Orlando to start tracking downtown drivers using Bluetooth readers


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Fox 35 reported yesterday that the City of Orlando plans to deploy $134,000 worth of Bluetooth readers downtown as part of a program to reduce traffic congestion.

Bluetooth readers mounted near traffic lights will automatically pair with cellphones or receivers built into citizen's cars in an effort to determine how many cars pass through an intersection and how long it takes them to travel between intersections throughout the day. 

"We are trying to make sure that our signal system is optimized for pedestrian movement, emergency vehicle movement, and for regular automobile movement," said Charles Ramsdatt, and Orlando traffic engineer, in an interview with Fox 35.

Citing privacy concerns, Ramsdatt said that the Bluetooth readers would not retrieve enough information to identify individuals or their travel routes. 

 "We never know who the person is to begin with because we are only looking at a short portion of the address," he said.

Cassandra Lafser, a spokeswoman for the City of Orlando, said that several state agencies have used Bluetooth readers to monitor traffic in the past.

"The [Florida Department of Transportation] has used readers along state roads, and I know that they've been installed in Seminole County as well," she said.

The Bluetooth communication standard, named after 10th century Viking king Harald Bluetooth, has long been used as a means to pair together devices like wireless headphones, keyboards and smartwatches.

With the advent of the Bluetooth Low Energy standard (BLE), most devices now come equipped with Bluetooth technology. BLE is the same technology used in Apple's iBeacons, which are deployed around shopping centers to track when customers enter and leave stores.

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