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Ottawa Nav offers traffic help to commuters

The City of Ottawa has paired up with Flybits, a Toronto-based start-up affiliated with Ryerson University, to create a navigation app that allows commuters real-time information about traffic reports.

The app, called Ottawa Nav, is free for users and is available on iOS and Android systems.

Hossein Rahnama, chief executive officer of Flybits, said the company allows different disciplines, such as healthcare or retail, to use their platform to manage information gathered by mobile devices. The company started working with the City of Ottawa about a year ago to enable it to become digitally connected with commuters without exposing the infrastructure.

“We put a foundation in place that cameras have been connected together and traffic information can be aggregated automatically,” Rahnama said.

In a press release, Mayor Jim Watson announced that the app “offers another means to connect with residents and provide additional on-demand information to give residents better navigation through Ottawa and to help reduce traffic congestion.”

The app also helps pedestrians and bus-riders by tracking OC Transpo and construction sites. For drivers, Ottawa Nav offers more than just traffic information. The app will also give notifications regarding speed limits. Flybits allowed the city to add to the app without making major developments to it.

“The city has the opportunity to make the app more relevant for the citizens based on where they are and their situational data,” Rahnama said.

While the app provides real-time and reliable information for users, the use of cameras to contextualize the data does raise security concerns.

“Is the app safe? If they’re taking real-time camera information wouldn’t that be infringing on our privacy?” asked Weris Dualeh, a fourth-year human rights major at Carleton University.

Rahnama insists there are no security risks associated with the app and that the transported information is not sensitive.

“(The) data is fully protected,” he said. “It’s following both government and provincial guidelines for handling security.”

Rahnama said Ottawa Nav is more than just an app, but “more like a digital ecosystem builder” that provides information to citizens whether they are a driver, pedestrian, or transit rider.

Users have expressed frustrations with the app’s glitch in the Facebook login feature, as well as its inability to allow turn-by-turn directions and provide traffic data.