Written by guest contributor Megan Ray Nichols, a freelance stem writer and the editor of Schooled By Science. For more from Megan, you can follow her on Twitter or subscribe to her blog here.
The internet of things (IoT) is changing almost every industry and transportation and logistics are no exception. In transportation, IoT devices are being used to build smarter transportation systems. But IoT technology is flexible, and not everyone is applying it in the same way. The latest trends in intelligent transportation systems show how the industry’s understanding of how IoT can fit into transportation is evolving.
Here are the biggest trends impacting intelligent transportation and logistics right now.
What are Intelligent Transportation Systems?
‘Intelligent transportation systems’ as a term was coined more than two decades ago to describe transportation systems powered by the latest advancements in computer, information and telecommunications technology. Today, this is still true — but the technology that powers ITS has changed significantly.
As an industry, intelligent transportation systems is expected to be worth $34 billion by 2025. Driving this growth is “increased demand for smart transport communication technologies in vehicles to make driving safe and easy.” In most cases, this means internet of things devices — small, wirelessly collected sensors — that collect huge amounts of data that businesses can use to make better decisions.
IoT and Intelligent Transportation
In intelligent transportation systems, IoT sensors and devices collect information — like travel time, or weather conditions — and communicate with other devices and systems. Businesses and other organizations then apply that data in a variety of ways. For instance, a smart truck can automatically regulate the environmental conditions inside a trailer that’s moving highly sensitive goods or by communicating with intelligent traffic systems.
The information can also be used to help drivers. Information pulled from environmental sensors and digital weather systems can warn a driver that they are about to enter a stretch of road with icy patches. Or, the intelligent transportation system can use data from other trucks — like a report of slippage from a sensor attached to an axle — to predict conditions down the road.
When implemented at municipal levels, or by state transportation departments, intelligent transportation systems can be used to prevent accidents. When cars have sensors that can communicate information about road conditions to a centralized traffic system, traffic administrators can use this information to make adjustments, change traffic signals and better direct traffic to avoid accidents. And, in the case that an accident does happen, these systems can help administrators more quickly reroute traffic to prevent congestion and further accidents.
In some locations, businesses will also benefit from the data that government bodies collect. In London, government office Transport for London has made much of the city’s smart traffic data publicly available. Businesses that move products into or out of the city can use that data to better direct their logistics operations.
Integration with Other Smart Systems
As the rest of the world becomes smart — adding IoT into infrastructure and complex systems — other smart systems may be designed to integrated with intelligent transportation systems.
Smart cities are one of the latest trends in city planning, for example. As data collection becomes higher quality and city systems have access to more and more information, it may become common for smart trucks to “talk” with traffic management systems. This communication will help cities predict and adjust things like traffic signal timing and overall traffic flow. Benefits that smart cities hope to gain from intelligent transportation include “better traffic flow, improved safety, lower transportation costs, increased business activity, and improved travel information.”
Some municipalities, like Oakland County, MI, have even been able to leverage intelligent transportation systems to reduce emissions. In 2015, the county was able achieve a “3% reduction in carbon emissions” by using a smart traffic controller. This reduction shows some of the other possibilities that intelligent transportation technology has for transportation experts and administrators.
As advanced telecommunications technology, like 5G, rolls out in the United States over the next few years, IoT will become even more appealing to those working in intelligent transportation systems. 5G technology will be able to deliver speeds up to 100 times faster than 4G, making communication between IoT devices and intelligent transportation systems faster and more reliable than ever.
Some traffic management companies, like Econolite with Ohio’s SMARTCenter, are already planning new intelligent transportation systems with 5G connectivity.
How the IoT is Changing Intelligent Transportation Systems
IoT is driving the biggest changes in intelligent transportation systems right now — as new technology like 5G becomes available, IoT may become even more popular.
Businesses are using IoT sensors to inform decision making processes and build systems that respond to the needs of modern logistics. Right now in transportation, many different processes are becoming smart. It may become standard in the future for business transportation systems to communicate with city transportation systems.
A big thank you to Megan Ray Nichols for this guest contribution!