May 30 2019

Smart Cities Fuel Traffic Light Boom to Gather Congestion Data

Smart traffic lights better manage traffic in a prime example of retrofitting legacy infrastructure with the Internet of Things.

Smart cities deploying technologies are seeing results, particularly when they plan ahead for the augmentation of traditional tech with smart solutions.

Often, cities find success when they can incorporate sensors into legacy assets, thus maintaining a physical technology footprint while extending the capabilities of that technology to collect data. For example, smart cities are seeing tremendous growth in smart traffic solutions, whereby traffic signals become smart signals with the addition of sensors that can detect the flow of traffic and adjust patterns based on the density of vehicles.

Smart city technology solutions intended to ease bad traffic will generate $4.4 billion in revenue in 2023, up from $2 billion in 2019, projects Juniper Research. According to Netimperative, North America is leading the way thanks to “a strong prevalence for technology deployment over policy-driven solutions to lower traffic congestion.”

“These solutions typically use sensors in combination with machine learning software algorithms to dynamically alter traffic light phasing according to traffic levels; smoothing urban traffic flows,” Netimperative says.

Juniper identifies San Francisco and Portland, Ore., as leading U.S. cities in smart traffic management.

MORE FROM STATETECH: Find out how intelligent transportation systems save cities money.

Sensors Collect Data to Manage Traffic Flow

Moneywise says San Francisco is piloting some of the "coolest smart tech today."

In 2019, Walk Friendly Communities recognized San Francisco with a platinum award for walkability. That was quite a turnaround for city that faced “notorious congestion,” Moneywise says.

“New initiatives include sensors that give buses priority at traffic lights, smart parking meters that change pricing based on demand and an app-based payment system for transit riders,” the publication adds, describing some of the smart city tech.

Incorporating cameras into the traffic signals or using them in conjunction with the lights helps smart cities to track the flow of traffic and adjust lights accordingly.

“With hundreds of cameras and other sensors on its streets, Santa Clara County, Calif., can supply real-time data to its Traffic Management Center. That data is sent to cloud computing for analysis, which then informs any number of minor tweaks to the timing of some 130 signals,” Government Technology reports.

MORE FROM STATETECH: Find out why connected intersections are the backbones of smart cities. 

Legacy Assets Extend Capabilities Through Internet of Things

As part of Portland's Smart City PDX initiative, the city last year installed roughly 200 sensors on lights in part to support traffic management. 

"The Traffic Sensor Safety Project, for a price tag of just over $1 million, represents the first major milestone for the Smart City PDX initiative. It relies on GE's Current CityIQ sensors, which are powered with Intel IoT technology and use AT&T as the data carrier. GE, Intel and AT&T have already worked together to deploy smart streetlight sensors in San Diego," ZDNet says.

The city of Las Vegas also has been testing cameras, sensors and other devices on the Internet of Things to manage vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

“At the intersection of Main and Clark in front of City Hall, devices hang from a traffic signal like so many koalas on a trunk. A motion-detecting camera, LiDar scanner, infrared sensor, weather probe, and sound detector variously measure pedestrian and traffic counts, air quality, odd noises, and vehicles turning in the wrong direction,” CityLab reports

Companies like Hitachi and Cisco support the Las Vegas effort. Meanwhile, Microsoft machine-learning software scans surrounding areas for trash or graffiti that might require deployment of a cleaning crew.

As smart cities continue to get smarter, they will extend their capabilities through recapitalizing or building upon existing infrastructure to support smart solutions.

This article is part of StateTech's CITizen blog series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #StateLocalIT hashtag.


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