ITS: From Connected Roads to Smart Roads

November 3, 2021

ITS America Member Company Alcatel-Lucent Enterprises

The effects of digital transformation are sweeping through virtually every industry, bringing innovations that are rapidly changing the landscape. For ITS, the driving force is rising from the proliferation of connected devices, connected vehicles, as well as tech-savvy travelers — all facilitated by the widespread availability of IP connectivity. It’s time for transportation networks to evolve to meet the needs of today’s connected travellers’ and their sophisticated vehicles.

The digital transformation in ITS is creating a world where roadways, bridges, intersections, and commuter systems connect. Digital technologies are already enabling smarter, more autonomous vehicles and transforming the way vehicles operate and drivers communicate.

Challenges create opportunities

To say smart vehicles will require smarter roads is a reality. However, the proliferation of connected devices such as sensors, cameras, vehicles, and personal technologies are challenging ITS networks to keep pace. Today, the growth of congestion on roads is making daily travel difficult. In addition, the volume of vehicles is negatively impacting the environment and degrading the traveller experience.

For transportation agencies, the move to ‘smarter everything’ is resulting in a number of challenges. Transportation agencies are tasked with responding to the ever-changing demands of an increasingly connected public. A public that expects to stream music while driving, use web or GPS applications for navigation, and let their children watch movies online. Along with these applications it goes without saying the ones “under the hood” are more important as they provide predictability and safety.

In addition to sophisticated safety features in vehicles and on roadways, we are now more reliant than ever on the transmission of information by the roads and automobiles themselves. Implementing wired and wireless networks that can support the communications and data that transportation operators need — to reduce vehicle congestion, monitor and respond to incidents, and otherwise ensure smooth and efficient operations — is not an option! ITS organisations are rapidly getting up to speed to quickly shift from traditional signalling and signage, to an IT-based approach. Proactive traffic management can save lives and prevent a crisis before it happens. ITS organisations must choose the right technologies that will accommodate the surge of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and usher in the advent of connected vehicles.

What’s in it for travelers and operators?

Advanced ITS solutions offer a number of key benefits:

• Increased safety and security: Technology that speeds information delivery into traffic flows, road conditions, incidents, construction, and sudden weather changes helps authorities and operators make smarter decisions and quickly relay information to travellers so they can make better decisions and prepare for the conditions ahead.

• Enhanced experience: Finding fast, simple, and secure ways to connect IoT devices enables transportation authorities to focus on more efficiently managing network bandwidth, distribute updates to mobile apps and social media platforms in real-time, and meet the expectations of modern travellers.

• Improved operational performance: Centralised provisioning and automated deployment enable operational personnel to deploy and manage networks more efficiently, while Power over Ethernet (PoE) securely connects devices in harsh environments and in hard-to-reach areas.

• Reduced congestion and energy use: An optimal network infrastructure allows transportation agencies to scale resources according to demand, so they can continue to operate smoothly even during peak times.

Network infrastructure for demanding environments and applications

As ITS network requirements and capabilities expand and grow in complexity, entry-level networking products once considered “good enough” are no longer making the grade. A hardened, scalable, and secure Ethernet/IP infrastructure with the capacity and features to handle the most demanding ITS applications are a MUST!

The journey begins

By working with a technology vendor, look for one that offers a portfolio of enterprise-grade, networking solutions for hardened Ethernet/IP environments that enable transportation authorities to meet today’s ITS requirements, while scaling for tomorrow.

The hardened switch portfolio should offer a unique mix of intelligent network components and sophisticated capabilities in a ruggedised form factor that can be deployed in a variety of applications and use cases. The backbone should deliver superior performance for mission-critical applications operating in harsh environments and extreme temperatures.

ITS stakeholders connect in the cloud, too!

Today, collaboration beyond the enterprise premises and between all different ITS actors is constantly evolving, requires an enormous number of interactions between a variety of stakeholders. End-to-end collaboration between all of the key providers is vital.

However, the challenge road agencies, transportation operators and ITS organisations face is collaborating across different platforms, each with their own communications tools, which can differ from business to business, and with no guaranteed compatibility.

Cloud-based tools have evolved and today communications services such as Instant Messaging (IM), voice, video and file sharing are essential for industry collaboration. Improved collaboration means improved operations and enhanced customer satisfaction, and that’s good for everyone.

Find a vendor that assures connection to objects (IoT), sensors, people, and systems to provide smooth communication services. The cloud tool should provide borderless collaboration that enables businesses throughout the ITS industry to engage efficiently and effectively.

Cloud-based services that are easy-to-integrate using open API’s, easy-to-adopt, easy-to-use and guarantee secure communication between the hand-offs is the answer.

The collaboration tool should also be available as a Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) whereAPIs will be integrated with 3rd- party applications to automatize communication in the core business processes, without removing the contextual information. It could enhance any Proactive Traffic Management application on premises or in the cloud.

As digital technologies reshape the transportation landscape toward the connected road, ALE provides innovative solutions to support the transformative power of ITS today and take it toward the smart road of tomorrow. Learn more about Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise ITS solutions.

Roch Muraine is responsible for the rail, road, air and sea sales at Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise.
He has more than 20 years of global experience in IT, network and telecom marketing.