Co-authored with Dani Schrakamp

Continue to follow along with our new #GovernmentNow and #PublicSectorNow blog series, where we’ll address stories of innovation and inspiration, pressing topics, and changing perspectives for today’s ever-evolving world.

Now more than ever, our day-to-day productivity is measured by accessibility and connectivity, largely by our ability to access the Internet. As such, teleworking, remote operations, distance learning, and virtual care are the new normal. From hitting Peloton milestones to sharing Webex wine tastings with friends, even recreational activities and social gatherings are experienced online. Most importantly, with secure access to reliable connectivity at the heart of our new reality, it has never been more crucial to have secure network infrastructure that supports resiliency and continuity.

Access is the new mobility

Like other government agencies around the world, departments and ministries of transportation are turning to their remote desk employees and virtual traffic managers, among others, to uphold continuity of services. The task of virtualizing traffic management centers (TMCs) is essential to maintain roadway safety, roadside assistance, and emergency response. Even as many of us remain at home or still in the throes of social distancing.

Traditionally, TMCs rely on in-person management of video, voice, and traffic management applications. As a result, each complex aspect must be tackled independently while considering the successful pursuit of virtualization.

Employee viewing traffic operations from a management dashboard.

Firstly, it’s common to monitor highways, urban streets, and intersections by live video streams. Advances in edge and video analytics can certainly allow for various means of incident detection. However, video operations remain highly dependent on the reaction and response of the “eyes on” operator. Consequently, to uphold safe and efficient roadway operations in today’s environment, distributing and viewing camera feeds remotely requires simple, secure access technologies.

Additionally, TMCs often provide traveler information services, like the three-digit 511 dialing code. Additionally, these kinds of systems support communications to and among first responders. Therefore, it is increasingly important that traffic operators have remote access to both virtual call center and remote communications functions during times when in-person work environments are not available.

Data from devices on roadways and at intersections as well as from applications in connected vehicles continuously feed traffic management systems. Maintaining the capacity to securely route context-rich, edge intelligence provides operational resiliency. Context is everything when it comes to securing application access. Most importantly, critical infrastructure, like transportation systems, must remain hyper-vigilant against growing cyber threats that seek to inflict damage and take advantage of crisis situations.

Operate for today, plan for tomorrow

It’s important to realize that the concept of accessibility over mobility has farther reaching challenges that must be addressed. Mobility – more specifically traffic congestion – is often used as a measurement of economic activity. As such, transportation funding is directly or indirectly linked to measures of mobility. What then is the implication while our social distancing norms continue to widely sideline trains, planes, and automobiles? The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials preliminary projections from state departments of transportation show an average 30 percent decline in transportation revenues for the next 18 months. 

If accessibility unlocks people’s overall ability to reach key destinations such as jobs, schools, and centers of commerce without the need for physical travel, transportation organizations must also consider innovative approaches to provide – and monetize – this access.

For example, departments of transportation that have fiber optic infrastructure for things like Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) are in a unique position to maximize their technology deployments. However, laws and regulations tend to vary in regard to the sharing and exchanging of resources gaining access to fiber. New partnerships and technology approaches must be considered to conquer these growing digital inequities. At a minimum, industry leaders need to open up discussions to collectively approach a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges that lay ahead in creating new revenue streams.

Critical continuity and resiliency

As we’re currently witnessing and quickly realizing, workforce and operational continuity planning resonates well across all sectors. Notably, there is a great need for effective and efficient means to securely extend core operational functions into remote environments. Consequently, this also appears to be one of the most detrimental resiliency gaps that organizations face.

Considering the implications for another critical infrastructure sector – water utilities – the impacts, like loss of potable water, could lead to communities being uninhabitable. Continued operations, unshakable resiliency, and strict security posture can make all the difference for a healthy population of people.

As stewards of public health and the environment, the water sector commits to preparedness during crises to manage risks associated with protecting the water supply and issues related to continuity of service. But even so, what challenges do they face?

Remote operations environment for water utilities

In today’s uncertain climate, preliminary results of an American Water Works Association member survey reveal that continuity of operations and absenteeism is considered the largest concern for at least 70 percent of its respondents. Normal day-to-day operations call for water utilities to rely extensively on in-person expertise and interactions to operate and maintain water and wastewater facilities. This paradigm becomes challenged when organizations must enact business continuity plans due to a crisis. At Cisco, our mission is to be our customers’ most trusted partner and to continue to serve our communities during these uncertain times. Currently there is an exponential increase in remote working and operations worldwide, and we have the secure technology that can help.

Calling all IT heroes

Join the Cisco Live community for our digital 2020 experience. Hear more from our leading industry experts as we dive deeper into operational continuity, security and resiliency for critical infrastructure, and realities we face in this “new normal”. Make sure to tune in for our industry sessions PSOIND-1011 and POSIND-1102.

The bridge to possible

From transportation systems to water utilities, now is the time to learn from crisis. It’s time that we recognize the unique opportunity to learn from current events to improve for the future.

Between the uncertainties of today and the opportunities of tomorrow, Cisco is enabling the transformations that open new worlds of possibility.

We’d love to hear what you think. Comment below. Share your thoughts. Join the conversation. And keep an eye out for our next #GovernmentNow post.

Roadmap for the #GovernmentNow series


Michelle Maggiore

Business Development Manager

Industry Solutions Group - Transportation