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  April 25th, 2022 | Written by

IoT and Data Improve Transportation in Smart Cities

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Emily Newton is an industrial journalist. As Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, she regularly covers how technology is changing the industry.

Growing urbanization and rising levels of urban migration are causing a transportation crisis worldwide. Modern city management tools, like IoT and big data analytics for mass transit data, may help urban planners manage this problem.

These are the transportation challenges that cities face right now – and how smart city technology may help urban planners reinvent transit.

The Growing Need for Smart City Transportation

Traffic is an inevitable challenge for urban planners. Everyone needs to get to school or work at around the same time, meaning traffic and congestion will peak when transportation infrastructure can’t keep up with demand.

Some cities manage traffic better than others, however. In Greensboro, North Carolina, commuters spent just four hours a year in traffic on average in 2017. However, in Atlanta, they were stuck in traffic jams for 102 hours.

Urban migration is a global trend that experts predict will accelerate over the coming decades. Without intervention, traffic is likely to become an even more serious problem in most of the world.

At the same time, transportation reform may also present a major opportunity for reducing a city’s carbon footprint.

Expanding available public transit options and streamlining infrastructure to reduce traffic and time spent idling could significantly decrease the amount of greenhouse gas emissions a city’s inhabitants will produce getting from place to place.

How Smart Cities Are Using IoT to Improve Transportation

New smart technology allows urban planners and transit designers to use Internet of Things (IoT) technology and mass transit data analysis to streamline city transportation. They try to do so with minimal changes to existing transportation infrastructure.

Smart transportation refers to various technologies that modern cities use to monitor and manage transit systems. This includes internet-connected or IoT monitoring tools and automation solutions that enable the automatic management of infrastructure. Monitoring tools can take many forms, including sensors embedded in signals and streetlights that continuously monitor traffic flow in an area.

These systems help make city transportation more efficient, safer and easier to manage – often through using IoT devices to gather traffic information and adjust the timing of networked signals. Transportation management systems also have a role to play in maintaining electric vehicle charging stations and managing battery levels in electric and autonomous buses.

Enough data enables cities to adjust traffic signal systems based on current flows, allowing managers to guarantee a smooth process or prioritize certain vehicles. 

IoT and Mass Transit Technology in the Real World

Montreal recently introduced a smart mobility system that uses an intelligent management platform to dynamically adjust the timing of traffic signals. The new system helps monitor and manage the flow of cars around the city. Managers can also use it to prioritize certain types of traffic, like the movement of emergency vehicles or public transit.

The system uses a combination of new and existing infrastructure and connects “more than 2,700 intersections and nearly 1,900 vehicles” to a software-based traffic management solution.

In Florida, the county of Miami Dade recently began to implement a similar system, the Advanced Traffic Management System (ATMS). It uses intelligent intersection technology to monitor and manage city traffic flows by optimizing signal timing.

The ATMS project in Miami Dade uses technology already leveraged in several other cities, including Seattle, London and Bogota, Colombia.

Over the next few years, more cities and municipalities worldwide will likely adopt similar smart transportation management systems.

The Future of Transportation in the Smart City

These early experiments with smart traffic data-collection and signal timing management systems show how smart transportation is being implemented right now. Future solutions could be even more ambitious. 

For example, as connected vehicles become more common, cities may be able to rely on information directly from cars to map and model the flow of traffic throughout the city.

Traffic monitors could be integrated with other systems, providing another valuable data source for smart city management.

Future smart transportation systems could also help extend the utility of green city management technology. With better data on traffic and public transit utilization, cities could more effectively target transportation reform to maximize offerings and minimize transportation emissions.

However, the benefits of smart city transportation systems come with some risks. Every extra sensor and networked system can serve as another vector of attack for cybercriminals. Big technology investments could make cities more vulnerable to attacks. 

Cities that adopt smart technology will need to also invest in cybersecurity. Otherwise, they may leave themselves open to ransomware, malware and similar attacks.

How Smart Transportation Systems Could Reshape Transit

A global traffic and transportation crisis is emerging. Smart technology – like intelligent monitors and signals – could help city planners significantly improve traffic management.

New automated systems use a combination of IoT and mass transit data collection plus smart traffic signals to more efficiently direct traffic flow in major cities like Miami and Montreal. 

More sophisticated versions of the systems could integrate with other smart technology in the future, helping provide city managers with even better data-collection and automated management systems.