Sensors, utilising Bluetooth technology, help the city of Portsmouth to monitor the road conditions. The solution measures the impact of roadworks and events, and maximise the effectiveness of diversion routes, to ensure optimal network operation.
In Portsmouth, the only UK city with a population density higher than London, the number of cars on the roads is continually increasing, leading to higher congestion, reduced road accessibility, and increased environmental pollution.
To increase journey time transparency, reduce environmental impact and optimise traffic flow, Portsmouth City Council realised they needed to have a bird’s-eye view of the traffic network, as well as detailed, up-close analysis of ongoing issues. They also needed a way to act fast when things start to bottleneck.
To help manage the challenges of measuring the impact of incidents, roadworks and events, and predict traffic build-up, the city in 2013 followed in the footsteps of other traffic-congested cities including Bangkok, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Auckland and Zürich, by adopting the BlipTrack Bluetooth Technology.
The solution is primarily based on the movement of Bluetooth-enabled devices in cars. The vast majority of car owners own a smartphone, and almost all new cars are equipped with always-on Bluetooth, for easy connectivity to phones or other devices. BlipTrack has devised a way to utilise these Bluetooth signals, using sensors, to assist traffic management in measuring how traffic flows.
It provides the city with both real-time and historical traffic information, including detailed statistical information on the journey times, average speeds, dwell times, and movement patterns.
The real-time data has, over time, helped the city's traffic engineers to understand traffic flows better, improve planning and allow for rerouting of traffic to less-congested routes, preventing massive tailbacks before they form. It enables them to identify problem areas, by providing information on the capacity of existing roads and detecting changes in traffic patterns.
“Close monitoring of journey times allows us to review routes, where slower-than-expected journey times are being experienced, with improvements to be investigated,” says Lee Gilbert, Senior Traffic & Network Engineer at Portsmouth City Council.
Portsmouth is using the system both tactically and strategically. On a day-to-day basis, they use the system to monitor the actual road conditions in real time and manually control the phasing of traffic signals when congestion is identified. On a strategic level, they 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, and improve their traffic models.
“To give a couple of examples, the solution has been used to monitor live journey times during large-scale events, such as the America's Cup, The Great South Run or Victorious Music Festival, each attracting 50,000+ attendees. It also provides traffic data for future planning meetings, viewing historical data, looking for quieter days/times on the network when planning major roadworks, and allowing traffic engineers to provide clear and understandable data to the public,” continues Gilbert.
The power of the solution grows exponentially with the addition of other sensors, allowing the solution to log individual journeys. It enables calculating average speed, exposing unintended routes with a significant number of cars, using small residential backstreets to escape rush-hour traffic, and monitoring when drivers are spending substantial amounts of time searching for a parking space.
“If we were unable able to view the journey times on the BlipTrack system, it would require individual monitoring to be undertaken, and operations would potentially be delayed. It has helped us to identify the best times to undertake roadworks, lessening the impact to motorists. One of the biggest cost savings is made by triangulating three or more data units, allowing multiple routes to be monitored. We consider that the ease of extracting traffic data from the system is significant to see how time savings are achieved,” says Gilbert.
“The most significant advantage of Bluetooth measurements is their ability to log real-time journey data and analyse consequences. For example, if a set of traffic lights fails, existing systems, such as loops in the road, ANPR cameras and probe-data services, can’t tell what the exact effect will be on surrounding roads. Monitoring Bluetooth signals can. It means that traffic controllers can instantly change the phasing of other traffic lights to ease any congestion that results,” says Christian Bugislaus Carstens, Marketing Manager for Veovo, BlipTrack.
Besides smoothing traffic flow in Portsmouth, the solution is employed in optimisation efforts at the Port of Dover and Clapham Junction Railway Station. Several UK airports are also reaping the benefits of the BlipTrack technology, including Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham and Edinburgh, and internationally it helps streamline passenger flow at Dublin, Amsterdam Schiphol and JFK in New York. In recent years, it has been rolled out at ski resorts, amusement parks and at events all over the world.
“With BlipTrack we are able to measure the capacity and traffic flow in real-time in and around the area. This allows us to take proactive steps to initiate countermeasures if traffic build-up should occur. It also helps us to understand various traffic-related matters, enabling us to evaluate and validate existing traffic models and make informed decisions about where to prioritise expansions and optimisations to help the daily commute.”
Traffic Analyst at Trafik Stockholm
“It gives us insights on how individual journeys can differ from each other, especially when traffic lights are involved. The ability to measure travel times over long stretches of road, with various queue lengths, and only looking at specific route choices, is another strength of the BlipTrack solution.”
CEO of Trafik Stockholm
“BlipTrack helps Thai citizens to travel home faster during two major traffic events: Songkran and New Year holidays. The system allowed not only road users to decide route choices via travel time info online but also the Thai Highway Police to manage traffic in real-time.”
Dr. Songrit Chayanan
Director of Samut Sakhon Highway District.
“With BlipTrack, we can discover errors and irregularities that we would not have a chance to see otherwise. In addition, it is extremely educational and easily accessible to study how the incidents of various kinds influence the road network.”
Project Manager at Aarhus Municipality
“The solution helps improve service levels for the municipality commuters. The real-time information allows drivers to make informed route choices that ultimately distribute traffic and increases the operational performance of the road network.”
Anders Kruse Christiansen
Project Manager at Aarhus Municipality
“Portsmouth has benefited from the accurate data from the BlipTrack installations with a much-improved understanding of journey times within the city of Portsmouth. We consider that the ease of extracting traffic data from BlipTrack is significant to see how time savings are achieved. Selecting the required route, date, time, etc. is very straightforward and simple to understand.”
Traffic Engineer at Portsmouth City Council
“The solution has helped us get a better understanding of the dynamic traffic system and provides quantifiable data to support the improvement measures to traffic flows. It allows us to provide a world-class service to our customers and community by efficiently managing traffic flows in and out of the port.” Read more.
General Manager of Strategy and Risk Management at Port of Dover
“BlipTrack provides the Aalborg City Business Association with an in-depth understanding on how people move within the city and measures the economic impact of events. The data allow us to analyze, optimize and improve large-scale events”. Read more
Director of Aalborg City Business Association
BlipTrack provides our clients with an unparalleled range of traffic information. Using the same data, we can provide 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
Associate at BECA
“BlipTrack give us a unique opportunity to deliver new logistics solutions for the benefit of our customers”. Read more
Chief Technical Officer for the Port of Aalborg