One of Wilmington’s newest tenants is a global provider of traffic data
BY CHRISTINE FACCIOLO
Special to Delaware Business Times
Over the last 20 years, TrafficCast has become a global provider of digital traffic data and software. The firm develops technology, applications and content that forecast travel times, monitor road speeds and track construction activity and accidents.
Despite steady growth, CEO Al McGowan didn’t feel the company would continue to evolve if it remained headquartered in Delaware County, Pennsylvania.
“The site we had out in Newtown Square was on a beautiful campus, but it didn’t have a lot of energy if you know what I mean,” he said.
The company explored other nearby locations and sites in Philadelphia, but none felt quite right.
Then McGowan paid a visit to Wilmington. TrafficCast had been working with Zip Code Wilmington and CompassRed, both located in The Mill co-working space on the fourth floor of the Nemours Building.
After touring the facility with founder Robert Herrara, McGowan settled on the company’s new home. TrafficCast opened its East Coast operations at The Mill in June bringing with it 68 jobs and the promise of more.
“The ecosystem [Herrara] created here is energizing for the kind of people we want to attract and retain: young developers, [quality assurance] and operations people,” McGowan said.
Indeed, ready access to well-trained and capable workers was a critical factor in the decision to relocate, McGowan said. He pointed to the nonprofit Zip Code Wilmington, which graduates a new class of coders every three months, as a potential pipeline for young and eager talent.
“I can post a vacancy and immediately have applicants line up outside the door,” he said.
State and local officials have also been responsive. “We do business in 48 states and six countries, and we’ve had access to as many government officials and business leaders as we’ve had anywhere,” McGowan said.
TrafficCast’s products include Dynaflow, a software that collects and integrates billions of data points daily to determine real-time traveler and traffic incident information.
Another is BlueTOAD, a Bluetooth signal detection that matches Bluetooth signals combined with travel-time performance.
TrafficCast also has TrafficCarma, a crowd-sourced mobile traffic application that provides advice on routes used by daily commuters for everyday journeys.
TrafficCast takes the data it collects and applies artificial intelligence and machine learning to create algorithms that deliver real-time and predictive information. The company has access to 25,000 cameras through partnerships with state transportation departments.
“We don’t have to find the traffic,” McGowan said. “It finds us.”
Each dot on a TrafficCast map represents an individual vehicle driving down a given street. Click on the dot and you’ll find out how fast the vehicle is traveling and the direction. If the vehicle is traveling slow for that particular stretch of roadway, TrafficCast gets an alert. A staffer than investigates to see if the road is in fact closed or if traffic is able to get through.
“Closures are very important to us,” McGowan said. “You don’t want to send someone onto a closed road.”
Not long after the company relocated to Wilmington, TrafficCast partnered with Technical.ly to challenge the community to come up with fresh ideas for new app features that would improve the daily commute based on the company’s market information and data.
“We have our heads down so deep into our data that we don’t always see possibilities,” said McGowan. “It was fun to see the different insights of how people look at our data and what can be done with it. It’s helpful for us to get different points of view. We also wanted to raise our awareness level. We’ve been pretty low-key.”
First prize for best new idea went to Raghav Hardas and his “Rise and Drive” app, which combines a personal assistant and calendar with traffic tech. Second-place winner Katrice Williams-Dredden offered an app called “Hop,” which provided tools for getting around regardless of ability. Third place went to 15 year-old Dorcas Olatunji, who presented her idea for a student-focused carpool app.
“She just blew everybody away,” said McGowan. “She was by far the best presenter.”
McGowan, a Malvern, Pennsylvania, resident and University of Delaware alum with a degree in civil engineering, got involved with traffic reporting at Shadow Traffic when the industry used helicopters to collect data.
“The technology we brought in was putting up remote-controlled cameras all over the country,” he said.
After Shadow was sold to Westwood One, McGowan founded a company called traffic.com, a more technologically sophisticated company that eventually went public and was sold to Navteq before being acquired by Nokia. Not long after, McGowan was tapped by TrafficCast to re-position the company for the future.
McGowan said that what TrafficCast is doing now could not have been done twenty years ago.