Transportation IOT: Keeping our roads safe

Member News published by Plextek, under Artificial Intelligence / Machine learning, Automation / Robotics, Big Data, Innovation / Incubation, Regulatory / Policy / Standards

By: Nick Koiza, Head of Security Business at Plextek Ltd As we all start moving around our transport systems again, I am reminded almost daily by the risks and safety concerns linked to our congested road systems. I have a vision that the public should be able to travel easily without worrying about safety on the roads. Aside from education, vehicle servicing, and standard infrastructure maintenance, I believe IoT technologies will significantly enhance the safety of our public whilst they use our road networks. The transportation industry is a huge investor in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), spending approximately $78 billion from 2016-2018. Safety is a part of ‘Transportation IOT’ that is vital for overall success. In this blog, I list what I consider to be the top 5 areas of transport safety that can be enhanced by IoT technologies:

1. Real-Time Data & AI:

Knowing when to avoid congested or high-risk areas seems simple, but avoidance is the first step to reducing safety risk.  Real-time data utilising AI can be powerful together with IoT technologies. With analytics that can facilitate increased intelligence, we are enabled to make enhanced decision making at both a central or individual level.

Data can come from a huge range of sources. ‘Connected parking’ data can include smart parking systems like the one we helped to develop in Moscow which supports a better flow of vehicles around an urban environment. Interestingly, smart street lighting utilises real-time data to assess when it is dark enough to switch lights on, providing a safer environment. But also these lights could be used in the future as a ‘hub’ for collecting other data like pollution, traffic, and other data.  That combined use of IoT and AI for our network and its surroundings is in its infancy but watch this space.

One of our clients, CNI Guard uses an underground system with environmental sensors to monitor infrastructure. The system prevents and mitigates the risk of gas explosions, stray voltage, flooding, and other breaches of safety, environmental, and quality control regulation. What would have previously taken an accident (ie a manhole explosion) and then a team of people to manually close the road and assess, IoT has enabled automation and risk prevention rather than remediation.

2. Intelligent Transportation Routes

People often use routes they are used to, or ‘the well-trodden path’ instead of the more efficient route. As our Head of Innovation, Alan Cucknell, observed, “people easily fall into routines. When the horrific 7/7 London bombings happened, millions of people were forced to change their usual commuter route. This is a massive behavioural change to observe and interestingly, many people never went back to their previous route. Familiar is not always the best route and smart transport options can find the optimal route, not the route that people are used to”. Innovation in transport can include technology to enable people to make better and safer transport choices, including Public Transit management. At a very basic level, a potential passenger can use a digital display to see how long before their bus/tram arrives. During Covid, more passenger counting technologies are being invested in. These technologies can help companies assess whether their networks are getting congested and unsafe. On a more personalised level, each traveller could use a combination of geofencing, AI, and other smart route tools to enable a personalised, low risk, and quick route.

3. Intelligence on Driver Behaviour

Human error is hard to prevent. How do you incentivise drivers to be more careful, when laws and signage has a limited effect? Our sister company, Redtail Telematics, collects precise, high-resolution data from onboard devices and apps about driver behaviour. This enables insurance companies to offer premiums based on real rather than perceived risk. This can in turn encourage drivers to be more careful on the roads, with rewards related to their behaviour, and subsequently reduced premiums.

When talking to my colleague Andrew Little, of Redtail about whether the technology actually makes a difference on the street, Andrew states: “‘The first six-12 months of a driving career are statistically the most risky. With insight into driving behaviours that can be improved, lives can be, and indeed have been, saved”.

For commercial companies, Vehicle Asset Management (VAM) products provide certainty that vehicles are being driven well, running efficiently, and are where they are supposed to be. This gives fleet managers greater visibility and information to extract further performance from their fleet, which in turn reduces costs as well as safety/operational risk.

Automotive OEMs are increasingly invested in Connected vehicle data (incl. driver behaviours) via conduit platforms to support the road safety agenda.

4. Smart Logistics:

Smart logistics make supply chains more efficient and safer.  Using Intelligent software to identify weak spots in a supply chain can alleviate dangers in transit.

A company, still in the concept stage, I am excited about is Celsius Dynamics which is a logistics solution for cold chain distribution services. Using proprietary algorithms, their smart, digital platform looks at the cold chain process from the manufacturer through to all sequences of temperature-controlled environments.   This level of automation and intelligence theoretically means you can avoid temperature-related explosions in transit, driver tiredness/safety, and ultimately the customer receives a better quality product upon delivery. 

Smart logistics, combined with connected vehicle data is a powerful tool for companies.

5. Autonomous Vehicles & Smart Roads

I believe we need to be very careful about how we implement autonomous vehicles on our roads to ensure that all road users are safer than before this development.   Ensuring the strictest onboard safety standards are adhered to, combined with ‘Smart Street Furniture’ is key.  Practical object and vehicle recognition in intelligent and autonomous transport systems remain a data-first problem.  The de-risking exercise involves testing and validation using real-life scenarios in a controlled environment. The health of the decisions taken by the vehicles on-board systems needs to be validated by external sources of information on our roads.  The more unique data that is captured and identified, the more accurate the decision models can be.

Here in the UK, we have started to invest in Smart Roads, but there is a lot of misunderstanding about what a true Smart Road is with many believing the focus is on speed control which is only part of the puzzle.   Cranfield University’s work on project HumanDrive is an exciting development.

Conclusion:

The transportation industry is making great strides in its evolution, and I am so proud that security technologies can enable individuals and companies to be safer using our transport network.

This topic is close to my heart so if you have any developments you think I should know about, please get in touch for a chat: Nicholas.koiza@plextek.com

For any general enquiries please email hello@plextek.com

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