MIT Professor’s Innovative IoT Sensors Revolutionize Road Safety

By Sunil Sonkar
2 Min Read
MIT Professor's Innovative IoT Sensors Revolutionize Road Safety

In 2005, when smartphones were not as common, MIT Professor Hari Balakrishnan decided he had enough of traffic delays in Boston. He got tired of traffic jams, so he and his team at MIT made CarTel, a mobile system that checks road conditions.


CarTel, or car telematics, is like a smart car system. It uses fancy tech stuff to find bumps and potholes on the road by looking at how traffic moves with GPS and a special tool called an accelerometer.

Fast forward to 2010, Balakrishnan and co-founders turned CarTel into reality by launching Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT). Now the world’s largest telematics service provider, CMT’s data is used by insurance companies, car manufacturers, rideshare services, and public agencies to enhance road safety and driver behavior.

Balakrishnan, who lately bagged the Marconi Prize, is known for helping with smart devices and networks. But, he is a humble guy and says it is not just him – it is also his team, students and friends who made it happen.

Balakrishnan’s vision for CarTel came about during discussions with MIT Professor Samuel Madden, leading to the birth of one of the first mobile sensing projects. They later founded CMT, with Madden as the chief scientist.

Despite having the technology, the startup lacked a business model until 2009 when William V. Powers, a seasoned sales executive, became Balakrishnan’s business partner and CMT’s CEO. They got the idea for their business by reading about insurance companies using fancy and costly gadgets to check how people drive. Then, they figured out they could do the same thing using regular phones and cheap smart devices.

Their first idea turned into DriveWell, which is like a smart system powered by AI. Balakrishnan’s innovative spirit extends to indoor location systems. Between 1999 and 2004, he oversaw the development of the Cricket indoor location system, combining radio frequency and ultrasound technologies.

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