Home Innovation The acceleration of intelligent transport and the data storage engine behind it
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The acceleration of intelligent transport and the data storage engine behind it

by wrich

By: Davide Villa, Business Development Director for EMEAI, Western Digital

Often innovations in technology can be hard to see on a tangible, everyday level. Transport, however, is an industry where the new smart city technology and advancements in the Internet of Things (IoT) can make a direct impact on everyday life. Traffic is an everyday reality for millions of people around the world. The gridlock of tires and tarmac is a constant, from the morning commute to the weekend escape, and the societal impacts are evident and traffic is a major cause in the increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

Powered by smart cameras, computer vision and robust storage solutions, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) worldwide are reshaping everyday traffic and transforming the way we experience transport as part of building smarter cities. 

Intelligent Transport Systems: AI-enabled autonomous transportation

Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) is the use of advanced application of sensors, cameras and recorders to manage transportation autonomously. Applied examples of this range from the intelligent analysis and management of traffic patterns to enable pedestrian crossings, to meters used on motorway on-ramps to manage the rate of vehicles entering the road. 

ITS use artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms and deep learning to analyse video data and then dispatch orders from a hub to AI-empowered devices, rather than requiring a human to manage and operate this process.  

The ‘intelligent’ part of ITS is that it understands the video data; training the AI to recognise a pedestrian as a pedestrian, a bike as a bike — and so on — which is crucial to the system operating efficiently and safely. 

In the past, the data analysis was only possible at a centralised location, such as a data centre; however, the rise of on-board AI chips used in smart city technology allows the analytical load to be distributed. The ability to distribute the work is crucial when working at the scale of a smart city, enabling the data to be processed more quickly at the endpoints. 

The capabilities of modern ITS are already being applied worldwide. For example, the North Avenue Corridor in Atlanta utilises AI empowered devices and autonomous responses, amongst other capabilities.

The storage advancements behind the innovation

Behind an ITS lies the foundations of a complex storage architecture. Smart video solutions, which are critical to many IoT devices, require robust and resilient storage systems. The smart video sector is going through a transitional phase for recording video at scale: it has moved away from recording raw data from a standard camera to carrying out analysis on the AI-enabled camera itself. This requires robust on-board storage, like WD Purple Pro, which is specially designed for the storage needs arising from deep learning systems and AI-training solutions that power the smart video industry.

Storage systems like these, including smart video-optimised HDDs, boast the ability to record up to 64 HD streams simultaneously. Improved workload and performance also enable the drives to keep up with the demands of AI functionality, including pattern matching and object recognition. By combining video stream recording optimisation with top tier durability and capacity, smart video solutions and AI-analytics have the necessary foundations in place to operate at optimum levels for thousands of hours. 

Looking forward: sustainability, economic advantages and higher quality of life 

It’s still early days for ITS implementations, yet, signs suggest it’s worth the investment for enterprises and public organisations alike. A joint study from London School of Economics, Temple University and the University of Houston, found evidence of substantive economic and time saving benefits. The research revealed that ITS systems in 99 cities recovered 175 million hours of travel time a year, prevented 53 million gallons of fossil fuel consumption a year, and reduced CO2 emissions by 10 billion pounds a year.

Beyond the sustainability advantages of intelligent transport, there is also evidence to suggest an economic boost as a result. The Brookings Institute found that automated vehicular systems might save Americans $507 billion in productivity and $488 billion in accident reduction. Moreover, in 2016 McKinsey estimated that the adoption of smart mobility services could generate $2.5 trillion worldwide.

Whilst the economic, public health, and environmental impacts of ITS could be immense in scale, the on-the-ground improvements for quality of life for the city’s residents should not be disregarded. These technologies will make getting around the city easier and more efficient, and life more enjoyable. ITS and similar smart city developments empower city planners, engineers, and designers to imagine new cityscapes. 

From more walkable cities and hyper efficient transportation to cleaner and safer public space, ITS offers the potential to transform our cities, the opportunity to use technology such as smart cameras, computer vision and storage to improve transport, is one city leaders will be smart to take advantage of.

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