‘…head out on the highway’. When Steppenwolf produced those immortal lyrics, the last thing I guess any of us imagined was the idea of running straight into a traffic jam, however wild we were feeling. But could any of those jams be avoided – or at least reduced -through the use of intelligent and integrated transport systems?
Organisations collect and store terabytes of data, but how much of it is actually intelligent information? Improving our data need not always be about adding new sensors or technology, sometimes it’s as simple as increasing the frequency of recording and reporting data that or combining two or more data sources that can provide a higher level of integrity of information. This allows more detailed patterns to be recognised; better decisions to be made or a more up to date view of a situation to be provided.
Take the UK as an example, where we already have an intelligent transport system. On our road networks, sensors in the surface of the roads count the number of vehicles to give a picture of volume and throughput. When we combine this data with historic data about particular vehicle flows, you can start to provide the information required to determine if there are problems or incidents building up on the road and act before they get out of hand. The trick however, is working out when it’s just ‘situation normal’ or whether there really is a problem on one of the thousand of miles of highway. For example at 6pm on the M6 on a Friday evening, flow of traffic might be very slow or even stopped, but if this is typical behaviour for this time of day then it can be safely ignored by the operators whose job it is to maintain the nation’s highways. On the other hand, if it is 2pm on a Tuesday, it might be cause for concern. Link this to the operator’s ability to look at that stretch of motorway via CCTV and you can see the advantage of being able to use this information to help spot an incident earlier.
By linking these sources of data automatically we can start to provide more intelligent information to the Regional Control Centres thus enabling the operators to make better informed decisions and react faster to real incidents, reducing delays and saving time. Detecting a problem early can potentially save hours and hours of queuing.
The world is awash with messages about recycling and cleaner technology, but it doesn’t always have to be about plastics, paper, and energy consumption (although I’m not for a second suggesting that this isn’t critically important). Hopefully this blog talks to another form of recycling; that of recycling information and how more valuable it can be when it’s reused in a new combined form with other data sources. Needing better data doesn’t automatically mean having to get into new technology development.
But this data fusion doesn’t just have to be limited to transport technology. How many more applications are crying out for the fusion of existing data sources in order to provide enhanced information for the end user? Or even to make your next product development that much more innovative?
If you have a suggestion, then please add it as a comment below.