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TRAFFIC SYSTEMS DEVELOPMENT


nent telephone connection between the central control room and each equipped signal installation. Due to the technology available at the time, the data interface consisted of a lim- ited number of bits which could each typically request a traffic stage to run or confirm back to the control room which stage was currently running. A system called SCOOT was introduced to provide a synchronised method of control which was also vehicle acti- vated. This could use the communi- cations infrastructure to also provide data to the control centre about the vol- ume of traffic leaving each signal installa- tion, allowing SCOOT to dynamically adjust traffic plans so that the operation of sub- sequent signal sites could be optimised for the traffic which would arrive at them imminently. This type of topography, where a control


centre is linked to the majority of the signal sites on the road network has therefore become common place around the UK. Over time, the range of equipment


installed on the highway net- work increased, including Vari- able Message Signs (VMS), CCTV and parking guidance systems. With these deployments, came a need to improve the supporting communications infrastructure. Luckily, over recent years, the ability to install higher speed and larger bandwidth communica- tions into roadside locations has become much easier. In addition, the uptake of newer technologies has in part been driven by the withdrawal of older communications technologies, such as leased lines in the UK. However, with the ubiquity of the newer types of communications (including IP and broadband, along with wireless technolo- gies), there is usually a solution available which can be implemented appropriate to the required functionality.


NODES OF OPPORTUNITIES Because of this, most cities these days have a comprehensive communications infrastructure spread across their highway network, connecting the plethora of equip-


www.thinkinghighways.com


is because of their ease of deploy- ment, and low operational overhead. Many of the technologies obviate the requirement for any ‘civils’ construc- tion to be undertaken to install them. The equipment is often character-


 Signals in Gracechurch St, London, being switched on in 1932


ment used to manage and monitor traffic. It is probable that these traffic installations will soon become data nodes for a variety of emerging highway-based technologies over the coming years, due to their con- nected status and distributed nature across the road network. Using the principles of the Internet of Things (IoT), the collection of data from the physical world is possible using simple sensors which are perma-


ised by being small, so that it can be mounted on to existing infrastructure, such as lighting columns, sign posts or traffic signal poles. In addition, they are normally low-powered, so can operate from an internal battery (these might be recharged by a small solar PV panel but are typically quoted to


have a five year or greater life expectancy) or may be wired in to an electrical supply from the host infrastructure it is mounted on. Remote sensors also frequently use wireless communications, although again those mounted on infrastructure such as traffic signals, may make use of the existing communications facilities available. In the US, the City of Chicago has been


“In the US, the City of Chicago has been installing what it has called the ‘Array of Things’, consisting of diverse sensors mounted together in compact, pole-mounted housings, typically located at traffic signals


nently connected, producing data streams in real-time, use Cloud based services to allow additional sensors to be easily added without coding and archive data for later analysis. This provides the ability to amass an insight to a huge range of parameters which would have been difficult or prohibi- tively expensive to collect even just a few years ago. The hardware used for IoT sensors is


often thought to be inferior to ‘proper’ equipment, and although there is a huge variety of less accurate devices which are inferior, there are now many companies producing well engineered, accurate, cali- brated sensors which offer much better value than traditional systems. In part, this


installing what it has called the ‘Array of Things’, consisting of diverse sensors mounted together in compact, pole- mounted housings, typically located at traffic signals. These use the existing communica- tions infrastructure to distrib- ute hyper-local information back to the city authorities and to interested citizens, with detailed information across a wide range of parameters, currently including traffic,


weather, pollution, flooding, noise and lighting conditions.


STAKEHOLDERS COME TOGETHER The data produced by these kinds of tech- nologies can benefit the operation of a city in many ways. It may be used immediately to trigger a response if an event is regis- tered or if a threshold has been passed. These may include re-routing traffic if a localised flood is detected or changing traffic plans if congestion is forming. In addition, the ability to use historic data to undertake trend analysis or review the effectiveness of interventions can provide a valuable tool for making informed deci- sions for infrastructure investment.


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