ITS Coming of Age

ITS is coming of age, and with it comes many benefits.

For those that have experienced raising kids, you may relate to the benefits of maturity. Continually monitoring our toddlers activities and confirming they are safe, is replaced with them letting us know what they are doing based on expectations, experience, and guidelines.

Technology isn’t much different, and oftentimes easier and more predictable.

ITS systems have been around for longer than the iPhone. Many were designed on the premise that roadside devices are networked to a source of intelligence - like a centralized Advanced Traffic Management System. The ATMS system polls the devices and determines the status of the network through many data points and bases decisions on said information.

In this realm all of the command and control is the ATMS system, and it requires lots of bandwidth and storage, even when perhaps nothing interesting is happening or changing from the roadside perspective.

Imagine the push back and time commitment during the teenage years if you talked to your kid every 30 seconds - yes I’m still on the couch, no I haven’t cleaned my room...30 seconds later...still on the couch, another 30 seconds - I’m walking to my room, and than 30 seconds later, my room is cleaned and I'm back on couch. Constant polling is not the best use of our time and resources when we have a nominal level of intelligence and experience.

Today, roadside devices can be configured to report information based on simple rules, principles and guidelines. Intelligent Sensor technologies report change as detected which results in reducing both bandwidth and data management requirements. ITS coming of age is a result micro computers being reliable, plentiful and cost effective, and allowing ITS professionals to truly receive real-time traffic information cost effectively in an environment of doing more with less, while maximizing resources.

Expectations change in the teenage years - parents go to work and provide a list of what needs to be done today, and what the expectations are - no kids in the house, let me know if you leave, and where you are going. A clear set of rules and expectations = efficiency.

A single networked sensor polled on a regular basis can create 3 million data points of storage over the course of a year, not to mention the resulting network traffic. Multiply that across all of your ITS devices and now your looking at sizable network bandwidth and storage.

Edge computing using Smart Devices helps alleviate many network and data storage issues. Edge computing is defined roughly as having intelligence within the field device (on the "edge"). Edge computing enables your device to be programed to report to you when; for example, the status of traffic changes, rather than sending all that data across your network to make that determination. Personally, in the 20 years of providing temporary ITS systems in and around work zones, Free flow is expected, happens 80% of the time or more, and is somewhat uninteresting. Furthermore it costs money to collect and store that information.

With edge computing you can reduce communications and data storage by roughly 80%. You still poll the device on a regular basis to confirm connectivity, but considerably less frequently, and your system is notified of state changes based on its configuration. The raw data is still collected and available, it's just a question of what data do you want, what format, frequency, status changes, event based, XX min before and after an event, etc.

Additional benefits to maturing ITS is it also allows for simpler system integrations at the Information Level of your ITS network, rather than the Application, Transport, Subnet, and/or Field device levels. This means the information collected is seamlessly integrated using existing means, rather than developing new functionality into your existing system.

In short, ITS has reached maturity. Through edge computing your road network is operating as expected, unless you're notified. This saves you time, money, and makes life easier.