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ITS needs data highways

First publishedin ITS International
2014 September October
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Deutsche Telekom Data Highway
Deutsche Telekom's Smart Parking and Navigation Solution
Transport and traffic data is on the increase but there must be an integrated data highway to derive the maximum ITS benefits, argues Deutsche Telekom.

From public transport operators recording increasingly precise and comprehensive data on their vehicle’s position and driving behaviour to local authorities using RFID and video systems to control traffic on their streets and highways, the amount of traffic data is growing rapidly. Connected cars will soon be contributing data too but until now these data sources have been kept separate - however, the big advances are to be made when information is combined.

Examples like Uber, the smartphone taxi app, and Google’s self-driving car show how new technologies fundamentally call into question our understanding of mobility. How data is handled has a central role to play as all digital services are based to a certain extent on recorded and evaluated data files. Once made accessible, data can be used by different players as often as it needed; resulting in a successively sharper image of the reality they record. Open data exchange between monitoring systems and analytical software is the key to unlocking these potential benefits. Cities like New York have already recognised the opportunities that shared data offers and launched Open New York portal where, in the transportation category, the general public can see how many vehicles each day use particular sections of various roads. And thanks to a programming interface, the data records are also accessible to business - including developers and start-ups.

Programming contests such as ‘Big Apps NYC 2014’ provide additional incentives for developers and promote their work - Dangerous Roads NYC is an example. It is a civic engagement platform that combines Google Maps and open NYPD accident data to identify dangerous intersections and take action. Another example is the Open Traffic project which is bringing together traffic information from different sources in order to reduce congestion, promote multimodal travel and reduce fatalities.

Connected infrastructure

Connected infrastructure will have a decisive part to play in traffic planning in the future. Initial steps in this direction are being taken by the Italian city of Pisa, which is a transfer site for the ITS standardisation programme Promoting Open Specifications and Standards in Europe (POSSE). In cooperation with Deutsche Telekom and its partner Kiunsys, the city is currently testing a sensor-assisted parking guidance system. It guides motorists to free parking spaces, greatly reducing the time motorists spend having to look for somewhere to park. The search for a parking spot accounts for 30% of city-centre traffic so reducing the hunting time ensures a better traffic flow and lower carbon dioxide emissions.

Using a sensor-based parking guidance system is the first step, with parking spaces registering their status automatically and relaying this information to motorists.

Pisa has also already replaced 30,000 paper residents’ parking permits and special permits by chip cards with built-in radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. The RFID tags in the parking permits respond to the UHF frequency range 860 to 960 Mhz. UHF has the advantage of a long range. It enables stationary readers known as UHF RFID gates to read tags from distances of up to six metres. Even if cars shoot past at 120km/h (75 mph) the devices can still read 99.9 % of the tags.

That makes a number of uses feasible, such as monitoring traffic in restricted access areas. Assuming, say, that a bus route passes through zones that are out of bounds for other road users, barriers could open automatically as soon as a bus with a suitably programmed chip card approaches.

To deal with parking offenders, parking attendants use RFID readers or smartphone adapters for UHF-RFID tags. Even NFC-enabled smartphones are now able to read passive RFID tags, but UHF RFID tags require additional devices. With the aid of the technology, parking attendants relay registered offences directly to a web-based management platform. The evidence is so clear that parking offenders less frequently challenge their tickets.

Merging data sources

Data sharing in the transport and traffic sector will continue to increase. We can also anticipate a greater interlocking of road users and municipal infrastructure. Using a sensor-based parking guidance system is the first step, with parking spaces registering their status automatically and relaying this information to motorists. A major task in the years to come will be to break open data silos and combine different traffic data profitably. The trend is clear. It is up to the flow of information to regulate the flow of traffic. Data is the information age’s traffic lights, road signs and acceleration lanes. Vehicles, municipal infrastructure and human behaviour will generate it. Ideally it will lead to a shared data highway from which all road users will benefit.


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Deutsche Telekom

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