IoT Transit: The Planes, Trains and Automobiles of the Future

Pivot3 Smart City Blog Part 3

It’s no surprise that people often find being stuck in traffic to be one of the most frustrating things about city life. Common traffic patterns from workplace commutes and road improvement plans are common causes of crowded roadways. City leaders look to ease congestion on the roadways through technology and planning but their efforts are not always successful. Here in the UK, smart motorways display the suggested speed limit for that portion of the road at that very time — designed to reduce heavy traffic during peak travel times — but the signs are often ignored by drivers.

Mass transit would appear to be the answer, yet these options are always a better choice for commuters. Less than 90% of trains in the UK were on time in 2016-2017 and less than 2% of all trips were taken by train. Lack of trust in the rail system, patterns of untimely arrivals and inconvenience with schedules network are the primary causes of a lack of passenger traffic. But perhaps the biggest contributor to low rider numbers can be attributed to the design and scale of the railways. During the industrial revolution, rail travel became a low cost, reliable way of transporting goods and people especially to remote areas without canals or major waterways. However, the scale of the railways and the future potential demand wasn’t considered during development, which leads to the challenges these transit networks face today.

So, how does all of this link into a smart city infrastructure? The evolution of the modern-day transit system is the perfect allegory for your IoT infrastructure as a whole.

Just like trains move passengers, you have a way to move data around your smart city, regardless of where you are doing your initial data processing – and you have to do it in a modern way. The volume of data that the IoT is capable of generating will soon overwhelm historical network infrastructures, and continued deployment of these types of legacy networks, which require physical cabling to remote parts of your city, county, region or even state, make it expensive and unfeasible. The answer to this challenge is the widespread adoption of IoT, and in my opinion, 5G MUST be adopted widely and comprehensively to make that this type of IoT deployment successful. The options for 5G deployment are extensive, and there are solutions to fit any location or budgets.

The evaluation of data and what you are trying to accomplish with is is the reason behind data transfer. What is your IoT looking for — a concept that I use often is that of Micro-, Medio- and Macro- analytics.

Micro-Analytics is perfect for a single stimulus, a fire alarm for example, looking for carbon particulates in the air above a certain threshold. It is necessary that the fire alarm provides real-time alerts rather than sending the data to a data center (possibly hundreds of miles away) and then get the response back to the fire alarm to begin sounding the alarm.

Medio-Analytics is great for a local area – a city block, for example – where you want to provide a near to real time response, but you want to take inputs from multiple sensors to gain a broader and more detailed picture of the area as a whole. An example of this is the combination of a directional microphones for gunshot detection with video surveillance cameras to record the shooter. This video can then be analyzed later using facial recognition software to identify the perpetrator.

Macro-Analytics covers your entire city and shows you the trends and patterns on a much broader scale, providing term, actionable intelligence. This process includes being able to track traffic hotspots through cities and combining that data with meteorological data to see if the weather affects traffic movement, patterns or peak times.

All of this data, whether micro or macro — is incredibly useful. Consider the fire alarm example. If the same alarm goes off repeatedly, it is important to understand why or what is causing the alarm. It could just be a faulty fire alarm that needs replacing or maintenance but it could be the start of a larger issue. The data gathered from the events will provide the answers.

5G is where we will need to be in the next 10 years to ensure that IoT is truly taken advantage of to improve human safety and quality of life. This rapid network infrastructure will ensure data is delivered in a timely manner to where it needs to be analyzed. In my next article, I’ll discuss how this network will help ensure reliable and valuable IoT deployments that scale.

Mike Beevor .jpg

Mike Beevor is the technical director at Pivot3, where he leads the company's safe city and smart city strategy. A 15-year industry veteran, Mike has held a number of technical roles across a wide range of startups, both in the field and in marketing organizations. He regularly presents at Pivot3 industry events and participates in industry panels, as well as performing the technical evangelist role for EMEA and APAC. A keen technologist, he has a specific interest in all of the ways that IoT and analytics can be combined to build the ultimate smart city.

Chelsea Collier