RFID’s Answer for City Congestion

Posted by Ken Lynch on Fri, Sep 07, 2012 @ 08:26 AM

Tags: RFID, Traffic Management, Parking & Tolling, Energy Conservation

Parker RFID Parking AppIf you’ve ever circled city blocks over and over looking for a parking spot (which should be just about anybody who’s ever tried to find parking in a city), you’ve probably wished a voice would just tell you exactly where to go. And if navigating congested city streets has ever frustrated you, it won’t be surprising to hear that more than 30 percent of traffic congestion in cities is caused by drivers looking for parking.

According to a study performed by UCLA Professor Donald Shoup, who surveyed 15 city blocks for one year in downtown Los Angeles, the search for a parking spot created about 950,000 extra miles of travel – equivalent to about 38 trips around Earth! Not only is this excess travel clogging city streets, it is wasting gasoline - 47,000 gallons in those same 15 blocks, or about two and a half swimming pools. This is money, time, and resources that drivers and city officials have been letting go to waste for years.

People take crowded city streets as a given, but in reality there are massive inefficiencies that are entirely surmountable, particularly with RFID technology in place. In cities ranging from Stockholm to San Francisco, the parking technology firm Streetline is partnering with IBM to install RFID-based parking-management systems as part of IBM’s Smarter Cities initiative (a subset of Smarter Planet, focused on congestion solutions, greener buildings, water management systems, and the like). 

Logistically, this involves embedding transponders in the pavement of a city’s parking spots, attaching readers to permanent structures like lamp posts, and setting this system up to transmit information to a software platform from IBM that can manage the data that comes from Streetline’s readers. Magnetic sensors installed in the pavement can detect whether or not a vehicle is in a given parking space, meaning cities can now view the flow of parking availability in real time. Doing so has allowed city officials and drivers alike to realize that at any given time there can be as many as 2,000 parking spots available, when many had believed there were none. Amazing.

For drivers, finding a parking spot no longer has to involve circling and clogging the already-congested city streets, a process that on average will take 20 minutes in a business district, according to IBM’s Global Parking Survey. That could be the difference between being late for a business meeting or making it on time. Instead, it can be as simple as loading the free “Parker” app, looking at open spots nearby on the map, and navigating to the most convenient one.

City management stands to gain the most from the technology, as they have access to Streetline data, trends, and reports, enabling their parking managers and enforcement officers to work more efficiently. Managers of parking garages can locate spots that have been occupied for too long or are vacant, and can use that information to better serve their customers. And a better understanding of the flow of traffic and parking availability also allows for more efficient planning of transit schedules and infrastructure projects around the trends city officials see.

Based on the costs of inefficient parking management revealed by the UCLA survey referenced above, Streetline can save people time, money, and gas, while simultaneously bringing in more revenue for a city from the efficiencies created, particularly from a more organized system of issuing parking tickets and better accommodations for tourism. This can make a difference for municipalities facing big budget deficits that need new and better sources of revenue.  If city governments can significantly reduce traffic congestion and air pollution, and drivers can save time and gas money simply by gaining better visibility into open parking spaces, it’s a worthwhile investment that has the potential to pay for itself in a very short period of time.

Toll Roads and Car Management Improve with RFID

Posted by Ken Lynch on Tue, Apr 24, 2012 @ 10:35 AM

Tags: RFID, Traffic Management, Automobile Access

RFID for TollingWhile reviewing content on our Web site recently, I visited the RFID Basics page where we use an example of a car passing through a toll booth to describe how RFID works. It is a great example because you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t driven through a Fast Lane, EZ-Pass, or other electronic toll collection system.  Does anyone know when the first RFID-enabled toll booth was deployed in the United States? We’ll give you the answer in a bit.

An often reported benefit of RFID is that you can leverage it for a project, process, or procedure, and it ends up providing value beyond what it was originally intended for. Even back when it was first introduced for toll roads, other than making the driver’s life easier, this RFID-enabled system helped states increase revenue and allowed law enforcement to set up more accurate notifications in Amber Alert or stolen car situations.

Taking the convenience factor even further, because of RFID, many highways now have no toll booths. Not because they aren’t collecting tolls, but because they have implemented RFID in such a way that the tags attached to car windshields can be read at high speeds and with excellent accuracy. No big, cumbersome collection booths required.

Coincidentally, at the time of writing this post, I saw the following headline: India's first RFID technology toll comes up near Chandigarh.  According to the article, India's first RFID-based toll plaza was recently inaugurated on National Highway No.5 at Chandimandir in Haryana's Panchkula district.  The anticipated benefits are many: seamless travel, time and fuel savings, and a reduction in traffic jams.  My guess is they will realize other benefits along the way as well.

Now back to our quiz. The first RFID-enabled toll booth was deployed in Dallas in 1989.  Were you close?

 


Can You See Mi Now?

Posted by Ken Lynch on Wed, Nov 17, 2010 @ 12:54 PM

Tags: RFID, Traffic Management, Personal Safety

RFID Addresses Danger of the "Right Turn" for Urban Bicyclists

See MiDo you bike to work?  Are you a bike messenger working in an urban area?  How about a weekend warrior biking through town after a long work week?  If you answered yes to any of these, or if you bike casually every now and then, I’m sure you proceed with caution when biking in traffic – right?

Do you drive to work?  Are you a delivery driver?  How about someone who takes public transportation to work but can’t wait to take your car out for a spin on the weekends?  If you answered yes to any of these, or if you are a "Sunday driver" who takes a leisurely trip around town every now and then, I’m sure you proceed with caution when you see a bicycle rider pedaling down the street – right?

Regardless of the category you fall into, the answer is you probably aren’t as cautions as you should be.  According to the CDC, each year in the US, more than 700 people die as a result of bicycle-related injuries and more than 500,000 people are treated in emergency departments.  More startling is that nearly 60% of bicycle-related injuries treated in US emergency departments are for children 15 years and younger.

In an effort to address this issue and make its streets safer for both cyclists and drivers, the Danish city of Grenå funded a project called “See Mi” (designed by Danish company Idzone).  For this initiative, the city implemented battery-powered RFID readers at busy intersections designed to read RFID tags placed in the steering columns of bikes.  When a cyclist approaches and stops at an intersection, the RFID reader sends a notice to an electronic sign mounted on the traffic light pole.  This notice triggers the display of a flashing 'cyclist' image, indicating that a rider is near and drivers should look before making a turn.

Check out a cool video of the solution highlighting a partnership between Citybike and See mi in London!

Sounds like a promising system - designed to make busy streets safer for both cyclists and drivers.  How does this use of RFID rank among other ‘people tracking’ applications?  Does addressing a real safety issue - like reducing bicycle related deaths and injuries - move you past privacy concerns you may have with RFID?

Are RFID License Plates Coming Down the Road

Posted by Ken Lynch on Mon, Oct 18, 2010 @ 12:18 PM

Tags: RFID, Google, Automobile Production, Traffic Management

Or Will Google Cars Solve the World’s Traffic Problems?

Google License PlateRFID is used throughout many aspects of the production and use of automobiles.  By no means an exhaustive list, RFID is used to improve production logistics, automate access control and parking, secure border roadways, automate toll collection, support car share programs, manage traffic flow, facilitate electric car payments and track tools in construction vehicles.

With all of these processes made possible or enhanced by RFID, one has to wonder if RFID tags will some day become standard identifiers in all cars – much like a VIN number or license plate. This topic has been discussed for some time with legal and privacy rights taking the forefront of the conversation - and rightly so.  One potential and controversial use of RIFD in vehicles and on the roadside is designed to allow authorities to automate the monitoring of intersections and issue tickets without having to be on the scene.  Video and CCTV cameras are already being used for this purpose and RFID pilots have been conducted.  Honestly, I’m on the fence on this one.  I’d surely like to be able to plead my case to the officer on the scene.  However, I’d also like the repeat offenders who speed past the "Watch for Children" signs on my street to be severely and repeatedly fined, but the police in my neighborhood have been unwilling to conduct 24x7 surveillance!

Or maybe we don’t have to worry about any of this because Google is developing cars that drive themselves.  Using video cameras, radar sensors and a laser range finder, Google cars will take us where we need to go, safely and efficiently, and presumably within the speed limit and in compliance with all traffic laws.  Problems solved, right?  My commute will be shorter and while along for the ride I can use Google search on my Google phone and maybe watch a little Google TV before I’m automatically checked in at my destination using Google Places – anywhere on Google Earth.

All kidding aside, Google’s intentions are noble.  They believe self-driving cars can cut in half the 1.2 million lives lost each year in road traffic accidents and reduce carbon emissions by fundamentally changing how we use transportation. 

So where are you on all of this?  Would you be OK with an RFID infrastructure deployed in your neighborhood for traffic control?  How about on the highways?  What are your thoughts about Google cars?  Do the safety benefits proposed by Google outweigh the potential requirements to disclose more information about your personal travel?

Traffic Management with RFID

Posted by Ken Lynch on Tue, Sep 28, 2010 @ 11:06 AM

Tags: RFID, Traffic Management, Parking & Tolling

You Can’t Get There From Here (or can you?)

In our post RFID for Event & Hospitality Management, we discussed how RFID is being used by ThingMagic partners in the hospitality business to automate processes and provide an interactive and personalized customer experience at events.  In RFID Predictions and Shredding It with Sensors, we detailed how resorts are exploring a variety of RFID and sensor-based solutions to deliver a unique customer experience for skiers and snowboarders.

Victoria Snow FieldsBut how what about getting to your destination first?  Even before you can have fun on the golf course, at the spa or on the slopes, you often have to deal with long drives, traffic congestion and the hassle of finding a parking spot.

RFID has been used in the automotive and transportation markets for many years for vehicle immobilization, automatic vehicle identification (AVI) and in tolling systems.  But could RFID also be used to manage traffic in real-time to reduce congestion or increase parking area efficiency?

Victoria, Australia-based FE Technologies thinks so.  In an announcement detailed in a ZDNet article earlier this month, FE Technologies stated that they will be working with the Victorian Alpine Resort Management Board (ARMB) to evaluate the use of RFID for traffic flow management in the alpine region.  According to Victorian Innovation Minister, Gavin Jennings, the Mt. Buller region attracts around 275,000 visitors traveling in 60,000 cars and 2,000 buses during the ski season and he anticipates that using RFID will allow them to increase efficiencies related to parking and traffic management for both visitors and locals. 

What are your thoughts on using RFID for traffic management?  Would you be OK with having an RFID tag in your car and readers placed at key points along roadways and parking areas if it meant that traffic congestion, dangerous road conditions and full parking lots could be detected and you could receive information about alternatives sooner?   

[Image by Todd Anderson, CC BY-SA 2.0]

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