Kurtis McBride, CEO | Dec 02, 2021
In 1998, Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Toshiba and Nokia got together to launch the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) to define and develop a new short-range wireless technology allowing devices to seamlessly exchange data. Today, the Bluetooth SIG has more than 35,000 member companies and the technology is used to connect everything from headphones to fitness sensors.
That innovation happened because an industry group saw a potential area for innovation – a short-range wireless data connection to replace a growing array of wired connections. They ended up defining an industry standard that enabled rapid innovation. The result: millions of devices connect seamlessly every day.
It’s a great example of how standards can support innovation.
I think we need a Bluetooth moment in our industry: a coming together of key players to define the standards for the next generation of traffic signal hardware. Where the companies behind Bluetooth were creating a better alternative to the tangle of wires that were propagating to connect devices, we have a different challenge.
Today, we have a paradigm that assumes the equipment in the traffic signal box will probably do a few well defined things for about 25 years before it’s replaced. The potential for innovation is limited. We can add new devices within the box, but we have to work with what’s there.
That limits the pace of innovation. Yet, how we manage traffic is coming to be a big part of how we address some of the biggest policy challenges governments face. A generation ago, traffic management was focused on moving more vehicles. Today, it intersects with the fight against climate change and the effort to make cities more livable. Tomorrow, we’ll no doubt be part of the solution to managing diverse streets that include everything from full autonomous vehicles to young kids on bikes. Today’s rate of innovation is not up to the task.
I'm speaking at the upcoming ITS America 2021 event on December 8 at 2 pm, outlining A Vision for Greener and Safer Intersections. I’ll outline why I think standards and innovation are critical to enabling our industry to roll out innovations more quickly and better respond to the changing needs of cities and towns. I hope to see you there!