29 September 2022

More Bluetooth 'sniffers', traffic cameras on the way to help ease light rail-related disruptions

| Lottie Twyford
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Traffic camera

More traffic lights, more cameras and Bluetooth sniffers are coming to Canberra. Photo: File.

More than a million dollars worth of traffic monitoring cameras and Bluetooth sensors are on the way to the Territory’s roads.

It’s part of the Territory government’s bid to help ease some light rail-related disruptions for motorists facing years of chaos as the major infrastructure project continues.

Yesterday, 600 car parks in the city were closed so work can begin to raise London Circuit.

Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel acknowledged motorists would be feeling the pain.

But he said the government had been and would continue to be upfront with commuters about what to expect and when as early works to raise London Circuit get underway.

He said installing the 40 additional Bluetooth sensors or “sniffers” and 30 new traffic cameras, along with increased traffic monitoring, would help reduce congestion and keep things moving quickly.

“This will give us better data about congestion on our road network so we can provide better real-time information to motorists before and during travel,” Mr Steel told reporters yesterday.

Chris Steel

Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel said motorists would be inconvenienced by light rail construction. Photo: ACT Government.

The information received by cameras and Bluetooth sensors is used to help emergency services respond to accidents on the road network.

It also helps the traffic control network and Roads ACT make better decisions about traffic light signals and road closures, Mr Steel said.

The 180-odd sniffers currently active on Canberra’s roads operate by picking up a Bluetooth-enabled device such as a car or a phone in a car and registering its MAC address.

Another sniffer then picks this up in another location, providing real-time information about travel times to traffic operations teams.

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Mr Steel said data were deidentified, encrypted and deleted as soon as the information had been used for its intended purpose.

“We’re upfront with Canberrans [about this]. We’re using that data for its intended purpose, and we don’t collect any more data than we need to,” he said.

“The measures we are putting in place are reasonable and I think Canberrans understand that.”

He suggested anyone who did not want to be picked up on the road network could turn off their Bluetooth.

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Mr Steel said motorists would need to reconsider parking in the city or consider using public transport.

Offering free public transport wasn’t yet on the cards, but Mr Steel said “further announcements” on this would be made in the future.

He’s previously flagged it is not the government’s view that free public transport across the system would be a useful measure, despite repeated calls from the Opposition to employ it.

“This is a period of disruption which will last several years, so the measures will be tactically employed at certain times,” Mr Steel said.

READ ALSO City traffic disruptions loom as light-rail work gets underway

The ACT Government is assuring Canberrans clear information will continue to be provided via traditional and new media channels throughout the entire light rail process.

There’s still no clear timeline for when light rail passengers will be able to disembark from light rail in Woden. Mr Steel has been hesitant to provide this despite repeated questioning and probing by the Opposition.

He said the government is committed to the project and working through the steps.

Works have just commenced on the signalisation of the Coranderrk Street roundabout and temporary lights will be installed on the northern side of Vernon Circle to allow vehicles to turn right safely to access Constitution Avenue and London Circuit.

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More road closures are anticipated on London Circuit towards the end of the year, but major disruptions are expected next year when one side of Commonwealth Avenue Bridge is closed during the raising of London Circuit.

Negotiations with Canberra Metro for the procurement and construction of Stage 2A are expected to be completed next year, Mr Steel said.

Stage 2A will take light rail to Commonwealth Park.

The cameras and Bluetooth sensors will be online in the coming months.

More information about light rail-related disruptions is available online.

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Crazed_Loner1:06 am 12 Oct 22

Fantastic, they’ll be capable of watching what’s already happening more easily from the comfort of their armchairs. Meanwhile, they can’t do something as useful and simple as to coordinate traffic lights on major arterials.

How will they “provide better real-time information to motorists before and during travel”? Come on Riotact, ask the government difficult questions, hold them to account, don’t just accept their bunkum.

Too true. When Transport Minister Chris Steele say’s “the government had been and would continue to be upfront with commuters about what to expect” the Riotact should be saying you said the same thing about the 2019 bus network redesign and it turned out the opposite of what the ACT government told commuters to expect.

William Newby8:06 pm 30 Sep 22

Given the way that Steel & co manage tenders.. this $1million + investment probably amounts to about $100 worth of parts that you or I could buy on eBay.

Turning off Bluetooth might create a safety risk for those that have smart watches but won’t necessarily carry around a phone. Not to mention that most cars don’t have the option to turn off bluetooth. Illegal surveillance like a communist state.

Love to see the privacy impact assessment that is mandatory for this type of work but never done.
It’s very easy for someone with access to this information to abuse it.
If you know roughly where someone has been you could filter out an individual and then track where they go.

Why is the bluetooth data even stored? If they just want pure numbers then they wouldn’t store it. They are tracking individuals and working out everyone’s daily route.
Presume that they then will change things and see how you respond. Anyone feel like a rat in the maze yet?

HiddenDragon6:48 pm 30 Sep 22

This techno-waffle will be about as helpful as the “USE ALT ROUTE” signs which are typically placed after you’ve passed the last turnoff to an “ALT ROUTE” – assuming there is one.

I don’t have my Bluetooth enabled…so good luck tracking me while I drive.

Scott Macleod2:41 pm 30 Sep 22

Seriously, you are recording peoples MAC addresses! Have we not learnt anything about data collection esp. post Optus. Whilst you’ll argue it isn’t PII, I’d argue it is valuable. If accessed or misused it would allow tracking of an individual. Whilst I can imagine the ways the data could be used imagine the consequences if this was used in a domestic violence incident i.e. a perpetrator used it to track, then harm a victim.

if they are only storing a hash of the mac address I don’t see what the problem could be. I could be wrong, but I don’t see any realistic situation where, even if someone could get this data, could they link it to a person and do any actual harm. Honestly i’m a little queasy about this too, but just because it makes me feel queasy doesn’t mean its actually bad. Certainly there are worse things out there that bring far less benefit.

This is why you don’t leave data privacy to lay people.
If you knew someones mac, which is fairly easy to find and used it with the government hashed data it would be easy to find.
Also you you wanted to find out someones movements even with hashed data you could determine facts like someone had or had not or might have been somewhere based on facts you know about where they had been.

What value does storing the data have vs just capturing the number? Is it a valuable enough reason or are there other nefarious purposes of keeping the detailed data.

Feds are storing metadata about every webpage we visit incase one of us is a terrorist, however how many other government departments how now request access to that data? The number is over 100. These can’t all be about terrorism.

If a perpetrator wanted to use bluetooth to track a victim, they wouldn’t wait for the government to collect the info, they’d do it themselves, using a phone, laptop or $5 dongle. Shopping centres like Westfield have been using bluetooth and wifi MAC addresses to track customers around their malls for years. I know this doesn’t make the practice “OK” but at least the government will have to follow some transparent guidelines if they do it.

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