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Smart city technology paves the way on Nevada highways

The internet of things helps enable smart city efforts. States like Nevada are using IoT-enabled cameras on highways to relieve traffic congestion.

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Several states across the U.S. are recognizing that internet of things technologies can dramatically improve service, efficiencies, safety and the overall quality of life for residents. Municipalities are making progress using smart city technology to connect highway cameras, parking meters, street lights and more.

Since 2000, the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) has stationed 350 IoT-enabled cameras along Nevada's main highways. Positioned at about every quarter mile, the cameras monitor traffic flow, relieve congestion and improve highway safety. "When we see congestion on radar, it will tell us where the backup is, and we use cameras to take a picture of where the problem lies," said Israel Lopez, an intelligent transportation systems (ITS) technical planner at the NDOT.

Incident responders evaluate the situation, then send the appropriate amount of people and equipment to manage the scene, making the response more timely and efficient. "If we didn't have the cameras and the congestion sensors, we would have to have people out there to monitor those roadways to see what the problems are," Lopez explained. At about $4,000 per camera, the total cost is $8.4 million, plus installation and attendant infrastructure such as the fiber optic networking connected to the cameras.

"[To] an individual, it could look like adding technology that tracks and views and analyzes movement could be intrusive," said Gartner analyst Bettina Tratz-Ryan. "But if you look at this from the perspective of safety and service provisioning, you can paint a different picture. [Municipalities] need to do a good job of evangelizing smart cities. All stakeholders need to be like storytellers."

Complex and potentially costly projects like enabling smart city technology can benefit from pooling resources. The NDOT, for example, collaborates on a project known as the Three Amigos in which it purchases the infrastructure, the Nevada State Education Association manages the infrastructure and the state's Enterprise IT Services manages networks and connections with other state departments. These collaborations also enable the NDOT to share data with other organizations securely in a private cloud infrastructure rather than over the web.

Israel Lopez
Israel Lopez, an ITS technical planner at the Nevada Department of Transportation, surrounded by highway traffic information generated from IoT-enabled cameras.

The NDOT is also planning to add more sophisticated data analytics and visualization. It uses SQL Server today, but the agency wants to develop its dashboards for site technicians and their managers who need different camera views. "We're still relatively new to business intelligence," Lopez said. "We're still in our infancy. We're getting ready to walk." 

Next Steps

Smart city technology projects, IoT on one path

IoT technologies fueling smart cities

Innovation in cities happening with IoT

This was last published in June 2016

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