West Midlands 5G (WM5G) and Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) have launched a project to demonstrate how 5G technology can be used to reduce traffic congestion.
The connected Road Sensor Network project will use 5G sensors to transmit live traffic data to the regional control center. This will allow the center to take action as congestion builds up on the region’s busiest roads, such as issuing instant warnings to drivers and introducing diversions.
The project involves the Key Route Network, a group of roads that carry more than half of all traffic in the West Midlands region. The first phase will aim to create a more granular view of traffic flow by deploying 5G enabled sensors, radar and cameras across the network. On the project, TfWM is working with partners including Vodafone, Siemens, WSP and the environmental consultancy Earthsense.
The next phase of the £5.8 million (US $8.1 million) Road Sensor Network will see around 280 sensors, supplied by Vaisala and Vivacity, deployed across the seven local authorities that make up the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), before the end of the project in March 2022.
One of the most persuasive aspects of 5G technology is that enables not just quantitative gains in speed but qualitative gains in the kinds of tasks that can be accomplished. The harvesting, consolidation and transmission of vast amounts of data pertaining to road traffic, constantly and in real time, is a good example of this new advantage.
With the use of 5G and deployment of a large enough number of sensors—which will take time, given that the project is still in phase one—the “granular view” of traffic patterns in the West Midlands will allow local authorities to implement mitigation measures on a responsive, as-needed basis.
The Road Sensor Network, an innovative application of IoT, is being spearheaded by a public-private entity, West Midlands 5G, that has, it states, “been established to accelerate the benefits of 5G throughout the region.” However, the fact that Vodafone UK is one of the partners indicates that there is room for MNOs in these kinds of municipal initiatives. Ultimately, of course, the 5G connectivity for such networks will almost certainly be provided by MNOs, which can benefit from the projects not only in terms of revenue but also in terms of branding and public image. Certainly, in the ongoing quest for non-traditional, innovative and indispensable uses for their network products, MNOs will find what they are looking for in public-oriented IoT projects such as the Road Sensor Network.