By Jumbi Edulbehram
Apart from its extensive use for physical security, there’s another application popping up for video data: intelligent traffic management (ITM). Being a critical component in the Smart City movement across the globe, ITM is aiding metropolitan areas in learning more about traffic patterns in order to make transportation more efficient and safe.
According to the Department of Transport in London, 89-percent of delays are caused by congestion in urban areas and it’s predicted that there will be a 43-percent rise in traffic on the roads in London by 2040. This congestion costs roughly $28.6 billion each year – a number that will only continue to grow as more and more cars hit the roads.
In many cities, there are ‘problem’ areas whether it’s a road that has more congestion, an intersection that sees more violations, or areas that are more prone to bicycle accidents. While users of the road infrastructure experience traffic problems directly, there is sometimes a lack of awareness of these issues for agencies tasked with addressing them.
To address these issues, ITM is being implemented to examine traffic congestion, violations, etc., by utilizing GPS, radar sensors and —most importantly— video cameras to get traffic information such as average speed of vehicles, the density of vehicles and road usage.
Combining the power of video and data analytics to target these problem areas can help achieve increased levels of efficiency and safety for pedestrians, bikers and motorists. Here are some other ways ITM initiatives can serve metropolitan areas:
License plate recognition (LPR). One of the more traditional video applications, LPR technology uses optical character recognition on images to automatically read vehicle registration plates. This kind of technology can be used to locate and track vehicles of interest for a variety of applications. Incorporated with a city’s camera network, this can extend the ability for law enforcement and other agencies to track and investigate the movements and locations of vehicles.
Classifying and tracking vehicles. Additionally, video analytics can be used to classify different modes of transportation to determine how roadways and intersections are being used. Analytics can also be used to quickly locate a specific vehicle of interest. For example, a white Ford Bronco traveling at high rates of speed down a freeway, or a motorcycle with a rider wearing a specific helmet.
Flow and congestion. Some cities are placing cameras at busy intersections to measure the movements of vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians. For example, counting the number of bicycles being ridden through the intersection can help determine the usage of bike lanes. Counting and classifying vehicles on different roadways can help in understanding areas and sources of congestion; this information can be used to better operate traffic lights and increase the flow of traffic.
Traffic and parking violations tracking. Excessive speed, red-light violations, illegal U-turns other traffic violations can also be identified with video. The awareness of the locations where a large number of violation occur can help cities address these incidents with measures such as better signage, changing traffic flow, etc.
Congestion pricing. Toll roads can be a major revenue generator for a city, and congestion pricing during certain times of day can be used to increase revenue and disincentivize drivers from going into certain areas of the city. Video can be used to automatically charge vehicles as well as track vehicle flow and congestion to adjust the pricing if necessary.
Emergency notifications. Traffic incidents such as accidents and breakdowns can wreak havoc on the flow of traffic, especially at busy times of day. Analytics applied to video being collected from the roadway can now identify stalled or stopped vehicles and send emergency notifications to public safety agencies or trigger signage to alert other drivers of the hazard. This can mean safer conditions for drivers and those affected by a stalled vehicle.
Intelligent parking. Video sensors now exist that help cities not only collect parking data for revenue purposes, they can also make life a little easier for drivers on the road while reducing emissions. The sensors, which can be found mounted to lamp posts or installed in the ground, can sense when parking spaces are available and use specialized signage or a mobile app to direct drivers to open spaces in an effort to save time (and, in turn, money/emissions) for drivers searching for spaces on a busy city street. The data being collected can also be used to determine whether parking is being paid, which can lead to increased revenues for cities.
What can all of these applications help achieve? For starters, guiding investments in infrastructure. For city planners, knowledge is power and having statistical analysis and data backing up the need for additional infrastructure is invaluable as budgets get tighter and our nation’s infrastructure ages. These applications also foster the goal of continued development of safety measures on city streets. Identification of issues can lead to officials being better equipped to address these challenges.
At their basic level implementing video cameras at busy intersections also offer an element of public safety, as video data can also be used for investigative purposes. However, while cities are making investments in safety and security equipment, it’s prudent to also consider additional usage, like ITM.
While this is in place in a lot of metropolitan areas, the technology is just beginning to catch up. It’s an exciting time to be in the tech industry as we continually strive to maximize investment and discover ways to enrich the lives of city dwellers across the globe.
About The Author
Jumbi Edulbehram is a thought leader within the security and business intelligence markets, and serves as the Regional President – Americas for Oncam. His career has spanned more than 30 years with senior leadership roles at Intel, Samsung Techwin, Intellivid, and Axis Communications.