Building Today’s and Tomorrow’s Intelligent Transportation Systems 

The Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) space is experiencing a step change. Driven by the proliferation of connected devices, connected vehicles, and further facilitated by widespread availability of IP connectivity, expectations of today’s tech-savvy travelers are changing. While there’s little doubt that ITS technologies are poised to transform the entire transportation industry, the network infrastructure of transport systems must begin to further evolve to meet the needs of today’s connected travelers and their sophisticated vehicles. 

Addressing the challenges and opportunities of digital transformation

The effects of digital transformation are sweeping through virtually every industry, bringing with them a set of innovations that promise to rapidly change nearly every business process. These technologies are creating a world where everything connects, and roadways, bridges, intersections, and commuter systems are no exception. Digital technologies have already rapidly changed the transportation industry, enabling vehicles to become smarter and more autonomous and transforming the way they operate and drivers communicate. Smart vehicles will require smart roads. A burgeoning increase in the sheer number of connected devices (sensors, cameras, vehicles, and personal technologies) is challenging networks to keep pace, while a growing number of vehicles is causing congestion on roads and making daily travel hard or impossible, negatively impacting the environment, and degrading the traveler experience. 

For transportation departments, these trends are resulting in a variety of challenges. They are tasked with responding to the ever-changing demands of an increasingly connected public, who expect to stream music while they’re driving, use web or GPS applications for navigation, or allow their children to watch movies online. These readily visible applications are complemented by a not-as-well-recognized plethora of emerging applications that are “under the hood.” What’s not visible is even more important than what is because it has to do with predictability and safety. Just as lives depend on sophisticated safety features in vehicles and on roadways, they are more and more relying on reliable transmission of information by the roads and the automobiles themselves. Transportation leaders struggle to implement wired and wireless networks that can support the communications and data they will need to reduce vehicle congestion, monitor, and respond to incidents, and otherwise ensure smooth and efficient operations. Many ITS organizations are having to quickly reeducate themselves and shift from a traditional signaling and signage orientation to an ever-increasingly IT-based approach, and they struggle to choose the products and technologies that will accommodate the explosion of IoT devices and the advent of 

Future-forward network infrastructure for demanding ITS applications

As the requirements and capabilities of ITS networks continue to expand and grow in complexity, the entry-level networking products that were considered “good enough” in the past are quickly becoming insufficient to carry us into the future. 

Modern more advanced solutions offer a number of key customer benefits:

Increased safety and security – Technology that speeds the delivery of insight into traffic flows, road conditions, incidents, construction, and sudden weather changes, helps authorities make smarter decisions and quickly relay useful information to travelers so they can prepare for the conditions ahead.

Enhanced traveler experience – Finding fast, simple, and secure ways to connect IoT devices to the network 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 travelers.

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

Reduced congestion and energy use – An optimal network infrastructure allows transportation departments to scale resources according to demand, so they can continue to operate efficiently even during peak demand times like rush hour. 

The Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) is investing in a future-forward network and recently made a strategic investment to build a hardened ITS network for delivering real-time road, traffic, and weather information to the travelers on its 5,400 miles of highway. These hundreds of switches formed the backbone of NDOT’s network, enabling the agency to support future technologies, remotely manage the network, and provide up-to-date information for travelers. NDOT recognized as digital technologies continue to reshape the transportation landscape, entry-level infrastructure solutions that may have been sufficient up to now will not be sustainable in the future. For more about NDOT’s story, tune in here. 

Kevin Jennings is the Transportation Lead for Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise.

 Portrait Photo of Kevin Jennings