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Insight: How Cisco and the IoT is transforming transportation in Linz, Austria

Cities around the world are racing to develop smarter, more connected transportation systems. Through greater connectivity and digitization of transportation, they are experiencing faster, more efficient traffic management, reduced congestion, improved road safety, and a decrease in CO2 emission levels.

One city leading the pack is Linz in Austria. Working with Cisco, the city has revolutionized its public transit system by connecting all its light-rail trams, buses, ticketing machines and stations to the Internet of Things (IoT). Using advanced, real-time data analytics, the city of Linz has been able to increase transportation efficiency and improve the rider experience, while reducing energy consumption by 10% and CO2 output by more than 98 tons.

Linz’s connected transportation initiative has been so successful that the city is now rolling-out additional plans that include a smartphone app that will streamline trip-planning, and a smart parking initiative that will enable drivers to see available parking spaces and reserve them in advance.

Traffic Technology Today spoke with Barry Einsig, Cisco’s global automotive and transportation executive, about the Linz project and future developments.

How is the Cisco IoT system in Linz improving transportation?
We began working with Linz AG, the technical services arm for the city, in 2015, to digitally transform Linz’s transportation system. The project started with connecting one light-rail tram to the IoT and turning it into a free public wi-fi hotspot as part of a pilot. Since then, Linz has expanded the project so that all 60 of the city’s light-rail trams and 400 ticketing machines are now connected to the Cisco network. Within the past few months, the city has also connected an all-new fleet of 180 buses and turned them into wi-fi hotspots as well. Now, data from the various sensors, infrastructure and other connections are unified and sent to a centralized control center, where transportation officials can easily view, extract and analyze information to deliver additional benefits to citizens.

Specifically, Linz is improving transportation in terms of greater safety, travel efficiency and environmental sustainability. First, the city’s trams, buses and 12 stations are connected using our video security solutions. Data from video security cameras is sent to the control center, where transportation staff can respond immediately if there is any type of emergency. Second, tram stations now have digital displays that show where trams are located [in real time] and how long until they arrive at a station, thus providing passengers with a more connected, convenient trip. Third, more than 400 ticketing machines are connected to the network and managed from the control center. From there, personnel can easily update the machines’ user interfaces and conduct predictive maintenance as needed. This lowers repair costs and reduces machine downtime to keep travelers moving.

Last, but not least, Linz has reduced its transit system’s environmental impact by collecting and analyzing data on the braking and acceleration behavior of each tram driver. After reviewing the data, Linz AG provided instructional courses to teach drivers how to optimize their driving by braking and accelerating more efficiently. Thanks to these courses, the city’s trams now use less electricity. And, because 12% of the electricity that powers the light-rail trams comes from fossil fuels, Linz AG estimates that it has reduced CO2 emissions by 490 tons since the pilot began.

What do you envisage as being the primary enabler of future connected vehicle systems, wi-fi or 5G cellular?
It’s a missed opportunity to solve real-world safety, security, mobility and passenger entertainment challenges by picking a single technology in this space. Because of the complexity of the applications, the various latency requirements, bandwidth needs, interoperability, business models, legal liabilities and use cases, we need to incorporate all the relevant wireless technologies, from LTE, 5G, wi-fi, DSRC and millimeter wave technologies, and any others that evolve. All will have a role in the future of connected and automated vehicles, and those technologies should compete to provide the right wireless network, or combination of networks and business models to serve the needs of the industry. This is very much the way we combine microwave, 4G, and wi-fi networks together to serve today’s service provider networks. We have seen many times in the past that when we let the industry choose, based on competition, rather than choosing in advance, the whole industry prospers.

When is the proposed smart parking initiative due to be rolled out and will it use in-road or streetlight-mounted sensors?
Linz AG and Cisco are planning to roll out a project in early 2018 involving a smart parking system that enables citizens to identify and reserve open parking spaces through a smartphone application. The system will use streetlight-mounted video cameras that can verify if a driver has already paid for a parking space. If someone does not pay, the system will automatically bill them based on their license plate number and registration information.

How can Cisco’s systems help traffic managers to fight congestion?
Our Connected Roadways solution, together with Kinetic for Cities Urban Mobility solution, uses a combination of sensors and video cameras to provide real-time configurable vehicle counts and vehicle classification on a road segment. Traffic managers can log into the solution’s dashboard to visualize real-time traffic data and customized historic reporting. With these insights, city operators can make informed decisions that improve traffic flow and keep citizens safe. For example, if there are often long backups at a particular intersection, the data collected may suggest changing lane placements or installing new signage to keep drivers moving.

What are your personal hopes for the future of transportation?
One of my biggest hopes is that transportation agencies and governments will make greater progress in their digital transformation journeys. If we want to live in a world with completely frictionless travel, we need cities, states and even countries to begin preparing now for the connections of the future, such as automated vehicles. This cannot happen unless the transportation sector transitions from its existing, outdated, closed and proprietary networks, to more modern ones that support and secure new IoT connections and the prolific amounts of data they generate.

 

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