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Sun 9 May 2004 04:00 AM

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UAE University and IBM hope to make roads safer

With one person being injured every two hours and one death on the UAE roads every 15 hours, IBM and the UAE University are partnering to develop a ‘smart box’ device, similar to black boxes used in flights aimed at reducing traffic collisions.

With more than one person being injured every two hours in a road accident in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the UAE University and IBM are partnering to work on a ‘smart box’ device, similar to black boxes used in flights aimed at reducing traffic collisions.

United Arab Emirates (UAE) University, pointing to government traffic studies, said the country has seen a steady climb in the number of auto-related fatalities in the past few years. In addition to those people injured, there is one death on UAE roads approximately every 15 hours.

“These statistics are very alarming, especially when one considers that the UAE has some of the best maintained highways in the world,” said Dr. Ali Alnoaimi, deputy vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, UAE University.

To help solve the problem, the university has signed an agreement with IBM’s engineering & Technology Services organisation to design, develop and test what the school termed a telematics smart box, a tool similar to the so-called black box found in aircraft, which can capture, analyse and deliver relevant data via a wireless network.

The University’s College of Information Technology is co-developing the smart box with IBM, uses multiple microprocessors based on IBM's Power Architecture with a multitude of sensors, can be attached to the automobile’s carriage to, for example, monitor the vehicle's speed, comparing it to the speed limit of the street. If the car speed is higher than the speed limit allowed by the traffic department, the box would talk to the driver and issue a verbal warning and aid the police to track gross speeding violations.

“Such a device could be very effective in reducing road accidents. Drivers, the government, parents, young people, pedestrians, all would benefit from this safety effort,” adds Dr. Alnoaimi said. The box, which is currently in the concept stage is expected to be in the pilot or testing stage by August this year.

In the pilot, the university’s College of IT will team with IBM, the country’s Centre of Excellence for Applied Research and Training (CERT) and the local police departments within UAE. The team will define the requirements, test the box in UAE cars, and agree on what to record, what actions to take to expand the area of application, and on what languages to support since the device 'talks' to the drivers.

“CERT is pleased to be engaged in this project, since it is so important for our nation and, indeed, for the entire region,” said Dr. Tayeb Kamali, CEO of CERT.

The box, which isn’t expected to be much larger than a typical PDA, leverages a number of specific software applications, including Global Positioning System (GPS) and IBM’s ViaVoice text to speech software also features Bluetooth wireless technology.

IBM and the university are also investigating the possibility of enabling this box to function as a doorway to web-based services for drivers and other third parties, such as insurance companies. According to Big Blue, the telematics solutions boasts of an open architecture, which makes it the ideal platform for offering future “on demand” services for drivers.

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