Nov 2015

Turning Existing Infrastructure into a Conduit of Intelligent Transportation Systems

Combining Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) with the Internet of Things (IoT) can solve the pressing issues facing modern traffic management, delivering greater safety, better efficiency, reduced emissions, and happier travelers. Simply put, future transport requires smarter roads—not more or bigger roads. With tight budgets, however, how can transportation administrators achieve these goals? The answer is literally under their feet: make clever use of their existing infrastructure.

For traffic authorities, providing accurate and timely information to motorists and mass transit agencies via network-based technologies is the step in the right direction to address the aforementioned problems. The benefits of this approach are legion. Information concerning traffic, road, and weather conditions can enable easy, efficient, and comprehensive remote management and adjustment, helping control center staff to see the big picture and keep traffic running smoothly across their entire network.

If these goals can be achieved, safer road travel and faster incident response are additional and most welcome outcomes. These are not farfetched outcomes, as the Internet of Things in Intelligent Transportation Systems holds such promise that eradicating serious accidents is now a plausible target.

In this article, we discuss how to turn existing infrastructure into a conduit of ITS, while saving time, avoiding wastage, and winning support from road users.

ITS intersection systems: an overview

ITS intersection systems generally include traffic lights, roadside radars and sensors, video surveillance digital signage, and information subsystems.

In the past—and even today—most of these intersection subsystems have been implemented and operated somewhat independently and with less cooperation between them than is desirable. In the worst case, different subsystems may sometimes offer distracting or conflicting information that confuses road users. A truly intelligent intersection traffic control system includes similar subsystems to those used in the past, but the difference is that they are organized to work together in a much more efficient manner. The subsystems cooperate with each other, instead of working independently, controlling the right-of-way for all vehicles arriving at the intersections.

Implementation challenges

In most cases, intersection infrastructure falls under the remit of city-level administration. This infrastructure is mainly designed, managed, and budgeted by local transportation departments and similar divisions. Inevitably, they must deal with tight budgets. Yet, at the same time, they are compelled to upgrade their systems to meet the requirements of increasingly tough traffic conditions. Today’s transportation departments are expected to control and manage the whole system more efficiently. For example, they will need to fully utilize modern technologies such as IP CCTV for real-time monitoring of traffic conditions in order to have a better understanding of their entire road network.

Considering the challenges, we can see that copper wire (RJ45) is not a cost-effective solution due to its maximum range of only 100 meters between devices. Fiber has a much better range, but it is not very cost-effective because implementation and maintenance are expensive. Wireless can be useful in some situations, but it may not be a good choice overall due to the inevitable presence of unpredictable signal-blocking obstacles, both moving and stationary, within intersections.

Solution Comparison

  Transmission Distance Total Cost of Ownership Construction Time
Fiber Up to several kilometers High Long
RJ45 Copper (Ethernet) Up to 100 meters Medium Medium
Wireless LAN (802.11/WiFi) Up to 500 meters* Medium Medium
Wireless WAN (Cellular) More than 1 kilometer* High Medium
2-Wire Copper
(Ethernet over Copper via DSL)
Up to 8 kilometers Low Short

*Affected severely by environments
Note: These comparisons are only applicable in reference to 2-wire copper cables.

No need to pay for new infrastructure

Fortunately, in most cases, the decision is much simpler because basic infrastructure already exists. Miles of telephone-grade copper wire are already installed underground for telegram or telecom communication systems, as well as for old-fashioned serial-based traffic signal control systems. It’s always easier to repurpose these existing wires instead of installing new ones, particularly as few transportation budgets are healthy enough to support the cost of overhauling the entire communication system and installing new copper wire or fiber.

Thanks to Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) technology, we can now leverage the telephone-grade copper wires, which are already in place and paid for, and use them to set up an IP-based network. Even old and very basic systems may be usable because only two simple wires are required for DSL. Most importantly: the maximum 100-meter point-to-point distance limitation of RJ45 Ethernet copper connections no longer applies. Instead, a range measured in kilometers is achievable between devices.

Let’s take a look at a case study to learn how the technology and Moxa’s IEX-402 Ethernet extender work in a successful ITS project.

Case study: Secure traffic signal control and CCTV in a major city in California

This project created an intersection-secured traffic signal control and CCTV monitoring system along a key harbor corridor in a major Californian city. Moxa devices were used extensively. The system uses existing copper wires to carry data over several kilometers with DSL technology, as well as fiber and wireless links. Intersection controllers and video feeds were connected to the county-wide Internet—with VPN connections and firewall protection to prevent attacks and protect data. In many situations, DSL, fiber and wireless solutions can complement each other when used together, as this case demonstrates.

Figure - Secure traffic signal control and CCTV in a major Californian City

More Info

Download the white paper Take Today, Add Tomorrow: Turning Existing Infrastructure into a Conduit of Intelligent Transportation Systems to learn more.

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