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Smart Special - Smart Transport

Smarter transport systems are encouraging cities to enhance mobility, reduce emissions and personalise the user experience.

"Smart transportation isn't our future - it is already our present," declares Lisa Jerram, senior analyst at Pike Research, "it is simply intended to ensure acceptable ease of travel as cities become more populous and face budget constraints that might keep them from building major new infrastructure as is the case in Europe, North America and Japan."

Jerram places advanced transport management as a critical driver on which the whole smart city idea depends: it propels the integration of technology and communication into a strategic approach that's innately qualified as sustainable, citizen-orientated, and supportive of economic development. She adds: "The personalisation element of smart city transport is a good starting point for understanding what will make it work. People who live there have got to feel that the 'smart' concept is working for them as much as they are working for the smart urban environment."

Analyst Pike Research estimates that from 2012 to 2020 $100bn will be invested worldwide on smart city infrastructures, and $22.4bn of that will go into smart transport. Intelligent systems are becoming more sophisticated and enhancing the user experience. Of course, smart urban infrastructures already exist to some extent, with smartphones, smart meters, RFID tags, wireless Internet and now smart transportation. Smart transport systems overlay existing IT and communication infrastructures, and exploit increasing interconnectedness and openness. It covers a diverse range of applications, from smart electric vehicle charging, city traffic monitoring and real-time traveller information to the installation of highway intelligence via sensors.

Cities are seeing these smart systems as a way to attract, retain and target businesses and residents through enhanced mobility, improved safety and economic competitiveness. Jerram explains: "Smart transport systems are frequently implemented in order to manage and control traffic flow in a city or region. They can do this simply by offering traveller information systems that tell drivers of congested areas, but the more sophisticated systems feature demand-management systems, perhaps even deploying a congestion management toll or fee system."

The systems provide benefits for both users and providers of metropolitan transportation systems, public and private. The visibility and control over city transportation will pattern and manage congestion as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"Different parts of a city's transport sector operate in silos, and it can be challenging to get them to work together. To some extent this is happening more because cities with limited resources simply have to cooperate across agencies in order to get things done," Pike Research's Jerram adds. "Another key challenge is the cost of installing infrastructure because public agencies are facing budget constraints in major cities, therefore companies will be looking for innovative ways to finance smart transport deployment."

In order to function, smart transport needs to have backing and support from public and private sectors. In the 2012 Budget announcement, the UK government revealed plans to set up two Transport Systems and Future Cities Catapult Centres by 2013, which aim to demonstrate how technology can develop national transport systems. Both centres will focus on sustainable ways to move people and goods across national transport systems including road, rail, sea and air. Current transport systems are under increasing pressure from the rise in population and transportation needs.

Both smart cities and transport systems will be "important areas of growth in the next 10-15 years. The market opportunity for integrated city systems is estimated to be worth '200bn a year by 2030", says Iain Gray, chief executive of the Technology Strategy Board, the public body that reports to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), and styles itself as 'UK's national innovation agency'. "The market opportunity for effective transport systems is already valued at over '190bn per year." Gray explains the figure is a conservative market valuation for novel, efficient and cost-effective transport systems.

"Existing transport systems are under severe pressure. To tackle these issues we need a fully integrated efficient transport 'system; this can only be developed when transport is considered as a whole, incorporating all modes of transport," adds Gray. The challenges that will be addressed by the Catapults include traffic management, journey assistance systems and seamless journey systems.

Technology providers Logica and Cisco Systems are both focusing on combining and developing smart technology with existing infrastructures to improve everyday problems such as energy conservation, economic development and better public knowledge and reduced carbon emissions. This also provides opportunities for ICT-savvy consulting engineers like Arup.

Power to the smart people

Since 2006, the Connected Urban Development program (CUD), which is part of Cisco's Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG), has partnered with seven cities around the world to promote ICT practices to reduce CO2 emissions.

Cisco is drawing on its expertise in data networking to make travel networking effective. "Today's flow of people, goods, energy, information, media and services in cities can be as efficient as the traffic of digital packets on the Internet," says Cisco's IBSG urban innovation senior manager Shane Mitchell. "With an integrated approach to support a combination of mobility solutions systematically and make use of the dramatic changes, it enables a city to put more power of choice into citizens' hands, as well as improve municipal human and asset capital management."

Cities partnering in the CUD program are Birmingham, Hamburg, Lisbon, Madrid and San Francisco. Cisco IBSG also worked with Seoul to develop its Personal Travel Assistant (PTA), and with a parallel development taking place in partnership with Amsterdam in the Netherlands. The PTA is a Web-based service that enables residents to make on-the-go travel decisions based on cost and carbon impact via any Web-enabled device from any location.

The PTA differs from typical map-based direction finders or trip planners by offering a 'virtual assistant' to access real-time traffic and transportation information, choice of transport and user-specific travel guidance such as allowing the user to decide whether time or expense is more important.

The Carbon Calculator informs the user about the distance, cost and carbon footprint of his or her travel choices on a daily, weekly monthly and yearly basis. It estimates the carbon emissions by the average speed and transport used to reach the selected destination and the tier-3 greenhouse gas calculation logic suggested by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The Transportation Information Service provides public transport route maps and schedule information with search options enabling them to predict when their next service will arrive.

The real-time router guides users to determine alternative onward routes based'on real-time traffic information and their current location. If a traffic accident occurs while the user is en route, for instance, the PTA will remember the trip's origin and destination and proactively reroute. Using electronic maps, PTA suggests information about nearby parking, public transport stops/stations and other destinations. Results from the Seoul pilot program were evaluated by their transportation and environmental performance.

The effects in transportation were evaluated in average travel speed, average travel time, vehicle kilometre trip, and traffic volume. Effects in environment were evaluated in amount reduction of NOx gases, PM10 and CO2.

The results showed travel speed increased by 24.58 per cent, travel time decreased by 19.46 per cent, vehicle kilometre trip decreased by 40.64 per cent, and traffic volume decreased by 23.9 per cent. In the environment sector meanwhile, PM10 decreased by 5 per cent, CO2 by 1 per cent, and NOx by 13 per cent.

Transport for Greater Manchester supported the launch of the smartphone 'Informed Personal Traveller' application developed by Logica and Vix-Technology. Designed to act as a satnav, the application works across various modes of transport, including bus, train and trams. It delivers personalised, context-aware travel service information for users, both before and throughout their journey. The features include real-time service updates, enabling the user to re-plan their journey to avoid missing connections.

"Most people are at ease using a PC or a phone and, rather than having to download or print a timetable or brochure, passengers'can use the online service to plan,'monitor and, if they wish, even re-plan their journey across multiple transport modes," says David Hytch, information systems director at Transport for Greater Manchester. "Sharing travel data with passengers in a way which is accessible and relates directly to each individual journey helps passengers get the most from public transport."

Alongside Helsinki Region Transport Authority, Logica has implemented Helsinki Region Multi-Modal Passenger Information System which provides accuracy, speed and choice. The journey planner website can be used on any device that has a browser. In addition, there is an open API that third-party developers can use to create their own apps. Helsinki has 1.2 million commuters and route planning can be confusing as the region overlooks the northern shores of the Baltic Sea and is a land of forests and water, spread out across bays, peninsulas, lakes and islands. For this reason, their modes of transport include train, car, bus, metro, tram, ferry, cycling and walking.

Students at Helsinki's University of Technology took advantage of the Internet growth and developed an online travel planning portal which Logica then took over. Logica developed Navici Trip Planner, which runs on Linux and links to geographic and timetable data from Helsinki Region Transport authority, which enabled commuters and travellers to input travel starting points and destinations and quickly retrieve travel options and cost.

The system provides three quick routes and estimates how long they will take - each route has an onscreen indicator and a tool to report travel disruption. Helsinki's transportations service promotes greener policies as trains run on hydroelectric power, producing zero operational carbon emissions; walking and cycling have the same benefits.

"A smart city is now living in an ecological age which means it can transform into a better place with technology and the availability of open data which equals the ability to seek new resources," explains Léan Doody, associate, smart cities lead at Arup. "Smart transport enables people to take more control of how and when they access transport, it will enable them to manage their time, spend less time in traffic jams or waiting on public transport.

"The ability to integrate different modes of transport, including train, bus, and tube on existing infrastructure with new technologies, requires control, operation and open data cities have to build new services," she adds, "but the challenge is being able to integrate and consolidate organisations by building up the communication, they need to adopt a new approach of working and realise it isn't about construction and developing new systems but more about improvement."

Smartening the smart streets

Arup is involved in a £750m regeneration of London's Regent Street which aims to reduce the volume of delivery vehicles and create a better environment. The Crown Estate initiated a public space strategy which aims to create better conditions for pedestrians, and will support the centre through to the end of 2012.

Research showed that uncontrolled retail deliveries were causing congestion during peak periods, road blockages, and made up of 35 per cent of all peak hour traffic. Since the project started in 2009, the consolidation centre has reduced the number of delivery vehicles to participating retailers by 80 per cent, it's claimed.

The offices located above the stores along Regent Street account for 28 per cent of deliveries and collections in the area. Arup is working with targeted offices with preferred supplier schemes to cut the number of deliveries they need, especially during the London Olympics.

This change in logistics supports a new hands-free shopping service that is set to launch this year. Customers will be able to shop and pay for products in store and have them delivered to their address, Doody explains this is ideal for tourists who want their items delivered to their hotel.

Arup is also involved in a project called Scoot. The idea is to link modes of transport both private and public to improve the traffic flow in the city centre of Limerick, Ireland. The traffic management control centre implemented a traffic system which collects and recalculates real-time data of traffic signals which prioritise the pedestrians by giving them less waiting time at traffic signals and longer crossing times.

"The opening of data is happening; we just have to look at Transport for London to see this. Some organisations fear the cost and time involved in making data available as there is an uncertainty about what will be done with it and how other organisations will make profit from it," explains Arup's L'an Doody.

"Local authorities are hoping to make life easier for citizens in towns and cities by making information available to help people with their daily lives. Governments are also hoping that making data available enabales innovation and growth, by giving businesses the raw material to create new products and services."

But there are technical challenges too, Doody continues: "By making some kinds of open data available could create additional demand on back end computing resources, which will mean changes in how IT is architected and run. As more smart transport and data projects are implemented that will create a need for someone to have oversight of all the IT investment in the city, what [Arup calls] a 'CIO+': someone who has a strategic view on how technology can deliver on the city's strategic priorities, including overcoming traffic congestion, reducing waste, and economic growth." *

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