Traveling in New Zealand will be more predictable thanks to Bluetooth sensors that collect and share live traffic information with drivers.

Throughout the construction of the Kapiti Expressway, traffic management has played a vital part in minimizing disruption for motorists. New sensor technology utilizes real-time information to help manage the daily commute. 

A network of BlipTrack sensors, from Denmark-based information technology company BLIP Systems, have been installed by The New Zealand Transport Agency’s on roads around Auckland International Airport, Kãpiti, Tauranga and parts of the Bay of Plenty. The sensors record in real-time journey times and queue wait times from sites around the North Island of New Zealand.

This real-time traffic information is communicated directly back to motorists. The information is streamed live to a dedicated mobile website called DriveLive which advises people how long journeys are currently taking on selected key routes. In addition, variable message signs, placed along the highway, displays estimated travel time to destinations, enabling drivers to plan their travel around that information.

The New Zealand Transport Agency’s Bay of Plenty journey manager, Nigel D’Ath says the DriveLive initiative will help people to plan ahead and work out the best time to travel, and what time they are likely to arrive at their destination.

"Knowing how long a journey will take is important for people and businesses," he says. People have told us that being unable to predict journey times with certainty is one of their biggest frustrations, resulting in lost time and productivity. The DriveLive website will provide people with live information to help them make smarter travel choices and hopefully save time each day. Not only will travelers know what to expect, they will be able to share that information with others."

Mr D’Ath says the New Zealand Transport Agency and project consultants, Beca decided to roll out the initiative as there are a number of large road projects in the pipeline.

“We know, from using the BlipTrack technology, when the busy peaks are. We use the technology also to actually see how long are the delays we´re causing, doing construction. Traffic management is all about keeping the community moving in a very safe manner, past the work sites. It gives safety for the motorists, pedestrians and cyclists as well as our work crews, whilst we cause minimum delays,” said Chris Harmer, Traffic Manager at Higgins.

The BlipTrack sensors also measure travel time savings and reliability improvements, such as in the one of the New Zealand Highway Agency biggest road building project, the Waikato Expressway. To measure the effectiveness of the new Expressway, sensors recorded traffic flows prior to its opening and after opening. Based on this large data set it was possible to demonstrate significant journey time savings totaling yearly savings of 7.6 million dollars to the New Zealand economy.

The solution works by detecting motorists driving with a Bluetooth or WiFi device, such as in hands-free systems and mobile phones. When a vehicle with an activated Bluetooth or WiFi device passes the sensors, its anonymous ID, also called a MAC address, is recorded, encrypted and time-stamped. By combining and analyzing the data collected by all sensors, an accurate picture about each road user, such as their travel times, dwell times and movement patterns are provided. The information can be used to inform and warn about queues and delays, identify problem areas, evaluate and calibrate traffic signals, provide information on the capacity of existing roads, and detect changes in traffic patterns.

The solution is also deployed at Auckland Airport to monitor the behavior of passengers, optimize operation and improve the passenger experience.

In addition to measure traffic in New Zealand, US, UK, Switzerland and Denmark, The solution is successfully employed in optimization efforts in ports in Denmark and UK, train stations in Holland, ski resorts in the US and Australia, amusement parks, and at events all over the world. In addition, the solution is installed in more than 25 international airports, including JFK, Amsterdam, Dubai, Dublin, Toronto, Milano, Barcelona, Auckland, Cincinnati, Brussels, Manchester, Copenhagen, Helsinki and Oslo.

Ever-increasing international travel volume is having a serious impact on airports like New Zealand’s Auckland International, which saw over 19 million passengers last year. The airport is taking the increased passenger flow and logistics issues seriously, using a unique combination of traffic and passenger flow measurement technology. The result? Faster travel times, acceptable wait times, less passenger stress and a wealth of information that helps the airports and the city to plan resources more effectively.

Auckland - a growing hub for travel

Auckland Airport expects to host over 40 million passengers annually by the year 2044. To cope with this increase in passenger load, the airport embarked on a wide-ranging and world first combined passenger-flow and road-traffic measurement project, with the goal of obtaining real-time cohesive view of people movement patterns, to guide daily and long-term operational decisions, maximise capacity and improve flow.

In its build, the airport has opted to aim for sustainability, while ensuring that they will not only have the capacity to handle the extra people, but also the capability to make the passenger journey as smooth and stress-free as possible.

Keeping things flowing

Smooth passenger flow, both in the arrival and departure terminals, and the concession and transit waiting areas, as well as on the roads surrounding the airport, is critical to the successful operation of an airport.

Issues with traffic flows can result in delays for passengers, airport staff and airline crew, resulting in disruptions to airport and airline operations.

To manage both passenger and traffic flow, Auckland Airport realised they needed to have a bird’s-eye view of the entire system, as well as detailed, up-close analysis of ongoing issues. They also needed a way to quickly act when things start to bottleneck.

With several traffic monitoring projects in New Zealand, using the same technology, infrastructure consultants Beca was commissioned to extend the solution across the airport’s roading infrastructure. This now provides the airport with a seamless picture of traffic flow information between the airport and Auckland CBD (Central Business District, also called the city centre).

How it works

On the Road

Outside the airport, the solution measures traffic flow between the CBD and the airport, providing real-time data on reliability, vehicle counts and travel time.

It provides data about the mix of staff and passengers using the Park and Ride facility, enabling the airport to better understand the performance and regularly review how they can improve their facilities. This information is also analysed to help planning decisions for road network maintenance and infrastructure projects.

The insights, collected using a range of technologies, including radar and WiFi sensors, also helps the New Zealand Traffic Agency (NZTA) to make informed traffic management decisions, and has allowed for the implementation of a number of initiatives to improve the traffic flow to the airport. This includes optimising traffic signal timings, and  combined with the recent opening of the new constructed Waterview connection, has resulted in significant travel time cuts to and from the airport from the CBD and West Auckland.

In addition, the real-time and historic BlipTrack data enables NZTA, via their new app RideMate and online, to display live travel times between the CBD and airport, as well as informing about days with high risk of congestion. This enable road users to plan ahead, reducing both the risk of travellers missing their flight and airport employees coming in late for work.

Besides the benefits of real-time reporting, the historical data is used to detect driving time anomalies. Effectively, this means that the solution can pinpoint road sections and intersections where driving times deviate from the norm as a result of construction projects, incidents, roadwork, faulty traffic lights and other factors. With this information at hand, real-time traffic management can take place.

Richard Young, Senior Associate at Beca, says: “The intelligence that BlipTrack is delivering has already proved its value, by providing automated alerts on delays on vulnerable corridors, real-time counts on traffic flows and delays, and intelligence on the origin and destination of vehicle movements into the airport and to terminals and car parks.”

In the airport

Inside the airport, the solution provides metrics on passenger queue times and volume, as well as insight into passenger movement patterns throughout the international and domestic terminals´ departure and arrival processes.

This helps the airport better manage and support resources by focusing on high-demand locations and periods. Likewise, the data directly benefits passengers by displaying wait times at security checkpoints, managing passenger expectations and reducing queue-related stress.

Mark Croudace, Manager – Operations at Auckland International Airport, says: “BlipTrack was a critical investment. The data has provided valuable insight into our operational performance across both our assets and processes. Most importantly, it has enabled us to have meaningful conversations with our key operational stakeholders and vendors, as we collectively seek to improve the passenger experience.”

Changing the face of travel

Numerous other international airports, including Amsterdam Schiphol, Copenhagen, Dublin, Brussels, Bristol and Billund, are following suit. These airports have recognised that comprehensive seamless passenger flow data is indispensable in guiding physical expansion plans, and for streamlining operations to accommodate rapid passenger volume growth, without compromising the passenger experience.

“By having Auckland Airport and Beca working together, and by sharing data between multiple solutions, BlipTrack provides a solution that no other product in the industry can currently reproduce – large-scale, seamless, door-to-door movement management between different modes of transport. And because it´s not only limited to certain areas, it can be considered as one of the first real, tangible steps to true multimodal traffic management,” ends Peter Knudsen, CEO of BLIP Systems.

Besides providing airports around the world with seamless passenger flow data, the solution is employed in optimisation efforts in road traffic applications in Switzerland, Thailand, Canada, the UK, Denmark and Sweden. In recent years, it has been rolled out in ports, train stations, ski resorts, amusement parks, and at events around the world.

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Auckland Airport Take to the Streets to Boost City-to-Gate Passenger Experience.

“We know, from using the BlipTrack technology, when the busy peaks are. We use the technology also to actually see how long are the delays we´re causing, doing construction”

Chris Harmer

Traffic Manager at Higgins / M2PP

BlipTrack provide our clients with an unparalleled range of traffic information. Using the same data, we can provided live travel times direct to signs and phones, identify incidents and delays through to understanding the strategic route choices, origin / destination and changing travel patterns. Read more

Richard Young

Associate at BECA