Monday, May 26, 2008

Buses as mobile sensing platforms?

Posted by Roland Piquepaille @ 10:15 am

According to European researchers, modern buses could be used as mobile sensing platforms, sending out live information to be used to control traffic and detect road hazards. The 3.83 million euro EU-funded MORYNE project was completed in March 2008 with a test in Berlin, Germany. During this test, the researchers ‘equipped city buses with environmental sensors and cameras, allowing the vehicles to become transmitters of measurements, warnings and live or recorded videos to anyone allowed to access the data.’ But read more…

MORYNE architecture

You can see above the MORYNE architecture. (Credit: MORYNE Project) By the way, the acronym was picked from the official name of the project, “EnhanceMent of public transpORt efficiencY through the use of mobile seNsor nEtworks.” I wonder how many people were necessary to settle on this acronym.

Here is a link to the MORYNE Project website and here were its objectives.

  • The development of an approach for new safety- and efficiency-oriented transport management and traffic management
  • The development and validation of technologies for appropriate sensing, information processing, communication, interfaces
  • The development of an in-laboratory demonstrator
  • The validation of the proposed concepts through field testing
  • The analysis of potential impacts (social, economic, environmental)

MORYNE communication system

Above is an illustration describing the MORYNE communication system used during the tests in Berlin in March 2008. (Credit: MORYNE Project)

MORYNE bus on board unit

And you can see how the on board unit (OBU) of the buses used during these tests. (Credit: MORYNE Project) This OBU performs four main tasks: interfacing all IT devices on the bus; lane position algorithm, and number of lanes besides bus lane calculation; fog and ice warning calculation; driver interface to automatically warn him about congestion and environmental alarms.

Now, let’s look at the ICT Results article to discover how the buses, equipped with humidity and temperature sensors, were tested. “One pair of sensors checks the road surface while the other pair analyses the air. The sensors were selected and designed to resist to pollution. They were also designed to quickly acclimatise to the environment, as buses may have to go through tunnels, tiny dark roads, bridges and city parks over the course of a few minutes.”

And how all this information is transmitted to a traffic control center? “The data gathered by the sensors is processed on the bus, using a small but very powerful computer. The computer can then warn the bus driver if for example foggy or icy conditions are imminent. The computer can also send alerts to a public transport control centre via a variety of wireless connections, including mobile radio systems, wifi or wimax networks, and UMTS (3G). The control centre can in turn warn nearby buses of dangerous conditions through the same wireless channels. The system can also be set up to warn city traffic-monitoring centres of road conditions, making these mobile environmental sensors another way to collect information on top of an existing network.”

If such a system is installed in your city one day, be careful! “Another innovation stemming from the project is the bus-mounted road-cam, a powerful video acquisition and processing device that can detect traffic conditions around a bus. They system can be used to spot unauthorised cars in a bus lane and inform the police. The same video system can also be used to count the number of vehicles in adjoining lanes and measure their speed, helping to alert a city traffic-monitoring centre of road conditions on the ground, in real time.”

For more information, you can read the MORYNE booklet (PDF format, 8 pages, 1.19 MB). But if you’re really want to know more about this project, you can look at a document introducing the MORYNE Berlin demonstration held on March 11-12, 2008
(PDF format, 149 pages, 8.03 MB). The illustrations above have been respectively extracted from pages 7, 20 and 35 of this document.

Sources: ICT Results, May 26, 2008; and various websites

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Roland Piquepaille lives in Paris, France, and he spent most of his career in software, mainly for high performance computing and visualization companies. For disclosures on Roland's industry affiliations, click here.

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