Have you tried driving through London or Washington, D.C., lately? Or any other major city, for that matter? If so, you probably spent hours trapped in your car, crawling along the packed freeways.
Unfortunately, that’s the reality these days, as increasing urbanization and growing populations contribute to awful traffic congestion in nearly every major city around the world. But the trend isn’t just causing commuting headaches—it’s costing cities money. In the United States, for example, traffic congestion cost the economy $124 billion in 2013, according to the INRIX 2013 Global Traffic Scorecard. That number could rise to $186 billion by 2030. And it’s not just the U.S. that has the problem: INRIX finds traffic outside the U.S. to be much worse.
The good news? More cities are using technology to mitigate the problem, developing smart transport solutions to analyze transit sensor data. With the data they’re capturing, cities will be able to improve transit and traffic management and reduce emissions, and citizens will be able to cruise through traffic that’s been optimized by smart traffic lights that sense and adjust to current road conditions.
In part 1 of our series on connected cities, we discussed how cities worldwide are turning to the IoT to become “smarter.” In this second part of the series, we look at how cities are specifically innovating in the smart transport space.
Big Data = Big Efficiency
Most big cities have huge transport networks, including trains, buses, taxis, roads, cycling paths, trails, and even ferries, and all of these systems provide cities with massive amounts of big data. Now, through the IoT, cities are able to use sensors to collect and analyze that data, providing better infrastructure visibility and opportunities to improve routes and find new efficiencies. We’re seeing this in cities like Boston, where the city’s Department of Transportation handed over GPS data on every taxi pickup and drop-off to MIT students, who developed predictive models for taxi demand. Here are some other ways cities are using smart transport solutions to gain efficiencies:
- Smart parking. Through smart parking solutions, city governments are greatly simplifying the parking experience by giving drivers the ability to use smartphone apps or connected cars to get real-time information on available nearby parking spaces. Such solutions could help airports and bus or train station reduce congestion and control costs by optimizing space. And in Tennessee truckers are using smartphone apps to find parking spaces along busy Interstate 75. The solution helps divert truckers from one site to another when the first site is full, so truckers can have more time to rest.
- Fleet management. Fleet companies are using IoT apps to visualize data and use key performance indicators (KPIs) and other tools to monitor things like fuel consumption and vehicle conditions. By using sensors on fleet vehicles and public transit, companies can more easily determine the best travel routes, prepay tolls, save money, and improve their drivers’ performance by collecting and analyzing traffic and trip data.
- Journey mapping. Some public transit entities are using transport cards to map peoples’ journeys. An example is the Transport of London, which is analyzing data from the Oyster card, a plastic smartcard used for bus and train travel. With the data it gathers, the Transport of London hopes to map journeys as a way of optimizing services.
- Traffic management. With the ability to view traffic in real time, cities can use social media sites to inform commuters about traffic tie-ups or accidents, so those drivers can find different routes to take. An example of this trend in action can be found in the recent agreement between Swiss security firm AGT International and Cisco. The two companies are developing an IoT-enabled traffic management system that utilizes sensors in roads, license plate–reading systems, video cameras, and social media feeds to resolve traffic incidents in real time and give drivers an easier commute.
- Emission reduction. Overall, by using the IoT to reroute and optimize traffic and create more efficient overall public transport, cities should also be able to lower emissions, producing a cleaner environment for residents.
Learning From Smarter Cars
The innovation isn’t just taking place in public transit operations and management. It’s also happening in cars. Consider these developments:
- Electric-vehicle charging stations. Researchers in Germany have developed a sensor that delivers analytical data from electric-car charging stations. The tiny device can measure the charging current and even detect fraud, so charging station managers can take action if needed.
- Driverless cars. Once the stuff of sci-fi films, the car without a driver is now a reality. Such vehicles rely on a large number of sensors that work alongside GPS data, propelling the cars safely and efficiently around the city.
- Connected cars. Increasingly, modern cars come are smarter than ever, equipped with tons of cameras and sensors to help drivers watch the road and check blind spots while driving. Now, cars themselves are becoming sensors, automatically sending data about traffic and road conditions to government and transportation agencies, which can then use that info to optimize traffic. Data can also be sent to car manufacturers, who can monitor the wear and tear on a vehicle’s parts.
- Crash detection. Crash detection systems like eCall can alert emergency service crews to accidents and provide the crash’s location information and the optimal route there. Soon to be required on all cars Europe, eCall automatically contacts emergency services after a crash, even if a passenger is unable to speak.
Your Challenge: Making it All Work
As developers, you’re surely excited about all the apps and other technologies that will be needed to enable smart transport. The smart transport trend will only grow bigger, and so will the number of opportunities for you. But you have to keep in mind that all these systems are very big and very data-heavy, and the software you work on must have security, connectivity, and data transport front and center. The Golgi solution can help—it handles security by managing point-to-point encryption via SSL/TLS, and it is designed to ensure reliable data delivery. Taking advantage of Golgi will make it easier for you to develop some of these massive smart transport apps.
In the meantime, I hope you check back for Part 3 in this series. We’ll be talking a lot more about the challenges and opportunities coming your way, and we’ll shine a bigger spotlight on some of today’s truly innovative connected cities.