The Intelligent Transportation System

Hi all,
This post attempts to share a conversation between a Keltron employee and me about the Intelligent Transportation System.

I was in Camp, Main Street early hours for some work and had some time to kill before meeting some people. I saw on a Traffic Signal corner a person changing a PCB on a black box (more properly known as a junction box). Intuitively, somehow felt that the person is perhaps from RTO or something like that. Started a conversation with him and came to know that he is an employee from Keltron and they had been doing the Intelligent Transportation Project on behalf of Pune Muncipal Corporation. I had read few articles about the ITS but hadn’t been to the workshop . He showed me the digital and video cameras which were erected something like two stories of the ground as well as the 360 degree dome camera which was also installed to capture traffic violations and movement. The heart of the system was the microprocessor and micro-controller based PCB board which had some logic built-in (an algorithm) and changed traffic signals dynamically based on local traffic conditions. IF for e.g. there was huge traffic density and volume going to one end of the road, then that side of the the road, the signal for traffic would be for longer periods of time. He also shared about the wired and wireless links which make the whole thing accessible at the Traffic Control Room. Of course there is lot of politicking on the project as can be seen in one of the articles . Little bit of searching told me how companies like Keltron and Aftek are in this market.

I became interested about this project due to 2 things I saw :-

a. The power of algorithms on programmable chips. – This is of course been there since the early 90s. The breath analyzers I had seen in the early 90s especially in Bangalore and Hyderabad are reminiscent of that but of course they would be primitive to the Intelligence now built into systems.

b. The post-capture analysis software – As of right now, Urban planners in Cities such as Pune have no reliable data so lot of assumptions are made on traffic flows and such. When you have actual traffic flows recorded via sensors and different technologies, they should be able to do things a bit more accurately.

Word of caution :- I do hope that the raw data is in an open format so it could be used by civic activists to also confirm independently the conclusions arrived at by the planners. Also there is possibility to have conclusions such as arrived at Freakonomics perhaps. Interesting and alternative view-points and needed for Urban planning.

There were also interesting tidbits he said about the project, for e.g. he alleged that some of the junction boxes were removed by some anti-social elements although he was bewildered as to what they could do with it. They couldn’t re-program it or anything like that. The only thing they could do perhaps was reverse-engineer and study the design of part of the ITS project, but then its just part of the project. If you don’t know the whole thing it didn’t make sense.

For Computer Engineering students this could also be something to look at. I would recommend such students to go through this week’s businessworld issue and especially the articles about IT and IIT.

For the curious minded, came to know that one of those 70 sites is near my home at Balgandharva Chowk.


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