What is ITS?

Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) refers to the application of advanced technology to manage aspects of traffic and transportation in order to create a safer, more efficient, greener and more responsive transport network.

Modern solutions often encompass AI or Deep Learning solutions to “teach” systems to react more intuitively. Intelligent Traffic Systems (also confusingly referred to as ITS) are one element of ITS but modes of transport beyond just roads are also seeing rapid development.

ITS for the road

Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) systems aren’t new, they’ve been successfully used in parking administration and speed enforcement for a number of years. What is new, however, is the level of intelligence available to these systems. ANPR relies on optical character recognition (OCR) where cameras capture letters and image processing techniques decode the characters one by one.

Improved sensors and processors now allow reading of plates in sub-optimal conditions such as poor lighting or fog. With the miniaturisation of components and advancements in processing power, image processing can now be carried out on the camera at the roadside rather than needing to be transferred to a control centre or to the cloud for further analysis. This means that images can be viewed at near real-time and more timely action taken as a result – for example, at entry points allowing access to authorised vehicles only.

Traffic cameras go beyond just ANPR, Active Traffic Management (ATM) solutions are becoming widespread. Smart motorways are a hot topic in the UK at the moment and the safety of the travelling public relies heavily on monitoring facilities – highway managers must be alerted quickly and accurately to any vehicle that’s not moving as it should on the motorway. Delays in knowing that a vehicle has stopped, or understanding the precise location of that vehicle, can endanger lives. Getting vital data quickly from the roadside to the control room is essential for efficiently monitoring roads and junctions.

ITS platforms are a major contributor to the development of Smart Cities as designers look to move traffic around in the most efficient manner. Companies such as Vivacity Labs have a range of solutions based on visual identification, machine learning and advanced algorithms to assist traffic managers and transport planners to build for the future.

Electronic Toll Management is another area benefiting from advances in technology. Traditional camera-based solutions are often used at toll gates to identify vehicles registered for pay-as-you-go schemes. More recently, Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) sensors placed inside vehicles feed journey information to a central system which translates this into toll charges. Such systems are in use in a number of European countries to ease congestion at toll gates.

Steatite products are used in various traffic applications, adding industry-leading vison and compute capability to traffic monitoring, average-speed cameras, ANPR and surveillance applications. Harrier autofocus-zoom (AFZ) camera solutions, from our imaging division, Active Silicon, deliver high-speed processing on a compact camera making it ideal for traffic and transport applications. Variations are even available to transfer HD video data over coax cables up to 700m.

Rail management solutions

There are numerous ITS solutions for the rail industry ranging from passenger flow systems to automatic braking for trains.

As an illustration of what can be achieved with modern hardware and AI, Thales are looking to optimise the rail network across Europe through a comprehensive suite of solutions. Their Advanced Railway Management and Information System(ARAMIS) automatically sets routes, supervises the infrastructure, visualizes the status of the railway network in real time, performs a comparison with the planned targets, shows KPIs, optimises resources and calculates forecasts based on the actual data. They’re even putting AI to use to monitor social distancing in stations and trains.

Steatite’s engineering capability enables our customers to develop systems that provide better visibility and safety on trains. This is alongside our existing ITS solutions which can be customised for the rail sector and used in applications such as CCTV video recording, passenger information systems, facial recognition systems, driver display interface and on-train ticketing.

Maritime intelligent transport systems

Transporting goods by sea generates one of the lowest levels of CO2 per tonne of cargo so shipping is under renewed focus from environmentally-conscious supply chain managers. The autonomous ships market size was estimated to be valued at US$85.84bn in 2020, and is projected to reach US$165.61bn by 2030, registering a CAGR of 6.8% from 2020 to 2030[1].

From navigation to fuel management, technology for shipping is helping to make marine transport even more efficient. There is a plethora of IoT systems available for the maritime industry which assist voyage optimisation. These systems vary in performance going up to the considerable processing power available on our EN60945 and DNV fanless computers, offering ideal solutions for maritime ITS solutions.

The PNT (precision/navigation/time) products offered through Steatite’s partner, Orolia, provide solutions that improve the reliability, performance and safety of critical, remote and high risk operations even in GPS/GNSS denied environments. The VersaSync/PNT is ideal for the growing demand in autonomous vessels.

[1] https://www.alliedmarketresearch.com/autonomous-ships-market

ITS in the air

Intelligent transport systems for aviation are being developed to address areas such as aircraft launches, air traffic control and airfield vehicles control. ITS for aviation aims to address such challenges as how airports should manage the increasing volume of aircraft which need to be accommodated on the ground and harnessing satellite data to optimise aircraft routes.

One example of an aviation ITS initiative is the Programme Marshall project set up to transform the military Air Traffic Management (ATM) capability at all UK and overseas MOD-operated sites. This £1.5bn investment, managed by air traffic management specialist Aquila, provides a single-service support contract and asset-delivery programme to upgrade and replace terminal air traffic management equipment over a 22-year period.

Airfields will see implementations of the very latest communications, navigation and surveillance equipment with modern radar data processing and displays, and touchscreen interfaces. This will bring the MOD in line with future legislative requirements, improve overall performance and deliver through-life savings.

Also in this sector, we’re likely to see increases in the use of ITS to make air traffic control even safer and reduce the carbon footprint of aircraft. Enhancing airline security, embedded systems from our subsidiary, Active Silicon, are already in use in cockpit entry systems, and with the necessary security controls and procedures in place, along with security cleared personnel, Steatite offers a comprehensive range of products to support avionic systems.

What does Steatite bring to ITS?

Our products are specifically designed for harsh environments, and built to tolerate the temperature and humidity variations that outdoor locations pose. Our rugged hardware is robustly tested to withstand dust, vibration and other conditions associated with in-vehicle computing.

Particularly suited to the high compute power required by ITS solutions, we supply off-the-shelf industrial grade NVIDIA Jetson computers and carrier boards ready to deploy edge AI systems quickly and successfully. We can also help with custom solutions to suit any application and our team of design experts will assist with integrating every system from concept to final delivery and setup.

Our recent acquisition of Active Silicon adds advanced imaging hardware and software to our portfolio. Harrier camera solutions offer some of the most high-speed, high-resolution yet compact image and video capture available, and, with a wide range of output options, we have a module to suit every application.

With many of these applications dependent on GNSS, our PNT products enable network accuracy, security and resilient time synchronisation in denied environments.

Contact us now to see how we can support your intelligent transport system and add speed and accuracy to your data processing.