How to put your city in the fast lane (while others hit the brakes)

This information provided by Smart Cities Council North America.
Thu, 2017-06-01 19:17 -- SCC Partner

Rapid population growth is slowing most cities down. What can you do about that? Get smart about how you manage your transportation infrastructure.

It’s not about just laying more pavement. It’s about getting and acting on comprehensive, accurate data so that you can optimize every element of your transportation infrastructure. Here, GE, a Council Global Lead Partner, outlines how you can put all the pieces together. — Kevin Ebi

By Ryan Schmidt, GE

Since the beginning of time, human evolution has been directly linked with movement of people and goods. People travel from one place to another in search for food, shelter, and survival. This need for efficient travel has led to continual advances in transportation.

Now, massive growth in many cities is causing congestion like never before. This is leading urban dwellers to move about in new ways, including car shares, on-demand vehicles and even driverless vehicles. And, multimodal travel, which often includes walking or cycling, is also on the rise. Cities with efficient transportation networks will be positively positioned for growth in the coming years; accurate data about how people move throughout urban environments is fundamental to enabling efficient transportation networks.

In order to achieve greater efficiency with existing roadway networks, roadway assets need to be actively managed based on real-time and historical traffic flow. And, while volumes of vehicles are fundamental to optimizing roadway networks, unfortunately this data is not available as frequently as necessary to enable advanced transportation management solutions. Plus, volumes only tell part of the story — smart cities need to understand routes, demographics and reasons for travel to manage traffic well. Thus, transportation professionals are seeking new options.

Fortunately, innovative smart city sensor nodes attached to streetlights can now provide real-time volumes and speeds of vehicles, pedestrian and bike as often as multiple times per block. These types of sensors can be deployed more cost effectively than dedicated traffic sensors since they provide value to a variety of market segments, including transportation, public safety, and environmental solutions.

Cutting-edge transportation management solutions, such as PTV Optima, leverage vehicle counts and speed data from ubiquitously deployed sensors to enable real-time management of urban roadways based on current and predicted future conditions.

Cities looking for a more complete understanding of how people move through their communities can leverage analytics derived from data coming off smartphones and connected cars. Such data is one of the only empirical data resources for the origins, destinations, and speeds of full trips, along with trip purpose and demographics of travelers. StreetLight Data, an industry leader in this space, layers in contextual information that enriches vehicle counts from sensors. Calibrating StreetLight Data’s analytics with sensor data also improves accuracy and virtually extends sensors’ footprints.    

Many city trips are now multimodal and start on foot or bike. Historically, it has been difficult for cities to know where investing pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure would yield the best returns given the dearth of data about the numbers of these alternative roadway users. Now, smart city infrastructure can provide real-time bicycle and pedestrian counts on a block by block basis throughout urban environments.

Cities that take advantage of the new sets of data from innovative smart city technology as well as advanced transportation software solutions will be able to more efficiently manage their transportation networks, thus positioning them for growth in the coming years. I, for one, am anxious to see the efficiencies that ubiquitous vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian data will enable in these cities of the future.

Ryan Schmidt heads Strategic Alliances for Smart Cities at GE. He is passionate about enabling smart city partner ecosystems that enhance the lives of urban dwellers. Do you develop solutions that could be enhanced with ubiquitous digital infrastructure sensor data? Check out GE’s platform APIs to see if the incremental value to your application, apply to become a partner of Current, powered by GE. Interested in learning how we all need to work together to realize success for smart cities? Check out our webinar “It Takes a Village to Raise a Smart City.”