Insightful & Informative, The Stinson ITS Blog is designed for those in the ITS, traffic management, & traffic safety related industries. We hope that you will find it to be a valuable resource for industry information, news, trends, and events.




Stinson AIS Bluetooth & Wifi Traffic Monitors

Posted by on 21 Sep 2021 under Uncategorized

Written by: Michel Mondor, Stinson ITS’s Eastern Canada Account Manager

Travel time sensors have been an essential part of smart work areas for many years, but their use has often been very narrowly focused on displaying passenger information and not on the large amounts of data that sensors can collect.  Especially in the past year, when COVID-19 has had a direct effect on traffic flows in cities and on construction sites. Data from travel time systems can provide key insights.  By measuring traffic volume trends, traffic managers in the construction sector can instantly make smarter decisions when road closures and other activities should be allowed to reduce their impact on congestion.  With this data-driven approach, construction companies can justify prolonged road and lane closures when traffic volumes are low, speeding up their construction schedule.

During the pandemic, Stinson ITS received multiple requests from several of our clients for help understanding how traffic volumes were changing in order to provide accurate reports to project managers.  This led to conversations about the strategic use of data and revealed an interesting business case where traffic data is used to speed up the work schedule and complete work faster.

As we begin to move away from the continuous lockdowns and crazy traffic patterns created, we are starting to consider using this same model more generally in order to make smart decisions about traffic management in large urban work areas.

How does it work now?

I If you’re not familiar with travel time sensors, they are radio transceivers that “listen” to wireless devices such as Bluetooth and WiFi devices (think smartphones, vehicle audio systems) as they pass by.  Traffic departments use them on roads and highways as a way to track unique devices as they drive on the road.  Each device radio emits a unique identifier called a Media Access Control (MAC) address.  This unique address is how your devices remember each other, so when you turn on your car, your phone automatically connects and starts playing music, how your headphones connect automatically when you turn them on, and more.  Now, your privacy antennas might ring right now and rightly so, this information is personal and so it is important that this information is protected and anonymized.  Typically, the way this is done is through hashing, which is a process of scrambling a set of numbers that you can’t untangle.  However, the scrambling process is consistent so that when the same “hash key” is used on an identical MAC address, it will generate the same scrambled set of characters (allowing the device to still be “paired” from A to B, but still not being able to see the underlying MAC address itself).    Hash keys are usually changed every day so that devices cannot be tracked over several days.

An important note here is that these sensors don’t track every device that passes on the road, there are simply too many things going on, and these devices only broadcast their MAC address from time to time.  These sensors typically capture 15-25% of vehicles on the road.  As such, these sensors can’t measure specific traffic volumes, but they can measure traffic patterns accurately (i.e. I can tell you there are 40% fewer cars today than yesterday with confidence, but I can’t say exactly how many total cars there are.

What kind of data does this allow you to get?

Now you understand how data is collected, what we’re going to look at now is what we can do with that data.  The two main data sets that can be calculated from the data are:

Travel time and average speed data – that is, the travel time from sensor A to sensor B, which can also be expressed as average speed.  When we place multiple sensors in a corridor or city, we can combine the data to determine how long it takes to travel long stretches of road (I wonder how they can tell you that it takes “36 minutes to reach the DVP” when you’re on the Gardiner Highway and still 50 km away.  Tip: It’s not using Google Maps)

Original destination data – When devices pass through multiple sensors, it is possible to determine their approximate route through the road network.  This allows you to see where drivers are coming from and congestion and where they are trying to get. (If you want to know where commuter traffic in York Region is coming from, you can place sensors around the city and ramps and see that: 30% go home on 401 East each night, while 40% head north on the 400, and another 20% leave the city on 401 West.  With enough sensors, you can see exactly which main roads to take it to get there, and often the shortcuts they take to try to beat the traffic)

How does this help my work area?

This data is still limited by the number of sensors deployed, but in large municipal work areas, typically all major entry and exit roads to the construction area have sensors deployed on them.  This allows a rich analysis of data on congestion conditions (travel time / average speed) and sources of congestion (original destination).  Travel time and average speed are by far the most popular method of analysis for a work area, we calculate the data every minute and, as such, we can look very carefully at traffic fluctuations throughout a day.  This data can be correlated with other information such as:

A. A major lane closure that occurred recently

Question: What impact has this had on traffic?

B. A reconfiguration of an intersection layout

Question: With this new layout, do cars still move smoothly through the intersection?

C. Signal retiming

Question: Does this improve congestion and traffic?  At any time or only at certain times of the day?

D. Use of strategic data – When does traffic resume in the morning in this area of the work area?

Question: If I had to extend my night closure to finish at 6:30 a.m. instead of 5 a.m., what impact would I have?  What happened yesterday when I tested this?

Conclusion

For some, this analysis may seem too complicated, while others might assume that, of course, this analysis is already carried out in all work areas!  However, Stinson ITS has been in the smart work zone industry for over 10 years and I can confidently tell you that this analysis is not done at all on a large scale.

Using traffic data to make informed decisions is a concept that has been talked about for a long time, but is generally not followed.  Work area policies are quite rigid and usually based on what the project owner wrote in their specifications when the project was first designed.  With Ontario launching several jobs in the LLP construction sector, lasting 5 to 10 years over the next few years, figing out how to inject innovation and technology into it will be a significant challenge.  To learn more about how we help our customers use data in new ways, contact us using the links below.

Webinar

You can also join us for our webinar next month which will focus on the Stinson AIS Bluetooth and WiFi sensing sensor.  A travel time sensor designed and built by Stinson ITS for over 6 years now.  We will highlight the different ways in which the device is used and focus on a recent major project we deployed in Montreal. Register Here




Traffic Sign Visibility: How a New Innovation is Making Roads Safer

Posted by on 25 Aug 2021 under Uncategorized

Written by:

Nick Schmidling

TAPCO | Senior Product Manager

 

Traffic signs have come a long way since the early 20th century, when stop signs were mostly yellow and federal regulations were minimal.

Not only do traffic signs look very different today, the technology and innovation built into them is making the Vision Zero goal of zero traffic fatalities increasingly feasible.

Perhaps no innovation makes this clearer than the LED-enhanced sign, a popular option that incorporates long-lasting LEDs into the sign face to increase sign visibility and compliance. TAPCO was the first to bring such a solution to the traffic safety industry 20 years ago and is now leading the way with continuous innovation.

Now, a new LED-enhanced sign innovation has emerged, giving transportation professionals another tool for improving traffic safety — and it’s already making a big impact.



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TC-31A and Other Variants of Truck Entrance and Exit Warning Systems

Posted by on 24 Jun 2021 under Uncategorized

Written by: Ajay Kaushik 

 

After watching the video of a dump truck pushing a Mini Cooper up the on-ramp of the Gardiner Expressway in March of this year, I am personally very careful when driving around construction trucks. Transportation Canada statistics show that trucks, buses, and other large vehicles have been responsible for approximately 6-8% fatal accidents in Canada every year since 2000.

It is great to see that the general trend is showing a slow decline of fatal collisions in Canada. However, it is interesting to note that the fatal collision percentage increases to 2% from an average of less than 1% when trucks or large vehicles are involved in a collision.

Provincial governments have taken several steps to ensure that fatal collisions involving trucks and other large vehicles can be reduced through better infrastructure design, training and education of drivers, and installation of appropriate warning systems.
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Bosch On-board Analytics – Versatile ITS Applications for a Savvy User

Posted by on 19 May 2021 under Uncategorized

Written by: Michael McGuire, Stinson ITS Vice President 

 

Bosch is a massive player in the video analytics space with a huge team dedicated to vehicle mounted sensors for Automated Vehicles (AVs).  However, while Bosch is a large distributor of CCTV cameras, the supported analytics in these cameras has not been nearly as advanced as what was developed in their automotive divisions. Recently, over the last few years this has been changing, and we’ve seen a huge improvement within the on-board analytics of their CCTV cameras. For those in ITS this should be exciting as it’s opening up a number of new application possibilities, especially when something custom or niche is required.

 

The strength of Bosch’s analytics is its versatility, however; this can also be a hinderance as many cities don’t have technical staff with the product knowledge or experience to configure them.  Video analytics in the camera industry were originally designed and introduced for security applications and then eventually introduced for retail environments. Features like people counting within stores and heat maps of how people move through businesses became popular.  As these analytics have developed, the growing demand in the traffic industry has encouraged the development of traffic focused features. These same core analytic concepts are now being applied to traffic, with a little tweaking required of course.
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RadarSigns – Your undiscovered traffic sensor

Posted by on 21 Apr 2021 under Uncategorized

Written by: Ajay Kaushik

Cheaper cell modems, sim cards and data plans have ushered in a new era of connectivity in the traffic industry. Connectivity is now unlocking the potential of traditional and new-generation devices. Devices such as pedestrian cross overs, loop counters, school zone flashers, beacons and radar speed signs are beginning to add and enable connectivity to bring new value to road users and traffic departments.

In this blog we are going to focus on the value created by connecting radar speed signs to the cloud. Now, Radarsigns are not only effective in increasing road users’ awareness about their speeding thereby reducing overall speed on roads, but also collect valuable vehicle volume and speed data. They are often placed on roads where speeding complaints are made by local residents and businesses.


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Traffic Data Sensors, As-A-Service – A disruptive new approach

Posted by on 24 Mar 2021 under Uncategorized

Written by: Michael McGuire

 

Traffic Data Collection has become a prominent growth market over the last few years.  With the move to non-intrusive sensors and an increased appetite for big data analysis we’ve seen a number of innovations and new products emerge in this market.  Often one of the challenges with adoption of these systems is the price tag and complexity involved.  As one would expect, companies have recognized this and begun designing solutions to solve this problem.

One of the most innovative solutions we’ve seen comes from a Canadian company – Liveable Cities -which is a new division of LED Roadway Lighting.  Their new line of streetlight mounted sensors offers a very disruptive and compelling business model.  Liveable Cities offers a turnkey data collection solution that combines sensors with onboard LTE-M communications and robust cloud software that takes 5 minutes to install and starts working immediately.  Powering the sensors is easy as they plug into a NEMA socket on top of any streetlight and, better yet, they are sold using an As-A-Service model.  This means no capital costs, and no complicated fee structure.  Just one very low monthly fee for a sensor that can live on top of your streetlight forever.


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Traffic Signal Management:  A stagnant and dated industry, ripe for innovation 

Posted by on 17 Feb 2021 under Uncategorized

 Written by: Michael McGuire 

After 9 years in the traffic industry one trend has always stood out starkly to me is:  Innovation moves at an absolute snail’s pace here.  As a technology nerd this has always been an incredible frustration to me and I’m certainly trying my best to change things.  I focus on technology because that’s my specialty, but it goes well beyond that.  Even basic processes and practices seem to lag the private sector by nearly 20 years and it’s really bizarre to me.  However, I do see things changing, and it seems to be driven by automated vehicles and the efficiency potential of a “smart” city.   

 

In the last few years, we’ve seen major investment and interest in our industry from some of the largest corporations in the world.  Whether it be technology firms, telecoms, or automakers, influential companies are taking a sudden interest in traffic and transportation.  They must see the potential return on investment and they seem to be vying to get their piece of the smart city pie before the market is saturated.  As intersections and road infrastructure bisect every inch of a city, it is a logical target for them to focus their investment and technology 

 

In Toronto we got an early taste of this when Google tried to invest billions of dollars into developing a smart city pilot area near the downtown core.  While privacy and other concerns derailed the project it certainly put a spotlight on the industry, and the massive growth potential it holds.   

 
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Radars: a Cost Effective, Reliable Source for Traffic Data Collection

Posted by on 20 Jan 2021 under Uncategorized

Written by: Sheri Rowell

Introduction

Traffic data collection is an integral tool used by cities and towns to help make decisions related to public roadways, and it’s nothing new.  Data collection has been used on roadway systems since as early as the 1930’s and it’s continued to evolve with technology. Back in the 30’s the collection method was typically manual counts; however, in the 1940’s there was a transition into mechanical measurement which changed the approach to data integrity. Computerized pneumatic traffic counters revolutionized traffic data collection in the 1970’s. Now, forty years later, radars, video processing, and artificial intelligence are again revolutionizing traffic data collection, increasing reliability and cost-effectiveness.  Yet, we still find many traffic departments using costly, unreliable older generation technologies such as manual data collection, pneumatic tubes etc.

The purpose of this blog is to give a simplified understanding of the different types of traffic data, traffic data collection devices, and explain how radars are currently the most cost-effective solutions for accurate, reliable traffic data collection and analysis.  We will also review how different radars can be used as permanent and temporary traffic data collection devices on highways and other roads.

 
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Autonomous Intelligent Warning Systems: Go Beyond Signs

Posted by on 16 Dec 2020 under Uncategorized

Written by: Michel Mondor

 

Vision Zero has become a rallying call in the traffic industry which has been embraced by municipalities across Canada.  We see large budgets and efforts being poured into improving safety which is very encouraging.  The challenge we often hear related to vision zero is that specific technology solutions to improve safety are not very prominent or available in the industry and that only a few options exist.  Radar feedback signs are one of the key technologies adopted; these systems have been proven to slow cars down by making drivers aware when they are driving at speeds above the posted limits.  The City of Toronto has installed hundreds of these signs as their primary traffic calming solution in order to battle vision zero over the past years.  They’ve now also introduced Automated Speed Enforcement systems, but those are still very new.   
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Genetec Intelligent Mobility: Enabling Open-Architecture Smart Cities

Posted by on 19 Nov 2020 under Uncategorized

Written by: Michael McGuire, Stinson ITS Manager & Solution Architect 

Intro 

Over the past 10 years Central Management Software has emerged as one of the most critical elements of a smart cityespecially for transportation systems.  It used to be that connectivity was the biggest challenge for smart city designers; however, with the widespread adoption of 4G and fiber optic networks, municipalities have started taking the first big step.  With large infrastructure systems now widely interconnected and data from those devices available the next challenge has presented itself, what to do with all this information?  Central software is the easy answer but it’s a lot more complicated than that.  It will take a number of software systems to support these networks and they themselves will be interconnected in an ideal world.  Our focus today will be an innovative new player in transportation management software: Genetec Intelligent Mobility. 
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