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Small Cities. Big Results.

The promise of smart cities is moving from hype to reality. And it seems that a lot of the attention is going to the big cities. Cities like New York, Dubai and Singapore and are getting the bulk of the attention from smart city vendors and the media.

All Cities Are Important

But what about smaller cities and towns? In America, more than one-half of the nation’s population live in cities and towns with fewer than 25,000 people. If we are to truly transform the world’s cities into efficient, data-driven, smart cities, we need to start paying attention to smaller cities.

Small Cities Doing Big Things

Maybe more attention should be paid to the small city, because it looks like they are delivering some big results. At Miovision, we’ve implemented Spectrum, our smart traffic signal technology, in small cities across North America. Cities like Waterloo Ontario, Northampton Massachusetts and Brossard Quebec have implemented smart traffic solutions, and they’re generating big results in a short period of time.  We’re talking about immediate cost savings, improved road capacity and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. But it’s not just our projects in small cities that delivering results. Other cities and projects are delivering big results too.

Waterloo, Ontario

Waterloo, Ontario

Santander, Spain with a population of about 180,000 people is a model for effective smart city deployment. They’ve implemented over 10,000 sensors across their city. Cherry Hill, New Jersey has implemented a sustainability dashboard to track how much it costs to heat, light and operate Township facilities, down to the square foot. And in Perth, a small city in Scotland, they are making major investments in smart waste, intelligent street lighting and open data initiatives.

The Small City Advantage

Why are smaller cities delivering better results. When implementing smart city initiatives, we’ve found that small cities actually have some key advantages over larger cities.

Smaller Projects, Quicker Results

Small cities typically have bounded problems. Problems like, we need to reduce congestion at these 6 intersections. Or, we need to track water usage for 50,000 people. Larger cities will typically provide a whole host of issues that require sophisticated planning and tracking. Small problems mean quicker implementation and faster results. Faster results translate into momentum and budget for more projects. Getting results in 6 months vs. 6 years means cities can better justify current and future smart city initiatives.

Less Resources, Bigger Impact

Small cities have bigger constraints. They don’t have the luxury of a substantial traffic operations team. Constraints mean that benefits like automation, remote monitoring and analytics deliver bigger impact. It also means saving a big chunk of money relative to their budget.

Build on local assets

Small towns and rural communities are looking for ways to use local assets to strengthen their economies and provide better quality of life. By seamlessly overlaying smart sensors, software and cloud technology on existing infrastructure, cities can adopt data-driven management systems that will grow and adjust as their city does. No need to rip out and replace what’s already there – this infrastructure provides the foundation for a smarter city!

Join Our Webinar to Learn More

Still think smart traffic signals and smart city projects are only for the big boys? Join our next webinar and we’ll provide you with some key examples that will make you think otherwise.

Waterloo, Ontario

How the Region of Waterloo is Doing New With Less

With Spectrum you have streaming video and real-time alerts coming back to essentially do the fieldwork from the traffic management center, and get issues cleared more quickly.” – Mark Liddell, Region of Waterloo Traffic Analyst

The Region of Waterloo is experiencing rapid growth in population and a flurry of start-up activity. An influx of new residents, combined with infrastructure development, has led to a rise in traffic complexity. Miovision worked with the city to implement Spectrum, our smart traffic signal solution, in key corridors across the city.

Spectrum is helping the Region of Waterloo utilize data to transform their traffic network. Here are a few highlights of the impact. You can read the full case study.

Instantaneous Incident Response

The Region of Waterloo now gets immediate alerts. These alerts help identify issues with roads or infrastructure. This helps to prioritize resources and alert significant changes in traffic. They can also stream video from an intersection to verify an incident.

Traffic Counts on Demand

The Region of Waterloo utilizes turning movement counts for signal time evaluation, long-range traffic modelling, and growth projections. Before Spectrum, they counts were collected about every 3 years. Spectrum dramatically changed that. They can now generate counts on-demand at many intersections and any time.

Other Key Benefits

Spectrum also provides the Region of Waterloo with other key benefits, including:

  • Providing remote visibility of the traffic network with connected intersections
  • Accelerating the planning schedule
  • Reducing data collection costs
  • Enabling engineers to focus on high-value data analysis

To learn more about Spectrum in the Region of Waterloo, check out the full case study.

smart city IoT

Big IoT. Big IT Challenges for Cities.

Until recently, the Internet of Things (IoT) for cities was a lot of hype. As recently as 2015, Gartner listed IoT at the top of the hype curve. Real results were hard to come by, and cities were struggling to understand how IoT fit into their plans.

Gartner Hype Curve

The 2015 Gartner Hype Curve

IoT is Here

But IoT has now shifted from hype to reality. Nowhere is this  more clear than in cities. The rise of autonomous vehicles means cities need to implement V2I technology to ensure safety.

Sensor proliferation is taking off. Chicago is deploying hundreds of sensors with it’s Array of Things initiative. It doesn’t stop there. This year Chattanooga, Atlanta, Seattle and Bristol and Newcastle in the United Kingdom will begin installing identical sensors in their cities. Next year, Boston, Austin, Delhi and Singapore will be building their own arrays. And late last year, DOT announced up to $40 million to a mid-size city with the best blueprint depicting a fully integrated forward-looking urban transportation network.


Chicago’s “Array of Things” Monitors the Pulse… by Mashable

Big IT Challenges

While all of these IoT devices will provide valuable information, they’ll also present major security and data management challenges. Internal IT departments will be stretched to  store, manage and analyze this data. Cities will need to manage thousands of data points and store millions of gigabytes of data. IT demands could skyrocket in a short period of time.

But big data requirements don’t mean big problems. Cities can overcome these challenges in a few ways.

#1: Consider Managed Services

If the CIA trusts the cloud, your city can too. Consider partnering with an IoT vendor that will provide managed services. At Miovision, we employ smart engineers and data scientists but we outsource some of our data storage functions to Amazon Web Services . They can do it better. Your traffic operations department is built around traffic engineering skills, not IT skills. Focus on what you do well and leave the rest to the experts.

So, how do you vet an IoT vendor? Here are few quick ways to get a read on whether you should consider a partnership:

  1. They Are Experts in IoT Solutions for Cities: Vendors with a focus on solutions for cities will understand your unique needs. Cities are different than companies. You require a specialized offering.
  2. They Have a Demonstrated Ability to Evolve With Your Needs: Your solution should evolve with your city. Partner with a vendor that has demonstrated a capacity to innovate on a regular basis. Chances are you’ll start with a particular need, but as you build your IoT platform, you’ll want more.
  3. They Take Security Seriously: Security should be a top priority. Your vendor should have clear documentation on security protocol, secure backups and disaster recovery. Furthermore, a reputable cloud partner should provide a detailed security response process.
  4. They Do More Than Store Data. They Can Provide Actionable Intelligence: You might not need data analysis right away, but as you collect and store data, you’ll want a vendor with a solution that can provide actionable intelligence for your city.

#2 Start with Small Pilot Projects

No need to dive into a full IoT implementation. Start with a small pilot project. It will allow you to slowly develop your IT infrastructure, whether it be externally or internally.

Don’t Avoid the Future

Cities are changing, and the Internet of Things is here to stay. Tackle the future head on. Start talking IT requirements. Start planning small pilot projects. Take the MyCitySmarts survey to help assess and plan the path forward. It will make your transition to a smart city that much easier.

Top ITS Trends for 2017

Seven ITS Trends We’re Looking Out For in 2017

You can’t be a provider of advanced Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) solutions without being a forecaster. The world of transportation is experiencing major upheaval. From autonomous vehicles to ubiquitous traffic sensors, 2017 is shaping up to be a year of rapid change. Here’s an overview of the top seven ITS trends we expect to see in 2017.

1. States Will Invest in V2V and V2I Infrastructure

Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications is a network where automobiles send messages to each other with information about what they’re doing. Vehicle-To-Infrastructure (V2I) is the same concept, but between cars and infrastructure. States are beginning to invest in infrastructure to support the rise of autonomous vehicles. The Federal Highway Administration released its V2I Guidance in 2016. It included five basic steps for State DOTs and Owners/Operators considering V2I deployments. These steps included updating Regional ITS architecture to better integrate with connected vehicles.

V2I Application

Example of Vehicle-To-Infrastructure Application

Why invest in V2I? When combined with V2V, V2I deployment will help to improve safety and mobility, and reduce environmental impact. These are all important to transportation agencies.

Also, in 2015 Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced legislation that would make vehicle-to-vehicle a mandatory feature of new cars. The US Department of Transportation is planning on providing up to $100 million over the next 5 years, through its Connected Vehicle pilot program, for projects that will deploy V2I technologies in real-world settings.

Connected, autonomous vehicles are coming. States and provinces need to be ready for them.

2. “Standard Production” Autonomous Vehicles Will Hit the Streets

Up until now autonomous vehicles tested on roads were concept cars. Nevada has been licensing autonomous vehicles since 2011, and in 2012 Google received the first license for an autonomous vehicle. All of those cars have been prototypes. Next year, the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class will become the first “standard-production” vehicle to receive a testing license in Nevada. Other models required extra sensors or other modifications. Not the E-Class. It’s ready to go. From prototype to standard production. Driverless cars are going mainstream in 2017.

MercedesEClass

The 2017 Mercedes E-Class. Coming to Nevada roads next year.

3. Sensors, Sensors Everywhere

Expect a new wave of technology to enter the market in late 2017 that significantly lowers the cost of deploying traffic sensors. It’s already happening in Chicago. They’ve just launched Array of Things, a groundbreaking urban sensing project. The plan is to install 500 nodes on city streets that can measure air quality, climate, traffic and other urban features. This technology will collect data that will help the municipality understand environmental, traffic or pedestrian trends so it can make better and safer municipal planning decisions.

We expect 2017 to be a big year for sensor deployment as lower-cost technology to track and manage traffic and other city services become available. Everything and anything can, and will be measured in cities.

4. Cities Will Get Smart About ITS Security

Many cities will tackle ITS security. As public works infrastructure begins to rely on sensor integration and data gathering as part of its operations, data security will emerge as a key concern for cities. This issue will move from a theoretical “what if” in 2016, to a practical “must have” for cities in the year ahead.

A thorough data security policy which covers how data is transmitted to and from infrastructure, where data is stored, and who has access to use it will become a critical management questions for traffic agencies. Many cities will rely on guidance from sources like Smart City IoT best-practices

5. The Rise of Smart City Testbeds & Municipal Innovation Zones

Expect a flurry of new initiatives in 2017 related to helping cities explore ITS innovation in a faster and more effective way. While standard procurement models will still exist, we expect more smart city testbeds and municipal innovation zones in the year ahead to spur the adoption of new technologies. 

Jakarta is leading the way in 2017, by allocating two pockets of its city to testbed sensors and apps to improve public services.  The testbed will be used to improve street lights, parking, electricity generation and water treatment.

Luxembourg is trying to position itself as a national testbed for smart city technologies. Luxinnovation, the national agency for innovation and research, recently released a video highlighting its Smart Day initiative.

We’re developing a smart city testbed in our own backyard. Our future headquarters will be located at Catalyst137. Catalyst137 represents a Canadian testbed where local makers can gather to innovate in the Internet-of-Things (IoT) space. It will include testing facilities, commercialization services, and a hackable streetscape.  

6. City Infrastructure as a Service

In the same way that many technology companies have moved to hosted “software-as-a-service” (SaaS) platforms to run their businesses, cities will start embracing “infrastructure-as-a-service” (IaaS) to help run traffic operations. For many cities, this will be driven by the desire to move away from the mindset of needing to own, host, and operate all ITS technology, which can place excessive burden on IT and transportation departments, especially for smaller traffic agencies.

Leveraging IaaS introduces agencies to fully managed and hosted services for everything from traffic signal communications to video storage and data analysis. IaaS has the potential to not only save traffic agencies money, but also empowers their traffic engineers to focus on using data to fix traffic challenges instead of coping with IT challenges of simply acquiring the data.

7. ITS, Coming to a Rural Area Near You

Historically most ITS deployments were focused on large cities with high congestion and complex traffic problems. But if the interest in the 2016 National Rural ITS Conference is any indicator, we’ll see more sophisticated ITS deployments in rural and small towns. 

ITS Trends Rural

Smaller agencies recognize the benefit of data-driven traffic management, and want to generate better efficiencies in their maintenance and traffic operations. A new generation of ITS solutions that are both affordable and accessible to various levels of technical expertise will bring value to cities of any size in 2017.

Other ITS Trends?

Do any other intelligent transportation trends come to mind? Leave a comment below and we’ll expand our list!

miocast with Erin Skimson

“Safety Comes First”- An Interview with Oregon’s Chief Traffic Engineer

Recently, Miovision sat down with Dennis Mitchell, Chief Traffic Engineer with Oregon’s Department of Transportation. Dennis’ experience with ITS Technology gives him a unique perspective on the future of transportation. In this interview, we ask Dennis four key questions:

1) What does transportation look like to you in 10 years?
2) What is it that you want to do to impact traffic?
3) What is your biggest traffic pet peeve?
4) How do you manage the freedom of wanting to drive your own vehicle versus autonomous driving safety?

Continue reading for a short summary or listen to the full interview below.

 


Summary

What does transportation look like to you in 10 years? 

I think the first improvements will be in safety and collision avoidance. We’ll see that in the next ten years. But I think autonomous vehicles are farther out because there are still a lot of things to work out. For autonomous to work, every car needs to be outfitted. Because we’ll need an entire fleet turnover to make that work, it will take some time.

I think the real question is whether self-driving cars will decrease or increase Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT). For example, do you drive to work and let the car drive home and come back to get you? It’s an interesting dilemma.

What is it that you want to do to impact traffic? 

  1. Safety is our number one priority. We want to improve safety by incorporating new technology.
  2. Oregon is a small state, and we don’t have a lot of money. We’re trying to figure out how to improve traffic operations with the limited budget that we have. We need cost-effective technologies to do this.
  3. Trying to figure out where we can make the biggest impact using technology. Because we can’t solve congestion, it’s not possible. So let’s try to make small improvements in efficiency and safety of specific locations.

What is your biggest traffic pet peeve? 

Drivers are all different, and each drive with their mentality – some aggressive and others slower.  This mix of driving styles causes congestion. If people just drove consistently we fix some congestion issues without technology. Basic human nature gets in the way.

How do you manage the freedom of wanting to drive your own vehicle versus the greater good of the security and safety of autonomous vehicles? 

I’m not sure how we get past that, maybe its autonomous with a choice. For example, when you reach an area with a certain level of congestion, you must be autonomous. When you reach an area with lower congestion, you could switch to non-autonomous.

What is interesting is, nobody brings up the issue of “what does it do to the insurance industry?” Because who is liable? Is it the facility? The car? The driver? Well, the driver isn’t driving. So it’s interesting to ask, how does it change that industry?

Traffic Signals: The Perfect Smart City Tool

At their most basic level, traffic signals are infrastructure assets that control vehicular and pedestrian traffic. But what if we could look at the humble traffic signal in a whole new way? What if we looked at this piece of infrastructure as the perfect foundation for a smart city? As the easiest and least expensive way to build a smart city? If you’re a transportation engineer, you have access to one of the most powerful data collection tools in your city.

Traffic signals can do much more than manage traffic flow. They can be the starting point for acquiring massive amounts of data.

#1: It’s Easy and Inexpensive to Integrate Smart Technology

Traffic signals can easily integrate smart technology. The brains that control signals are housed in one location – that traffic cabinet. An Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), like Miovision’s Spectrum, can be installed in the traffic cabinet to acquire and communicate data from each traffic device back to the Traffic Management Center (TMC). Gone are the days of needing to rip out and replace legacy traffic infrastructure or lay expensive fiber optic cables just to gain connectivity. Traffic signal data can be connected to cellular LTE communications in 20 minutes or less.

It’s not just the ease of connectivity that’s helpful. Traffic lights are elevated and provide a great view of intersections. Attaching video cameras and sensors to the light or to traffic poles allow for optimal data collection. The location and simplicity of connection make traffic signals an ideal, inexpensive and simple foundation for data collection.

#2: They’re Everywhere

There are more than 340,000 traffic signals in the North America alone. That’s about one traffic signal per 1,000 people. Because they are so ubiquitous, they provide a large number of data collection points. A city of one million people houses thousands of intersections capable of collecting millions of data points each year. Smart cities start with big data, and traffic lights deliver.

#3: Intersections Collect a Lot of Data

Intersections collect a myriad of data points, including vehicle, bike and pedestrian counts, traffic speed, intersection approach volume, congestion reports, accident surveillance, WiFi or Bluetooth MAC address identification, public transportation monitoring, and traffic signal timing to name but a few. Pooling this data in one accessible location opens the doors for unlimited analysis, evaluation, and optimization. More data provides more insights, and more opportunity to build a smarter city.

#4: Generates Immediate Impact

Integrating smart technologies into traffic signals opens the door to immediate impact. Signal timing alone can pay back at a ratio of 40:1. The ripple effect of better signal timing is significant: diminished traffic congestion, lower fuel costs, improved air quality, increased productivity and citizen satisfaction. In the longer run, traffic agency maintenance and labor costs shrink. Intersections are a perfect spot to generate returns.

Large and expensive smart city projects can be hard to justify. But integrating simple and inexpensive smart technologies at traffic intersections will show an immediate ROI. The resulting savings are available to forge ahead with a bigger smart city vision.

#5: More than Traffic

Smarter traffic signals don’t just optimize traffic. Connectivity provides the opportunity to integrate with other data points. Signals can connect to vehicles through Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) communications. In the future, smart signals and sensors will deliver data like weather, crash reports and road conditions. Think of your city as a network of arteries providing check-in points to help you navigate the city most efficiently. Once ‘smart’ traffic signals have been deployed, data integration points are only limited by the imagination.