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Japanese company to launch maps predicting congestion, proposing tailored detours

Major map maker Zenrin Co. plans to launch in fiscal 2021 technology to show on maps the flow of crowds predicted from within a few minutes to a few months and begin selling it to operators of trains and buses.

The technology also suggests alternative routes to avoid predicted congestions, and thus is expected to be used as a way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Zenrin also aims to turn the technology into the key component in smart city initiatives. The smart city concept refers to next-generation urban design where information technologies are leveraged to a massive extent to improve services and reduce energy waste.

Also, the company plans to provide its technology and services to individual users via smartphone apps.

In 2019, Zenrin compiled a map database that included roads and railway lines nationwide as well as aisles and corridors in transportation hubs such as train stations and airports.

The company combines GPS data generated from mobile phones with highly detailed maps and then its AI system analyzes the movement of people. By factoring in additional information such as weather and events, predictions can be displayed on a digital map of how human traffic flows might change — from a few minutes in the future to several months.

While the company’s mapping technology is able to visualize outdoor scenarios, such as traffic jams or the flow of people shopping in the streets, it can also map crowds in stations and even track the movement of groups inside train carriages.

Such maps in future could help users pick optimal routes while avoiding close-contact situations as a measure against the novel coronavirus.

If transportation service operators conducting Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) programs use the company’s maps, Zenrin will allow them to optimize map data for the local areas in which they use it and provide their passengers with it.

Additional features of smartphone app maps include the accumulation of user location and purchase history data. Zenrin is considering an optional service that predicts its users’ potential interests in tourist spots and restaurants near to their locations and then proposes brief but individually tailored detours.

In March last year, Zenrin formed an equity partnership with NTT Corp. in some fields including smart city initiatives.

It is likely that the two companies will consider business collaborations utilizing the mapping service.

Published : January 26, 2021

By : The Japan News/ANN