I think one of the most amazing things about Cisco IoT is that every day we get to see how our customers are using our solutions to transform their industries, increase their business resiliency, and improve safety for their assets, workers, and citizens.
Today we’re going to look with that lens on the public safety and transportation sector. I’ve invited members of the Cisco IoT team to share their insights and expertise:
Let’s set the stage here for our audience. Arik – Can you give us a little insight into the motivations to make intersections and roadways smarter?
When we look at trends in the public sector, we are seeing a lot of growth in connected intersections, corridors and communities. Primarily, that growth can be traced back to four primary trends:
- Cities continue to grow, with 1B+ cars on the road increasing traffic congestion by 25% over the past five years
- By 2030, 20% of cars will have V2X (Vehicle to Everything) technologies to provide the benefits of real-time vehicle data and communications
- Environmental and sustainability concerns are driving the need to improve public and multi-modal transportation services using connected technologies
- We are now also seeing larger scale implementations at state and country levels, as well as city and county levels, driven by these new use cases as well as infrastructure modernization and security needs
But, at the heart of it, there’s really one overriding reason why everyone wants roadways to get smarter – to save lives. The World Health Organization estimates that every 23 seconds, a road user in the world dies from a traffic incident – whether a car user, pedestrian, or cyclist. Plus, you’ve got worker safety zones where there’s a high incident of injury and death.
Social and demographic trends demand we find ways to have more cars and transportation capacity – while also making it safer for travelers, workers, and citizens to ultimately get to our goal of zero traffic related deaths.
Continuing with that thought Arik. What are the challenges and opportunities for technology to help with that goal?
To start with, there is a lot of old technology out there, like traffic cabinets and signal controllers, and a lot of ground to cover – literally. In the US alone, we have over 300K intersections and an estimated 220K critical miles with significant technology and connectivity challenges.
Compound that with emerging technologies like V2X that we spoke of earlier. Given the recent FCC decision and the clarification on standards for V2X spectrum use, we expect that the US will now accelerate in its the adoption and deployment of V2X technology. But that acceleration also requires attention on one critical issue – security.
As intersections and roadways are digitized, we are significantly expanding the threat landscape across interconnected systems and those V2X vehicles. Consequently, we’re seeing heightened interest and investments in security as critical parts of these smarter roadways and intersections projects.
In fact, these types of outdoor connectivity are particularly vulnerable to cyber-attacks due to their limited physical security. That risk needs to be balanced by extra strong cyber-security. Unfortunately, even today with limited connectivity there have been too many examples of ransomware and denial-of-service attacks on city and transportation infrastructures, demonstrating that better and stronger cyber-security measures are urgently needed!
With all these challenges comes immense opportunities. By digitizing – we can really start to make the road smarter and safer. With technology woven into intersections and roadways, you can:
- Get data insights to manage traffic and increase safety
- Connect remote safety zones
- Handle the large volumes of data from connected vehicles and sensors
- Detect exactly where and when problems occur so that problems get fixed faster
All of this and more puts us on an aggressive path to that goal of zero-traffic related deaths.
I know you spend most of your days helping our clients roll-out solutions Sripriya. Can you tell us more about what you are seeing?
We’re seeing so much activity across the board – but particularly related to Arik’s comments about the importance of getting data insights to increase safety.
Our department of transportation and municipal customers are rapidly connecting their traffic controllers and adding new real-time sensors. They want to have more dynamic control of how they control the traffic by being informed of details like where and when pedestrians are crossing, where are the cyclists, what are the types of traffic – truck vs car, what are the weather conditions, and more.
Real-time accurate data and connectivity on roadways and intersections from cameras, counters, weather systems and other sensors, enables our customers to provide dynamic message signs, manage traffic flows dynamically, automate tolling systems, and improve traffic congestion and road safety.
The key for all of this is that reliable, secure connectivity for road sensors, traffic controllers, cameras, connected to the traffic management center so operators can adapt to the dynamic conditions, inform the drivers and increase safety on the roads.
Speaking of traffic management, I remember a conversation I had with you about unconnected traffic lights. I think it’s common to wonder why traffic lights don’t better adjust to traffic?
Yes Vikas! Many of us have been frustrated at an empty intersection at midnight, wondering why the lights do not adjust? Many of those 300K intersections are unconnected traffic lights that are on loops where they have the same timings every day – regardless of time, traffic conditions, or weather. It often takes years before any configuration updates are made because they rely on manual surveys to track traffic patterns. When those loop systems fail and the lights go down, there is no automatic fault notification. Authorities must wait for someone to notify them that lights are down.
It’s not that cities don’t want smarter traffic signals. But they are burdened with outdated technology. Most of these intersections are using legacy technologies. If they are using traffic cameras and CCTV, they are usually on different networks which is expensive and often lacks adequate cyber-security. Traditionally, it has been difficult, costly, and risky to digitize.
- Deploying Layer 2 unmanaged switches is easy, but leaves the door open for a cyber-security disaster.
- Deploying traditional managed switches and maintaining per switch ACLs is an unmanageable nightmare.
So, it’s often a Catch-22 scenario. That’s where Cisco steps in with our modern network and security management solutions to make networks BOTH easy to deploy and highly secure.
Clearly connectivity is at the heart of all these solutions. Arik – help us understand what options these organizations have?
Customers essentially have three basic options for the connectivity – fiber, cellular, and wireless backhaul. Let’s start with fiber. Fiber offers great throughput and performance, and if a customer has fiber already in place, it’s a very cost-effective solution. With Cisco’s ruggedized Industrial Ethernet switches, you can light up that fiber network and extend ethernet connectivity, including POE, out from the roadside cabinet, all with automation and security.
And we’re seeing one of our customers do just that like the City of Schenectady, New York. Schenectady sought to leverage and extend their fiber network and bring zero-trust secure, connectivity to their more than 200 roadside cabinet ethernet switches that need to securely connect their traffic controllers, cameras and WiFi APs.
By making their traffic controllers smarter, they could reduce the number of hours responding to issues and deliver a better, safer driver experience for their residents.
I know that in addition to fiber, there’s a lot of old copper out there – particularly for our European customers. Tarannum – can you tell us options for our customers to leverage that infrastructure?
When we talk about choice for our customers, now we can offer them one more choice for their wired cabinets – Copper + DSL. With legacy PSTN lines being discontinued by service providers in Europe, UK, and Australia, customers can leverage existing copper by plugging in DSL lines directly into industrial routers using the xDSL module.
We’re making it easy for customers to leverage this capability. With a single global module for all DSL technologies, our customers don’t need to worry about the specific DSL capability in any location. This dramatically simplifies their operations. Plus, the modular IR1101 router design allows them to add new capabilities on the same base networking infrastructure – maximizing their ROI and futureproofing their investment.
For example, our DSL module is being deployed by a large Department of Transportation in the UK. They are mounting the Cisco IR1101 industrial router in roadside cabinets and use DSL as the primary connectivity to manage traffic lights at roadside intersections. With reliable and secure connectivity, they will be able to simplify traffic flow remotely.
Sripriya – what about customers that don’t have fiber or copper which is often the reality? Laying down new fiber is expensive and digging trenches is not a quick process. Can they use cellular?
When there’s no existing connectivity into those cabinets, cellular is a wonderful option. Our line of cellular-capable industrial routers deliver secure connectivity anywhere it’s needed plus simplified management tools. Plus, customers can add dual LTE connections for increased resiliency.
Let me tell you how we’re seeing customers like Statewide Departments of Transportation using these technologies. As Arik mentioned above, roadways can be very dangerous places – but they also present amazing opportunities to collect information to make them safer. With roadside sensors and connectivity, we can collect real-time information on weather conditions like floods, wet roads, and fog to alert drivers in advance. Anytime you are driving on a highway and you see those large driver information signs – they are powered by IoT.
Another great use case is emergency vehicle traffic prioritization. By adding real-time, secure connectivity to traffic signal controllers, you can create favorable traffic patterns for emergency response vehicles. Here we also leverage AT&T FirstNet LTE connectivity to use the location information from the vehicles and communicate with the traffic controllers to create a fast, priority route for the response vehicle.
What’s really important to these customers is to make these connectivity solutions simple, secure, and scalable. They potentially have thousands of roadside cabinets with traffic controllers. They need to be able to securely connect them in harsh outdoor environments while remotely operating and managing them.
Now that they’ve seen the benefits and ease-of-deployment for this real-time connectivity, they are looking to extend it broadly to create safe, reliable and integrated transportation systems. Think beyond intersections and roadways into every transportation modality – connected mass transit, metro, rail, maritime, aviation, freight and logistics.
What about when they want to stream high bandwidth? Doesn’t that get expensive with cellular? What are you seeing Stan?
Absolutely it does. The appetite to stream video from every intersection is strong and growing. So many of the applications our customers look to deploy require predictable performance – high bandwidth, low latency, often both – and predictable cost. Cellular networks can be capacity constrained, generally don’t support high bandwidth streaming up from the edge and come with significant recurring costs if they do.
With Cisco Fluidmesh, we provide a solution to deploy private wireless solutions with the performance of wired connections and the flexibility of nothing buried in the streets.
For another great example, look at the Virginia Department of Transportation (VA DOT). They have thousands of intersections with traffic signals; some were connected to a network. Most were not. Of the ones that were, the physical infrastructure needed to be refreshed, but the cost of trenching, the new fiber, and the associated downtime was significant. Using Cisco Fluidmesh, they were able to very quickly, in a matter of days and weeks, deploy point-to-point and point-to-multipoint wireless connectivity to take the place of the broken fiber and copper connections, bring new intersections onto the network much more quickly, and enabling over-the-top video streaming wherever they needed it.
Now, VA DOT is making driving safer for residents – adjusting more quickly to temporary road closures and realizing hundreds of thousands of dollars in capital and operational savings.
Tell me more about other things our customers are doing with Cisco Fluidmesh. What business problems are we solving for?
Think simple, secure, and scalable connectivity. With Cisco Fluidmesh, you can connect your assets and quickly deploy networks where wiring is hard. Cisco Fluidmesh has a specialty in providing ultra-low latency, ultra-reliable, and high throughput connections to stationary things like poles in a city, nomadic things like roadside message signs, and fast-moving things like fleet vehicles and trains.
One of our customers in France – the Lyon Metro System – wanted to ensure the public was safe anywhere on their journey. They invested in a Cisco network to support system-wide video surveillance in all their train stations. But the passengers’ expectations don’t stop at the yellow line on the platform; riders need to know that using the system is safe, turnstile to turnstile. To give riders the same confidence while on their driverless, autonomous trains, they extended that same connectivity and surveillance capability to the moving trains. With Cisco Fluidmesh in place, they now have more than 1000 high-definition public safety and emergency cameras streaming from 100+ trains, providing real-time views from all trains as they circulate.
This type of wireless capability solves the connectivity challenge in many demanding settings – like on-the-go and remote use cases. Another of those key use cases is rapidly bringing high quality internet access to disadvantaged areas to help close the Digital Divide, and I look forward to sharing more about that in our next IoT Roundtable.
Thanks Stan for the plug for our next IoT Roundtable! But first … Arik – These secure connectivity options to start making roadways, intersections, and transit smarter all sounds great. But, how do we help customers speed to a solution?
We’ve got so many resources for customers to explore as they get started on their path. In this blog, we’ve placed links to case studies and products to explore. I encourage readers to reach out to any of us with questions where we can share what we’ve seen and learned by rolling out these solutions over the last decade.
To help accelerate our customer’s journey, we also have a very concerted and significant effort to produce industry blueprints. These Cisco Validated Designs (CVDs) reduce implementation and operational risks by validating and documenting the Cisco best-practice designs and blueprints for specific solutions. Comprehensive CVD Design and Implementation Guides document the details of the solution, best practices, and recommended implementations, including appropriate 3rd party vendor components.
I’d encourage readers to explore the following CVDs as they embark on their journey to secure, connected roadways and intersections:
- Connected Communities Infrastructure: The Connected Communities Infrastructure CVD provides simplified and secure connectivity options (including V2X) to connect Traffic Management Systems (TMS) and Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), enhance them with edge compute capabilities, and deliver safety with security and video surveillance.
- Remote and Mobile Assets: Cisco’s Remote and Mobile Assets CVDs provides powerful ways to connect your assets, leveraging the benefit of simplified zero-touch gateway deployments using LTE, Ethernet, or Wi-Fi connections. This solution enables you to connect roadways and intersections, as well as mobile assets such as mass transit and fleet vehicles and other field assets with an easy-to-use management platform that field technicians can operate.
Thanks to our readers and our panel for participating in our IoT Roundtable for Connected Intersections and Roadways!
- Continue this conversation with this team at AskIoT@Cisco.com.
- Talk to an IoT Specialist at com/go/contactiotsales.
- Be sure to connect with the IoT team on LinkedIn: Arik Elberse, Sripriya Narayanan, Tarannum Parkar, and Stan Schreyer.
- Explore Cisco IoT and our industrialized portfolio.
- View our recorded Improve Public Safety and Simplify Traffic Management webinar to learn more.