Proactive Traffic Solutions

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2010-12-28 Print this article Print


In addition, more than two-thirds of the coastal city's 460 square miles is water. IBM software is helping to manage six wastewater treatment plants, two reservoirs, approximately 1,250 miles of wastewater gravity mains and a water treatment plant with a 170-million-gallon capacity. The system ensures safe, clean water to the community while conserving city resources by providing faster and more efficient maintenance. 

Urgent requests for critical water work orders that can impact residents, such as pipe main breaks or water quality problems, are now received as e-mails on the smartphones of designated Water Department first responders, city officials said. Field crews get real-time work-order updates and directly update the work-order status on their phones without having to go through a dispatcher. This increases the time crews can work in the field maintaining the city's assets rather than in the office submitting paperwork. 

The software provides analysis into overall water and wastewater projects to guide water main replacement and capital improvement strategies to continually improve the reliability of the water systems. 

Working with IBM, all city departments address their work more efficiently and more intelligently by providing real-time information, history of prior work, and geographic location. The Solid Waste Department, for example, uses IBM software to keep track of garbage routes as well as customer complaints. Using laptops connected to the city's WiFi system, public utility gas crews in the field can access exact pipe locations before digging, get a history of repairs in the area and update work orders from the field.  

Park Maintenance crews track all work performed, or needed, on each of the city's 300 parks, ensuring that park lawns are mowed according to target frequencies and maintained according to standards and that public playground facilities are inspected and maintained as needed to provide safe recreational areas, city officials said. The city-operated airport uses the system to ensure that customer-facing facilities are maintained according to standards and for better inventory control. With more than 1,100 miles of public roads to maintain, the Streets Services Department tracks work performed on streets, including labor and materials costs. Traffic Engineering can track locations of citizen complaints and work needed on traffic signals, city officials said.

Aided by this intelligence, the city can better schedule proactive replacement or maintenance of assets before they break as part of its managed work schedule. This planning allows the city to properly allocate staff and resources in line with urgent or unforeseen circumstances, city officials said.

Meanwhile, in another December engagement, IBM and its partner Telvent, a global IT solutions and services provider, announced they will co-develop smarter traffic solutions that are affordable and customized for small cities, university and government campuses, and business districts.

While large urban areas like New York, Los Angeles and Washington have well-known traffic issues, congestion is also common in smaller cities and college campuses when populations and road traffic can spike during rush hour or weekend football games. It is estimated that even in areas with populations of fewer than 500,000, people waste up to 20 hours a week on delays and congestion can cost cities millions of dollars each year. 

Today transportation agencies are largely reactive to traffic issues and focus on isolated incidents and single areas of congestion. However, taking advantage of predictive analytics and real-time information from road sensors allows agencies to be more proactive in dealing with traffic and mobility issues, IBM officials said. The joint solution will apply IBM's advanced analytics and Telvent's traffic management expertise to give small urban areas visibility for better traffic control and improving congestion - at a price point that is line with their budgets.

Based on IBM's Government Industry Framework and Telvent's SmartMobility management suite, solution components include IBM's Cognos, Traffic Prediction Tool and DB2 and Telvent products such as MIST, SmartNET, Telvent SmartMobility Tolling, Telvent SmartMobility Parking and ICM (Integrated Corridor Management). 

The solution can integrate and analyze data traffic control, road sensors, bus schedules, real-time GPS location and IBM's advanced analytics, IBM officials said. For example, a small city could tap into data from GPS devices in sensors embedded in the roadway. It can analyze the information with sophisticated algorithms to predict traffic jams associated with a special event or large construction project before they happen. By predicting where a traffic jam will be in, say, an hour, drivers could be automatically notified ahead of time, multiple alternate routes could be suggested and public transportation schedules could be shifted to better handle demand. A large university would be able to anticipate and plan around local constraints on its traffic network, such as traffic incidents, a football game or an unexpected loss of capacity, by adjusting bus scheduling and parking information, readjusting traffic signals, or rerouting traffic flow. In addition, cities can use a wireless system that monitors the availability of parking spaces. 

The new transportation management and analytics system from IBM and Telvent provides real-time visibility across the entire transportation network and the ability to manage operations and assets in a more integrated way, IBM officials said. Operators can make quick decisions and adjustments to solve common traffic management issues and unanticipated congestion. They will also be able to implement proactive strategies to meet the demands of growing populations. 

"Real-time visibility across an entire transportation network is key to better traffic management regardless of the size of the area or population, said Ignacio Gonzalez, CEO of Telvent, in a statement. "We will be combining our expertise to give small urban areas' transportation operators a cost-effective way to manage the unique mobility issues that they face, helping them improve operational performance, get more capacity out of their existing transportation networks and improving travelers' experience." 

"Whether it is suburban sprawl, corridors with a number of businesses located close together or the limited routes across a university campus, existing infrastructure was not designed to handle the reality of traffic today," said Rich Varos, director of Intelligent Transportation Solutions at IBM, also in a statement. "By combining predictive analytics with the realities of system constraints, transportation operators of any size can implement more sustainable traffic planning, improved passenger services and increased efficiencies."

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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