A Traffic Monitoring Infrastructure as Part of the Smart City

By using sensors and interfaces, systems used in speed enforcement can now offer much more

By using sensors and interfaces, systems used in speed enforcement can now offer much more


The word "smart city" has been a buzzword over the last few years and a concept everyone is talking about. And when it comes to applications for it, the imagination knows no bounds. It includes everything from drones that deliver packages to garbage cans with fill level sensors, smart energy grids, and e-government applications that allow us to apply for a new ID on our smartphone. At its core, it's primarily about solutions to very real problems. Over the years, cities have become denser and this has been accompanied by a shortage of resources. With a population of 5.2 billion living in the world's cities today, the number will grow by approximately one billion by the year 2030. This number is expected to equal 60 percent of the world's population. Today it equals 55 percent. And these people are consuming more and more resources, including air, within a comparatively small amount of space. That is why it is so important to keep the air we have clean. We now must identify where there is an increased need for action and how smart ideas can be used to solve these problems with the help of technology. But one thing is sure. Optimizing the traffic in cities is important and traffic monitoring systems can assist even today in more ways than one might think. VITRONIC wants to help shape what this will look like in the future.


One buzzword with many concepts


The smart city comprises a cluster of topics that include, among others, the smart economy, smart people, smart governance, smart living, smart mobility, and the smart environment. Since the smart city represents a huge growth market for companies, it is no wonder that the smart economy is the nucleus of all activities and the first sector to offer application scenarios. Our private lives are now based on technology, and because humans are playful in nature and like to enjoy consumer electronics and smart home applications, our private lives and our work lives are continuously intertwined. And this generates ideas. Humans also have expectations when it comes to the role technological advancements play in our lives. The digitalization of the economy has also advanced significantly. Terms such as big data, Industry 4.0, and the Internet of Things and their applications point the way to an interconnected and digitized city. Of course, they also impact the concept of mobility within the city and the environment as an important part of quality of life.


Smart mobility and traffic infrastructure


Smart mobility is a concept that naturally brings together technology and traffic monitoring. It focuses on using the already limited space, in particular in city centers, more efficiently to create a better living environment. Distributing traffic volume is also beneficial to the environment. Today, fixed, semi-stationary, and mobile systems for speed enforcement are used to ensure drivers observe legal speed limits. These are basically image processing solutions used primarily to ensure better traffic safety and therefore improve the quality of city life. However, systems from the POLISCAN product portfolio do more than measure excessive speeds, define vehicle classes, capture red light violations, and ensure the correct use of lanes. They also gather additional current information about the configuration of the traffic flow. In the past, vehicles in traffic were counted manually. A city employee would tally the number of vehicles that passed by on a standardized form, which was later placed in a file. This can be done digitally today. Data is captured in real time and sent directly to city administration. The data can be viewed by a city employee and then sent as statistical data to the responsible department. This means that not only city administration employees can access and analyze the data, but so can other stakeholders interested in it. These stakeholders may want to create graphics for online media channels, develop a new traffic app, or optimize delivery routes. Traffic monitoring systems can capture the flow of traffic in different lanes and in both driving directions. One area of application in traffic monitoring in this context would be the interfacing with other traffic control systems. This might include communicating traffic congestion and offering alternative routes. All of this information could also be provided by an app that sends the user up-to-date traffic information via push notifications.


The smart environment as a research project


Sustainability and reducing our impact on the environment is also a focus when we talk about the smart environment. The basis for many activities surrounding these concepts is laid out in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as defined by the UN member states. The SDGs were created to promote sustainable developments in economic, social, and ecological areas by 2030. In Germany, initiatives that address the concept known as the "City of the Future" are already underway. As part of these initiatives, Darmstadt was named the "model city for digitization". Goals these SDG initiatives intend to reach include a resource-optimized configuration of urban infrastructure systems, sustainable mobility and logistics concepts, the integration of existing public infrastructure elements in digital solutions (e.g. addressing security, protection, information, communication), and new sustainable business models for operating intelligent infrastructures. The city of Darmstadt has an infrastructure that includes environmental monitoring stations to provide information about the quality of the air at the measurement site, as well as pillars with devices used to enforce speed and capture speeds at the measurement site. VITRONIC is currently working on a case study entitled "Sustainable Traffic Area Management" with soon-to-be industrial engineers from the Darmstadt University of Applied Science. The study uses POLISCAN speed enforcement pillars already placed within the city limits of Darmstadt.


More than just speed enforcement


Taking into account the aforementioned framework, the question now is to what extent the elements already integrated in the city's infrastructure, such as environmental monitoring stations and speed enforcement systems, can play a part in supporting the SDG goals if they are used in a slightly different way than usual or if additional measures (e.g. interface customization for information content) are implemented in an operating mode that is used occasionally or temporarily, or if they are digitally connected. In particular, it means collecting and using traffic data captured at the sites where speed is enforced in an anonymous format so it can be used in traffic control and then linked to, e.g. environmental data, so that it is possible to have sustainable traffic area management that improves traffic flow in the city limits, reduces noise and air pollution, and therefore improves the quality of life.

The research project will contribute to raise the potential of traffic monitoring solutions by collecting and analyzing traffic data. In this context, the use of additional interfaces and sensors creates added value that is achieved quickly and can bring even more to the table if they are used in even more scenarios. Since the infrastructure already exists in the urban landscape they, like other similar elements such as city street lights, can serve, for example, as a Wi-Fi hotspot. Important prerequisites to operate this infrastructure, such as a power supply, are already in place.