Does IoT serve Smart Mobility ?

Written by Helena Furgoni

10th September 2019

53.8M € is the amount of investments in R&D in the automobile industry in 2018. The question is : how much were spent to solve the traffic management problematic ? Has so much been spent  to develop smart solutions for mobility inside the city ? 

We searched for a long time to move faster, cheaper, safer… without searching to move more intelligently in the global context of circulation in town. Until now, few research studies were considering traffic flows as an ecosystem instead of a cluster of transport mediums all more efficient than each other. Here the question is : do we deal with the right problem ? 

In this article, we’ll see how, further than Smart City, IoT helps developing a smart mobility, to create the new “Fluid City”.

A quick definition 

What is “smart mobility” ? Nowadays, transport sector is led by technological innovation, which goes from autonomous vehicles to electric scooters. Smart Mobility is then the sum of all the innovations in the transportation sector.

It’s very easy to make a shortcut between smart mobility and numeric tools, sensors, data… only. But the meaning is bigger : a mobility which has as a finality to use a maximum of data collected through IoT solutions, serving the creation of new transport systems more efficient, but also more ecological.

By looking at smart mobility, one can meet the abbreviation ITS (intelligent transportation systems). What does it mean? Yung-Jun Moon, main researcher and director of the R&D national center of transport technology at the korean institute of transports, defines it:

“[ITS] refers to the technology applied to transport and infrastructure used to communicate information between the different systems, to improve safety, productivity, and environmental performance. This includes autonomous applications like traffic management systems, information and safety alerts installed in individual vehicles; but also ITS cooperative systems for communication of informations between vehicles, and between vehicle and infrastructure.”

In the IoT context, a word emerges in this definition: “communicate”. This communication of informations between systems demonstrates the important place, even fundamental, that links the Internet of Things in the development of transport’s intelligent systems

More an objective than a tool

Smart mobility can’t be considered as a tool, but more as a goal to achieve within a Smart City eager to innovative, durable, and eco-friendly solutions. 

Data collected through IoT solutions, which are a fundamental element in case of smart mobility politics elaboration, will help to resolve problems met by cities. We find, among others, traffic jams, to which smart solutions can bring quick answers to a constantly worsening problem. How ? By connecting traffic lights, allowing a more fluent traffic. But also with cameras, sensors, mobile applications… which will allow to deal with itinerary changes due to car crashes or traffic slowdowns. The possibilities seem endless, and the impact could be significative on all the urban grid.

 

Solutions concerning safety are not to be outdown. The traffic is often disturbed, or completely interrupted, due to network breakdown, bad weather, roadways modification… IoT allows to deal with these informations in real time: alternative itineraries creation, and repair works almost instantaneously dispatched… and will ensure that the population has the easiest and safest possible access to public transportation. These solutions are enabled by sensors, cameras, or even connected subway/bus stops. 

These solutions allow to fluidify the traffic, but also to reduce the impact of our travels on the environment. Reducing car crashes, avoiding pollution peaks, choosing the best mobility solutions for different areas… are some of the many objectives accessible thanks to smart mobility. But these technological advances have to be completed by a deep comprehension of the reasons why we travel, and categorize these deplacements within large groups to optimize the solutions proposed.

Let’s take, for example, a rural community searching for an innovative mobility, and which has to consider the difficulty of accessibility of the workplace, or its isolation from the houses. This community may propose car sharing or carpooling solutions which allow to travel into the areas not served by public transportation. On the other hand, urban zones can afford to encourage people to adopt alternatives modes of transport, proposing for example electric scooter and bicycles. However, car sharing is also a solution which allows to reduce traffic jams in town : it may be the same answer than for a rural community but the goal is quite different.

The role of Data 

Different types of Data can be exploited in the context of smart mobility solutions : speed, travel time, location… This Data is collected through sensors placed in the urban environment, on public transportation, or even with mobile applications. To offer a global view of traffic state, these informations must be put together and made available to the various entities in charge of transport. Namely, today, the data about people and vehicle moves are almost exclusively collected by mobile operators. 

The processing of data allows to trace in real time a situational analysis of the traffic state, in order to find optimal solutions as soon as possible. A work of analysis, carried out by an AI, is crucial, and generally put into action by the collectivities. These analysis are also essential to report problems concerning existing transport modes, and propose smart solutions and adapted services to the problems of local area. 

The issue of personal data protection is a concern, notably on the purpose of putting a sensor on a vehicle. Considering that this practice is increasingly used, from the equipments of alternatives modes of transport to fleets of electric vehicles, it’s quite hard to bring a satisfactory answer to people embarrassed by this process. 

Today, one of the main issues would be to equip these modes of transport with low-cost trackers, for the purpose of democratizing the use of Internet of Things. It’s hard, thus, to reject the collection of data from our travels and uses, while enjoying the advantages of safer and eco-friendly solutions proposed today. 

What purposes in 2019 ?

On June 18 at 4 p.m., National Assembly of France has adopted the draft law on Mobility Orientation, project which consists of proposing cheaper, easier and cleaner daily transportation, to all the citizens without distinction. Indeed, a strong feeling of injustice is felt by a large number of french people : in rural areas, in view of the fuel price and the almost absence of alternative modes of transportation to private cars, some even speak about “house arrest”. Local authorities thus are turning to IoT solutions and alternative modes of transport to strengthen the attractiveness of their territory.

People could also turn to safer and more ecological transports, thanks to the information from the data collected with Internet of Things, which could have, as a goal, a future automation of the proposed solutions. 

Interoperability, the capacity of elements and systems to communicate with each other, is also a great issue for the development of a smart mobility in the context of Smart City. Due to durability and efficiency worries, equipments have to be based on standard formats, to always be compatible with each other. Today, it’s usual to renew the entirety of the elements when a modification has to be done: this currently turnover is incompatible with an eco-friendly behavior, a crucial element for the development of the Smart City.

What about the autonomous car ?

Which one will be first? The car dedicated to shared services, managed by the territories, and put into service on dedicated lanes? Or the private car?

By targeting wider than “autonomous” cars, IoT solutions offer many possibilities to multiply the potential of the connected car . Smart navigation, real-time traffic information, dashboard integration, applications associated with portable devices… The possibilities seem endless.

In addition to the issues of safety and mobility, we can add the issue of sustainability. How does this apply in the IoT world? Quite simply by collecting and processing the data, combined with a detailed analysis of user behaviour, which will make possible to harmonize these three issues. Thanks to different solutions it’ll be possible to propose new ways to connect infrastructures and installations, as well as proposing safe, intelligent and green transportations.