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IoT can help smart cities solve major traffic problems

AROUND the world, governments are leveraging advancements in technology to make cities smarter and more efficient, and Singapore is no exception. One such technology used by cities is Smart Traffic Management - a solution that involves capturing, storing and processing vast amounts of data for cities to operate in a safer, more efficient environment. Informed by trends such as this, IDC now predicts there will be 163 zettabytes of data in the global datasphere by 2025 - a ten-fold increase over what was created in 2016.

Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) have played an important role in enhancing commuters' travel experiences in Singapore. For example, Singapore was a pioneer in implementing electronic congestion charging to manage traffic jams with the introduction of the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) scheme in 1998.

Nevertheless, a growing number of vehicles, an increasingly denser population and a changing technological landscape have resulted in new transportation challenges in our land-scarce nation. The technology we use to manage traffic issues must evolve - starting with a potential satellite-based ERP system that is currently being field-tested. As we progress further on our Smart Nation journey, the Internet of Things (IoT) will continue to play an important role in enabling Singapore to improve its urban mobility.

Let's first spend a moment to consider the growth of the IoT in our global environment. Just as individuals flock to AI products like Alexa for weather and news information, cities are turning to connected devices to gather data and glean insights into the status of numerous factors important to efficiently serving the needs of citizens.

The rise of low-price sensors is enabling more effective ways to monitor and actively manage traffic using real-time data. Advances in machine learning are giving city workers greater insight into urban-related problems, and the metadata generated enables city workers to make more immediate and well-informed decisions. Finally, developments in cloud computing have reduced the cost of storing the huge volume of information generated, while also making the data more readily available for analysis. Big data technologies are transforming the very nature of how cities operate.

One of the most significant challenges cities of the future face involves moving people and goods efficiently. In a recent study by German online car parts retailer kfzteile24, Singapore's traffic congestion was ranked the highest among the top 10 countries, with the largest increase in overall travel times (38 per cent) compared with uncongested situations.

Data and analytics arm public officials with key insights into traffic congestion and incidents across the road network, helping to prevent life-critical problems like higher numbers of accidents and longer emergency response times. Using historical and real-time data, cities can identify recurring congestion hot spots and use that information to address the most problematic areas and reap the greatest benefits. Additionally, public officials can process incident data to determine the effect changing the way an intersection works has on safety.

WORSE CONDITIONS

Without new IoT infrastructure, congestion and hazardous conditions will worsen. And if our infrastructure does not adjust to population growth, they will continue to worsen. The IoT, including a variety of sensing technologies and highway cameras, must be utilised if we want to adapt to changing traffic conditions. IoT data can also be useful in learning traffic patterns, planning of infrastructure upgrades, improving daily traffic flow and reducing the negative impact accidents have on the health and safety of the public.

As the number of real-time video streams increases, as higher-resolution video boosts the raw data available with each stream, and as the demands of analysing this ever-increasing data intensifies, so does the need for a robust, mature cloud and data-center infrastructure that allows for fast and secure data capture, management, storage, retrieval and analysis. In the new data age - an era of massive data growth - the need to store, organise and access unstructured data is critical, especially for applications such as traffic management and accident prevention.

In tandem with vehicle technology, data will continue to be vital in solving some of today's biggest challenges in transportation management. From meeting current and future levels of transportation demand, to minimising disruptions in the transportation network, data and real-time analytics enable drivers and the authorities to quickly respond to changing conditions on the ground.

The Data Age is not an era in the far-off future. Life critical data is permeating the foundation of our lives and our cities. From ensuring our loved ones are safe on the road to minimising congestion and helping build smarter infrastructure, data is revolutionising the human experience in ways we couldn't imagine even a decade ago.

  • The writer is senior vice-president of global sales and sales operations at Seagate