Digital Life: Never get stuck in twaffic again
There's nothing more dispiriting than getting stuck in a traffic jam. One minute you're happily cruising to your destination, the next you're stationary, pounding the steering wheel in frustration and ready to go postal as a sudden tailback stretches into the distance.
Sat-navs make it pretty handy to route around a jam but only if you have advance notice. That requires tuning in to the news on the radio or checking the AA Roadwatch website before you leave.
Until now, there was no live traffic-reporting system in Ireland as in the UK and the US, where alerts about trouble spots can be delivered to a sat-nav.
After testing the waters with a text-based alert system, Irish firm iTraffic has released the first sat-nav software to incorporate live traffic information for this country.
Dubbed Twaffic Navigator, it's an app available for a wide range of smartphones including iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and some Nokias.
Twaffic is based on the existing WisePilot app, a simplified sat-nav, but adds the crucial ingredient of regularly updated traffic info.
Plot your trip the way you would with any sat-nav and Twaffic warns you of any current bottlenecks/roadworks giving you the option to route around them.
If congestion develops ahead of you while driving, an alert pops up on your phone's screen, suggesting an alternative route.
The iTraffic people get their data from three sources: fleet vehicles recording trouble spots; traffic reports such as AA Roadwatch; and, most cleverly, by monitoring the movement of random mobile phones.
With O2's help, this latter method anonymously tracks how fast cars are travelling based on the signals from mobile phones in them. Lots of slow-moving mobiles on a normal road equals congestion, for instance.
Though the company claims to monitor 20,000km of road in Ireland, iTraffic is the first to admit traffic warnings aren't extensive, confined mostly to motorways and other major roads. But it's a creditable start for a small Irish firm.
Twaffic isn't the most comprehensive of sat-nav apps. But all versions (except for iPhone) have some nice touches for business users, such as the ability to record routes and times or to plan trips on the web and sync them to the app.
However, it also requires a constant internet connection on your phone to work and map coverage is Republic of Ireland only. That may make it look a little expensive for its subscription of €50 a year.
But it's a fair bet the real-time information from iTraffic will soon find its way into devices and apps from the big guns such as Garmin and TomTom.