Houstonian Corner (Volume 13 Issue 36)

September 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

AWAM Makes Houston a Leader in Traffic Technology

Houston, Texas (Jalopnik): A massive wall of video screens displays real-time images from a network of cameras, while employees look at a million points of data on their own computers. It’s Houston’s other mission control, and they’ve now got a new tool to combat congestion: your Bluetooth device.

Companies such as Trapster and Google use cell phone GPS information to monitor traffic conditions, with varying results, but no one has tried snatching real-time data directly from Bluetooth devices along a network of sensors the way Houston’s cutting edge TranStar traffic monitoring center is currently doing it.

Anonymous Wireless Address Matching (AWAM) takes the individual MAC address on Bluetooth-enabled systems like phones, hands-free devices, computers, and even Sony PSP Go gaming devices and tracks them as they enter a roadway equipped with a sensor.

If you’ve got your iPhone in your pocket and you drive along Interstate 45 leaving downtown Houston the system records a version of your MAC address.

When you cross another sensor it records you again, recognizing you as the same vehicle. It then takes your speed between the two points and averages it with everyone else passing through the same two points.

This new approach provides Houston with a cheaper, more accurate, and more detailed traffic view than other car monitoring systems such as Automatic Vehicle Identification (AVI) technology, which the region also uses to monitor traffic.

“[AWAM is] dirt cheap!” said David Fink, with the Texas Department of Transportation Houston District. “If our current multi-lane AVI sensors cost $75,000 on the cheap end to install, the most expensive version of the AWAM with solar power and Wi-Fi costs $8,000.”

The costs get even cheaper when the sensor can be added to a normal traffic box, averaging around $1,000 a piece, or 75 times less than a cheap AVI sensor. This potential savings was the main impetus for creating a new system, although it provides other advantages as well.

“Unlike other sensor methods, this system is asynchronous (continually asking and receiving information,” said Texas Transportation Institute Research Scientist Darryl Puckett. “Every (MAC) address detected is processed instantaneously.”

They’ve attempted to overload the system with MAC addresses but, at 6,000-per-second, the system still works. The more data, the more accurate, and the first set of sensors rolled in West Houston and along I-45 have produced a lot of data.

“The accuracy, once we developed an algorithm that eliminated the outliers, has been consistent because the accuracy of the data is absolute,” said Puckett, who says the system learns when a Starbucks or Verizon store is nearby skewing the data.

Houston TranStar says the data is also doubly secure from privacy invasion because the MAC addresses are given anonymous numbers in the system despite the fact that a MAC address on a bluetooth headset, for instance, isn’t something as simple to track like an IP address.

For individuals driving through the Houston area this means they can get up-to-the-second information on travel times between two points, either via the the TranStar website on the device that, itself, is giving information to TranStar, or on transportation information signs located along major interstates that spit out detailed information like “Travel time to 1960 from Betlway 8 is 13 minutes at 4:46 pm.”

While AWAM makes Houston a leader in traffic technology, the area’s strong economy, sprawling layout, and crazy accidents still makes Houston a leader in needing it.
Necessity is the mother of invention and Houston’s traffic is one big mother…

AWAM

Photo Credit: Eschipul, Houston Transtar

Bereavement: Inna Lil Lahae Wa Inna Illahae Rajioun

Houston, Texas: It is being informed with much sorrow and pains that eldest sister of Director of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH) Southwest Zone Brother Moon Khan, has passed away in Pakistan. May God Bless her with Mughfirah & Janat-ul-Firdous and Give Immense Strength to the whole family to bear this immense loss (Aameen). One can reach Brother Moon Khan at 1-713-530-8034.

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HPD Police Chief Recognizes Officer’s Heroism

July 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Houston, Texas: Houston Police Chief Charles A. McClelland, Jr. proudly presented HPD Lieutenant Harry Zamora with the Medal of Valor Award at a ceremony on July 06 at the Fondren Police Station.

HPD Chief Charles McClelland Jr presents Lt Harry Zamora with the Medal of ValorOn February 22, Lieutenant Zamora saw an elderly man trapped in a Cadillac engulfed in flames on the inside shoulder of the Southwest Freeway.  Several citizens braved the flames in order to lift the vehicle away from the guard rail so Lieutenant Zamora could open the door and free the man.  Lieutenant Zamora suffered third degree burns to his hand in the process.

It was those actions which prompted Chief McClelland to present Lieutenant Zamora with the department’s most prestigious award.

“I’ve known Lieutenant Zamora for a long time,” said HPD Chief McClelland.  “He has always been a dedicated professional and a dedicated police officer,” he said.

“Heroes always think of themselves last and clearly Lieutenant Zamora’s actions fall into that category.  However, they go to the heart and soul of what HPD is all about,” Chief McClelland added.

“All I remember is seeing the vehicle completely engulfed in flames.  There were pieces flying off and it was exploding,” said Lieutenant Zamora.  “The heat was so intense, I knew I was going to get burned, I just didn’t know how badly I was going to get burned,” he added.

“I’m deeply honored to be receiving this award today,” said Lieutenant Harry Zamora.  “But it is also a sad reminder that Mr. Lloyd Sanchez passed away shortly after the incident.”

Lieutenant Zamora’s actions were much appreciated by Mr. Sanchez’s daughter.

“April told me she was thankful we were able to get her father out of the car and get him to the hospital so she had time to make the trip from Dallas and say goodbye,” said Lieutenant Zamora.

April Sanchez is now creating the Sanchez-Zamora Foundation in honor of her father and Lieutenant Zamora.  Proceeds will go towards helping other burn victims.  For more information email the foundation at sanchezzamorafoundation@gmail.com.

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Precious Cargo

April 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

sleepycraYou can see them popping their heads through an open car sunroof as it speeds down the highway or bouncing up and down in the back of a car in motion. No, they’re not animals such as a cat or dog traveling with its master. They are unrestrained children living in some of the world’s richest nations. It’s a startling phenomena given that America’s legal system has gone to great lengths to protect American children traveling in motor vehicles in the United States by making seat belts and car seats for young children a part of the law. However, the utter disregard for the safety of children traveling in motor vehicles in the Middle East is alarming. In fact, it is an epidemic that threatens entire generations of children.

This past winter a father in Kuwait paid dearly for his lesson in passenger safety. A family trip to the desert turned tragic as the SUV the father was driving jostled under the bumpy desert terrain. His son was standing upright inside the car as his upper body was outside. All it took was a single bump to throw the son from the car and into the path of his father’s vehicle. With no time to regain control of the vehicle, the father ran over his son and crushed him to death. Stories like this are common all across the Middle East as many parents take the road less traveled by not securing all passengers before turning that ignition key.

The problem is widespread and, while most countries in the Middle East pay lip service to restraining children inside of motor vehicles and do have laws requiring car seats and seat belts on the books, there is no enforcement of vehicular laws meant to protect children. It is up to parents to decide whether or not to restrain their children inside the vehicle. Unfortunately, most parents pay little attention to the safety of their children inside the car.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), for example, has one of the worst records for unrestrained children in the Middle East. According to recent research, car accidents are the number one killer of children in the sheikhdom with 63% of child deaths last year alone being linked to car or roadway accidents. Further, UAE authorities have determined that an estimated 98% of children in the country are not restrained when traveling by motor vehicle.

There is little data regarding children and road safety in other regions of the Middle East as research over the issue in scarce. However the problem will most likely continue to deteriorate, as countless children will undoubtedly pay for the negligence of adults with their very lives.

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