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Newport Beach will monitor drivers’ Bluetooth data to analyze traffic, congestion

Newport Beach will monitor drivers' Bluetooth data to better understand traffic, congestion.
(File photo)

Newport Beach will use Bluetooth technology in an effort to improve traffic flow.

The City Council agreed Tuesday night to buy a traffic monitoring system that, in several locations around town, will ping signals off Bluetooth-enabled equipment such as cellphones and in-car hands-free devices, building a real-time profile of motorists’ routes and travel times.

Brad Sommers, an engineer with the city, told the council that generally, when the city wants to time its traffic signals, it runs a study over a couple of days.

The newly approved BlueTOAD system will gather unique but anonymous “signature” data in real time.

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Equipment and software will cost about $119,000 and include 12 detection devices to be placed along the Balboa Peninsula, MacArthur Boulevard, Newport Coast Drive and Coast Highway. The California Department of Transportation already has its own BlueTOAD devices on Coast Highway.

By comparing the time it takes a car to get from one detection device to another, traffic engineers can get an idea of congestion. Or the city can study patterns that show strategic routes, such as “what percentage of people may, say, have taken Coast Highway to MacArthur to get to John Wayne Airport, or maybe they took Newport Coast and up the hill that way,” Sommers said.

The data are aggregated to show trends with no private information, he said.

The city’s system is expected to be in place by the beginning of 2018.

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