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Anonymous data from the O2 mobile phone network is being used in a government trial to identify potholes and congestion hotspots.

The Thames Valley Berkshire Live Lab project aims to help local authorities plan improvements to air quality, public health, roads and energy infrastructure.

The trials use crowd movement data collected from anonymised, aggregated O2 mobile connections - as well as anonymised data from air quality sensors and cameras on refuse trucks - to give councils a more accurate picture of issues like potholes and traffic pollution.

Led by Reading Borough council and supported by six local authorities, O2 is working alongside four other technology partners and the University of Reading on the projects as part of the ADEPT SMART Places Live Labs Programme.

The project covers five areas. These include air quality, road surfaces, traffic flow, health and energy.

In order to access road surfaces the project will use anonymised crowd movement data from O2 Motion, road usage information from Siemens, and analysis from 3D cameras mounted on refuse trucks to map the most heavily used local routes with the worst road surface quality to help local authorities prioritise improvements. O2 Motion data will also be used to gain a real-time picture of traffic and explore new, technological ways to ease it.

Sergio Budkin, director of market development at Virgin Media O2, said: “O2 Motion is all about using data to improve people’s experiences, so we are particularly proud to be a part of the Thames Valley Berkshire Live Lab – looking at the potential of tech to map out the smarter towns of the future.

“Anonymised, aggregated data about how we move around can help councils pinpoint the most congested transport routes, and show exactly which roads need improving, exposure to dangerous air pollution, and how residents can make greener choices. And it allows local authorities to make informed improvements, cut carbon emissions and make life better for residents and businesses alike.”

Giles Perkins, Live Labs programme director, said: “The Thames Valley Live Lab demonstrates the potential benefits that aggregating multiple sources of data, from transport, highways and beyond can bring in terms of making a real difference to our communities and places.”