The Italian Almanac

ancient map of Rome

Italian News - September 9

Rome might not have been built in a day, but it was mapped in three dimensions. That is, when Romans had their cell phones turned on. Telecom Italia, Italy's main telephone operator, has partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on a real-time mapping system that tracks how people move in urban spaces.

Real Time Rome debuted on Friday at the Venice Biennale, the canal-laden city's biennial exhibition of fine arts and, in recent years, technology projects related to urban studies. Explorers of the Real Time Rome exhibit will encounter large, colorful wall projections that, at first glance, might look more like stills of a funky computer screensaver than a map. When they look closer, they'll find that lines and spots of bright color represent heavily trafficked routes and popular neighborhoods throughout the city.

The MIT technology, based in part on the Geographic Information System, maps real-time data gathered from mobile operators and transportation authorities to create a bigger, location- and population-based picture. Carlo Ratti, the director of MIT's newly formed Senseable City Laboratory, which is running Real Time Rome and a similar Wi-Fi-based project on MIT's campus, says the maps give insight into a city's popular hangouts and traffic flows data that architects and city planners crave.

But equipped with this technology, could your ex be able to track you down on your next date? According to a statement from the Senseable City Lab, information on individual cell phone users' locations are kept anonymous.