drive accurate and reliable information for train locations. As user support increases, the algorithm will become more intelligent at determining the next train arrival time.

The technology behind NextTrain works by picking up changes in Base Station Identification, which are the physical towers to which cell phones are connected. In every form of above ground travel, the phone connects to towers as it moves around the city. But the lack of reception in the subway, a positive for the first time, means that the phone is unable to connect to base stations along the route. Once active, NextTrain automatically notices the difference in these connections and then submits an anonymous report when the user exits the station. A central server aggregates these reports and removes any erroneous signals before updating the times within the app.”

Via: The New York Times