Traffic management is a problem that most cities face today. With more than half of the world’s population living in cities, governments across the globe are looking at ways to improve public transportation and provide better traffic management services within cities. Administrators are also looking for new ways to manage long-distance passenger and goods traffic more efficiently.
Technology can play a role in analyzing traffic data and providing pre-emptive solutions to make traffic flow fluid, with minimum environmental impact. Establishment of a sensor-networked and nimbly-monitored city communications infrastructure can efficiently phase traffic lights, provide real-time guidance to drivers and help with applications such as digitally monitored parking spaces.
IoT enabled systems
Intelligent Internet of Everything
(IoT) – enabled transportation systems can improve capacity, enhance travel experiences and make travel more efficient and secure. The police, emergency services and other government services can use sensor networks with smart traffic management to gain citywide visibility to alleviate congestion and rapidly respond to incidents.
The City of Toronto has for example, developed a system to improve traffic flow with smart signals that process traffic information locally. Tests of the system on 60 downtown Toronto intersections at rush hour showed a reduction in delays of up to 40 percent and a cut in travel times by as much as 26 percent.
Singapore has adopted an Intelligent Transport strategy that uses an Electronic Road Pricing system where the tolls vary according to traffic flows. An Expressway Monitoring and Advisory System helps to alert motorists to traffic accidents on major roads and a GPS system for taxis reports on traffic conditions. Data collected from these systems is fed into a central control center, which consolidates the data to provide real-time traffic information to the public.
How smart analytics helps
• Sensors connected to traffic signals continuously send information to a central server on the number of vehicles plying
• Analytics platform gets real-time data from traffic signals within 2km of intended junction & GIS mapping of roads
• When a threshold is reached, analytics software sends a message to traffic display 1km before the signal
• Motorists driving towards signal are asked to divert to another road
• When number of vehicles at signal decrease below threshold, a message flashed on display stops urging drivers to drive towards the signal
With affordability and higher purchasing power, it is very easy for the common man to own a vehicle in India today. Increasing vehicle (read: car) sales have created a problem of road congestion and traffic pile up in most of our cities. A comprehensive Traffic Management System connected to a GIS enabled digital road map of the city can help manage traffic better. Analyzing traffic data in real-time adds to the benefit.
Imagine an SMS-based system to guide drivers driving towards city business centers, helping them avoid congested roads and perhaps identify a parking slot. This not only helps reduce congestion but also saves a lot on time and fuel, thus making the environment cleaner and better to live.
Smart wireless sensors embedded in parking spots can gather the real-time status of metered parking spots and track if a spot is occupied, empty, or expired. They can then transmit this information to a data management system, linked to a mobile application for drivers. Smarter parking can eliminate labor inefficiencies associated with parking enforcement.
The European Commission’s real-time traffic information services is a case in point, and provides road users with useful, accurate and up-to-date information on the road network, traffic circulation plans, traffic regulations (such as speed limits and access restrictions), and on recommended driving routes. It provides real-time traffic data including estimated travel times, information about congestion, accidents, road works and road closures, weather conditions and other relevant safety-related information, such as the presence of animals or debris on a road.
Smart transportation with IoT
IoT requires networks to be modified to account for a massive increase in real-time information. Processes need to be redesigned keeping multiple interaction models in mind, including machine to machine (M2M) and people to machine communications. For smarter traffic systems, some basics to consider are:
• Defining which processes benefit from IoT: Existing processes need to be mapped against new data available from sensor-enabled equipment to optimize operations and assets while improving service and safety. Work flows and apps that benefit from location and environmental data, such as asset tracking and equipment health, are a logical starting point.
• Building an open IP infrastructure for IoT: As transportation companies look to build IoT networks, they should look for solutions that leverage IP. For example, the city of Barcelona is using a Cisco WiFi Mesh network to provide connectivity and infrastructure-based management services via sensors, cameras and actuators to generate reports in real-time on temperature, noise, humidity, gas and dust-particle concentration.
• Defining a strategy for big data processing and analytics: Governments need to cost- effectively store and analyze large volumes of disparate data from IoT and other sources and need an API strategy that will allow third parties to access part of this data for the public good. For example, Amsterdam’s department for Infrastructure, Traffic and Transportation made all of its data available to developers who are using it to create apps that improve the flow of people throughout the city.
While use of technology in traffic management is not new, the effective use of data from different sources and processing information in real time to take immediate action is the key to success.