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Telematics Data Helps Smart Cities Minimize Pollution, Gridlock and More

A city is only as smart as the data it collects.
By Mike Branch
Jun 30, 2019

Can traffic be both a problem and a solution? Yes, and the reasons why highlight how telematics data enables cities to minimize pollution, gridlock and accidents while maximizing the impact of their transit and infrastructure budgets.

Demographic trends are poised to make traffic congestion and pollution even bigger problems than they currently are. For example, by 2050, 66 percent of the world's population are predicted to live in urban areas, up from 54 percent today. Even if cities had unlimited infrastructure budgets—which they obviously never will—expanding roads and bridges would still be difficult and often impossible simply because space is so tight. But with telematics data, even the fastest-growing cities can keep traffic and lungs flowing freely. Here's how.

Leveraging Existing Investments
Cities become smart cities by leveraging Internet of Things (IoT) data. For example, a major city typically will have hundreds or thousands of traffic cameras, but it's cost-prohibitive to have enough staff to monitor every single feed. So traffic cameras are increasingly being upgraded with analytics to identify dangerous intersections. Employees will keep an eye on feeds from key roads and intersections, but analytics will monitor everything else.

In the past, cities relied on accident reports to identify where to add medians, signalized crosswalks or turn restrictions. But that approach is fundamentally flawed because people don't report near misses. As a result, cities don't realize that traffic around an intersection has reached dangerous levels—until pedestrians and vehicles start getting hit. But analytics can identify those near misses and alert the city's transportation department about the problem areas.

Telematics is a subset of the IoT that uses vehicle-mounted sensors, such as GPS for location. For example, many trucking companies, taxi services and other fleet owners have sensors to track hard braking, speeding and other maneuvers so they can identify drivers who need corrective training. This telematics data can provide enormous actionable insights for smart cities as well.

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