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Traffic insight sensors: the future of transport monitoring?

Traffic insight sensors with artificial intelligence are being trialled in Kent. In this article we explore how this technology has the potential to change the future of transport monitoring.

Kent County Council at the forefront of innovation

Kent County Council and construction company Amey have installed 32 smart traffic insight sensors at various positions throughout Kent. These state of the art traffic sensors aim to help the government to make better decisions related to traffic and transport. Ultimately, this will translate into a better road user experience.

Kent County Council has always been one of the most proactive councils when it comes to innovation and technology. Last year, the council received a £2m grant to research and trial new technology together with Amey. The grant was part of the ADEPT (Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport) SMART Places Live Labs programme. This is a two-year £22.9million project funded by the Department for Transport and supported by Atkins, EY, Kier, O2, Ringway and WSP. The programme comprises a total of eight projects carried out by local authorities. The goal is to introduce digital innovation across SMART mobility, transport, highways maintenance, data, energy and communications.

Traffic insight sensors with artificial intelligence

The traffic insight sensors that Kent is currently trialling have been developed by technology provider Vivacity Labs. These sensors classify the different modes of transport that people use. They also monitor the usage and speeds of cars, buses, bicycles and pedestrians and can differentiate taxis, trucks and vans.

The smart data is helping to make more informed traffic decisions. The traffic insight sensors capture real-time data and have built-in predictive algorithms. This cutting edge technology allows the Council to identify abnormal traffic flows and predict flows before they happen.

ADEPT Live Labs programme director Giles Perkins recently said:

‘By taking a scaled approach to the deployment of digital sensors, local roads managers can deliver much improved outcomes for their networks. Live Labs is helping prove that new technologies can manage our essential assets in a more cost-effective and informed way, keeping people, goods and supplies moving across our roads.’

Kent County Council cabinet member for highways and transport Michael Page has added:

‘We’ve already piloted drones to spot highway defects, fitted cameras to buses and highways vehicles to provide road condition data and we are now running this trial with Vivacity. When compared to traditional data collection, such as loops in the road, these sensors are considerably more efficient and accurate in analysing pedestrian and bicycle usage, giving us data on the interactions between pedestrians, cyclists and road traffic. We’ll be able to use this anonymised data to get a real feel of how people are getting around the county and any issues that could be addressed by us as the highways authority and these sensors will be providing us with considerably more evidence to help that decision-making.’

Beyond traffic insight sensors: drones, smart cameras and more sensors

At the end of last year, Kent was trialling another innovative system. They attached cameras with vibration sensors to buses and council vehicles. The cameras are able to spot potholes and other road defects. The aim was to speed up the time from detection to repair. It is being trialled with Route Reports, which provides predictive analytics for the road and rail industries. Route Reports CEO Connell McLaughlin said:

‘Our solution uses a first-of-a-kind combination of sensors and computer vision that hasn’t previously been attainable at our level of accuracy in a cost-effective device. We’re also trialling unique stereo cameras that develop a 3D perspective of the network as the vehicle is in motion, allowing for even better accuracy.’

Apart from these intelligent cameras and the traffic insight sensors, Kent is also trialling drain sensors. Placing them strategically, they will help mitigate flooding events. Moreover, they have road surface temperature sensors that enable smarter gritting during the winter months. The team responsible for the programme is also developing a platform to integrate all data in one place.

In summary, it seems that Kent is well-positioned to enable Digital Built Britain and for Digital Twins to soon become the norm.

What do you think about these traffic insight sensors? Let us know in the comments below!

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