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Traffic & the Internet of Things

The IoT is Essential If We're Going to Get a Grip on Solving Big Problems

Driving the freeways of Greater Los Angeles is often an experience in wave theory. Heavy traffic on one freeway can influence traffic on several others; slowdowns and stoppages ripple throughout much of the system during much of the day; and one can often feel trouble ahead well before seeing it or stopping for it. Talk of "Carmageddon" in LA is real, and a small closure here can box things up there and there and there.

With a gross economy size approaching $1 trillion annually, the Southland loses billions upon billions of dollars in wasted transportation costs and lost productivity each year. This area should serve as a model for what the Internet of Things can achieve.

Everyone has their own traffic horror stories, whether coming from elsewhere in the US, Mexico City or Sao Paulo, London or Paris, Tokyo or Beijing, Bangkok, or any of hundreds of other cities in the world. Traffic planners in LA have started to employ tolls, along with their "sigalerts" and 24-hour high-occupancy lanes.

One city working the problem seemingly more aggressively is Singapore, which uses a proto-IoT architecture of several GPS systems, flexible tolls, and traffic reports to traffic relatively uncongested.

Add intelligent, driverless cars to the mix, a much wider use of electrical power, and more New Urbanism--the movement that combines walkable neighborhoods centered around transportation hubs--and solving the world's traffic problems will start to look less like trying to boil the ocean. There is also a need to understand wave theory, in that mere transmissions of the number of cars in a flow doesn't really capture what is going on.

The Great Change
Applied globally, we can see significant reductions in energy use, which is of the essence if the virtual elimination of poverty is a goal. Most of the developing world uses only 3% to 5% of the energy per-person compared to the developed world. There is simply not enough building capacity in the human species to provide a reasonable lifestyle for everyone unless that lifestyle requires much less energy.

I see this as a practical statement, not a political one. Serious reductions in the amount of energy required to grow and process food, build stuff, heat and cool buildings, and move us from place to place are required to get the expected human population peak of 9-10 billion people to live comfortably.

The IoT will be integral to such a Great Change, if it comes to pass. Working on LA traffic is one of the great places to start.

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More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

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