Dutch operator KPN, along with technology and government partners, has started tests of systems by which freight trucks can communicate with traffic lights over its 4G/LTE network. Other participants in the tests, being conducted around Schiphol airport, include the province of North Holland, a government program called Beter Benutten, and the comapnies Vialis, Dynniq, FloraHolland, Rietveld and Dobbe transport.
Two traffic lights have received new software, so when a truck approaches, they can communicate with the lights over KPN’s mobile network. KPN said the communication is practically real-time, with a lag of only a few dozen milliseconds. The system calculates at which point the truck will pass through the light and then gives the driver advice on speed so that it can pass smoothly through the light on green without having to stop. This is expected to reduce unnecessary braking and thereby help limit pollution, energy usage and traffic delays.
This is the kind of creative new use of mobile networks that we find exciting and growth-oriented. While there is plenty of room for value-added consumer services such as entertainment-related apps so that operators can diversify and stay relevant, there is tremendous potential in industrial applications that potentially have tremendous volume. IoT systems such as these can end up governing a truly massive number of everyday mechanical tasks that are absolutely indispensible to the functioning of a society, and as such they are a fabulous revenue opportunity for operators.
The traffic-light coordinator for truck traffic is a seemingly simple but extremely clever idea that could save companies a great deal of money and make a great deal of money for an operator such as KPN that gets involved and partners with the right developers. Making deals with government agencies to get an exclusive on their 4G/LTE network for this purpose is good strategy, and if the system pans out, the rewards would be significant.
Operators looking for more uses for their high-speed networks should be looking at these apparently humble, non-consumer industrial IoT applications and get in on the ground floor.