Smart City: The 900-sensor network collects data on urban air and traffic
Department of Software Science and OÜ Thinnect are developing technology to monitor urban air and measure traffic flows. During this spring, 900 devices equipped with batteries and solar panels will be attached to the street lighting posts in the so-called network of sensors of a smart city for collecting environmental and traffic density data.
The main goal of the project is to create a technology that enables smart city sensors to find one another and create a fast network without a central control unit (the so-called mesh network).
Weatherproof sensors collect data on air temperature, pollution, and noise, are able to identify the presence of pedestrians and the movement and direction of vehicles. The large data set that is being created makes it possible for urban planners to make smarter decisions, but not only. "It is possible that in the future, with similar solutions drivers will receive operative information on their smart devices regarding how long the queues are at the junctions, and how long the congestion can last," Jaanus Kaugerand, researcher of the research group Prolab of the Department of Software Science introduced the potential. “It also helps to improve road safety if the driver will know in real time in the dark time that there is a pedestrian or an animal on the road,” Kaugerand said about possible future solutions.
According to Jürgo Preden, CEO of Thinnect, the sensors to be installed are the devices of the Internet of Things whose technology has grown out of company solutions in the field of defense. "If we look at other such systems in the world, no development of a smart city with such volume and capability has been made anywhere else," the entrepreneur noted. He added that the equipment and technology that are going to be installed in the city are unique because we can use them build up larger networks, manage them better, and moreover, their installation is easier and cheaper than that of alternative solutions.
Once the sensors have been set up in the city, the company will start testing the technology and evaluating whether it offers the functionality required for different applications. Already in the summer, the research group will get data to analyze how the network works with different loads and how the sensors fit into the applications. "To achieve the best possible result, we are open to collaboration with other scientists and students," said Preden.
The sensor network enables to create a large database
The data to be collected is so-called gold that scientists and students will be able to use to conduct research, and city and traffic planners will be able to use it for making better decisions. For example, the Urban Planning Department or Environmental Board will receive important information for managing traffic flows and also for reducing traffic noise and pollution.
According to Professor Dago Antov of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, one of the main problems of urban planning and traffic flow management is the lack of information. “There are only 11 counting points in Tallinn so far, but they are only at junctions where, in rush hours cars are standing for long periods anyway. These points will not help us to know how long the deadlock is, or how long it could last,” explained Antov. "Now that we will be able to gather more data, we can better monitor and analyze the impact of various urban planning decisions."
So far, the students have counted the cars manually, by just standing at the junction. Of course, it doesn't provide an exhaustive picture or help draw out patterns by the times of day, weekdays, or seasons. However, thanks to the new sensors, we can find out what is happening in urban traffic and the environment today, and we can predict what could happen in five or ten years, for example.
When the sensors of the smart city start working, in the view of Toomas Türk, the leading specialist of the Tallinn City Enterprise Department, in five and more years, we could be living in a city where it is more convenient to move, clean air, less noise and more knowledge available. For Türk, the decisive factor at the start of cooperation with Thinnect and TalTech were decisive in applying new testing methods to gain new knowledge and evaluate technology projects in urban space: the project offers a learning opportunity for the city as a system. "As a result of the first data and analysis, we can find ways to use new knowledge and evaluate the experience of cooperation," Türk noted, and in the future, according to him, it contributes to Tallinn's ambition to be a spokesperson for a vision of the Future of the City. He noted that if we achieve a situation where data coming from the street is part of our day-to-day decision-making process, and self-learning knowledge helps to improve the same data collection mechanisms, we can create a better living environment and a better urban environment for every person in general.
The smart city sensor system reached the streets of Tallinn thanks to the smart specialization measure of Archimedes SA.
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