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7 transportation IoT predictions from Cisco

Feb 26, 20185 mins
Cisco SystemsInternet of Things

IoT's role in the world of connected transportation will grow, says Kyle Connor, Cisco’s transportation industry principal. But it will take cooperation among companies and agencies to make it s쳮d.

abstract representation of connected smart car
Credit: Thinkstock

Cisco is one of the biggest proponents — and potential beneficiaries — of the Internet of Things (IoT). The networking giant is pushing IoT solutions in a number of areas, not least of which is the transporation sector.

To learn more about how the company sees the future of IoT playing out in the world of connected transporation, I spoke (via email) with Kyle Connor, Cisco’s transportation industry principal.

Connor covered a lot of ground, but here are what I consider his seven most important points, along with my reactions to them:

1. Data will be the new oil

Connor noted that in the past, government and transportation agencies have not gone much beyond storing IoT transportation data. But going forward, he expects those agencies to find “innovative ways to leverage analytics to create revenue streams, improve quality of life for citizens, and offset costs of new technologies.”

For example, he said, if a transportation department has roadway sensors that detect fog, it could share or sell the collected data to weather institutions or navigation systems. That could enable more efficient travel, as well as dramatically impact safety, Connor predicted.

“This IoT-enabled infrastructure — roadway automation, real-time data, and true situational awareness — will allow … agencies to react instantaneously and even stop major accidents,” he said.

That’s a great idea, but as we’ll see below, asking the multiple vendors and agencies involved to work together efficiently seems a bit optimistic to me.

2. More MaaS and TaaS

Connor predited that the growth of Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) and Transportation-as-a-Service (TaaS) will enhance the passenger experience. MaaS and TaaS reflect the move away from personally owned transportation (private cars) toward mobility services such as Uber or Lyft.

Connor said, “2018 will see broader use of MaaS across different modes of transportation, providing passengers with a seamless travel experience — from bikeshares, to rideshares, to mass transit systems and everywhere in between.”

Terrific, but MaaS and TaaS are hardly news for millions of people who live in cities with existing transporation infractructures. For us, it’s just called commuting, and it has yet to be demonstrated what it will take to get most Americans out of their cars.

3. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will play key supporting roles

Just as in many other industries,” Connor predicted, “AI and machine learning will become much more widespread in the transportation sector, enabling more automated, predictive analytics and, therefore, better decision making.”

As examples, he cited using AI on real-time and historical IoT data to better deploy emergency response vehicles, tow trucks, and snow plows” and even “preemptively deploy salt trucks to roadways that often ice over just before they begin to freeze.”

Again, this is a great idea, but the devil is in the details. Even if AI and machine learning can figture out the most efficient transportation decisions, human and political factors are likely to hinder their implementation. 

4. IoT in transportation is primarily an infrastructure play

According to Connor, modern networks and data architectures are essential to enable the myriad IoT connections from smart devices and other consumer technologies.

“For example,” he said, “for consumers to use and benefit from a smart parking mobile application that helps them locate and reserve parking spots, we first need a modern network infrastructure in place to ensure secure, reliable connectivity between the app, the vehicle, and sensors within the parking facility.“

5. Uncertainty surrounding data privacy and ownership is a big barrier

The transportation data collected and stored by smart devices and sensors has real value, Connor said, “but determining who ‘owns’ it is a source of debate. For example, data can come from vehicles owned by private companies, by transportation agencies, or even cities. It can also be collected from sensors on traffic lights, venues, weather agencies, and bridges or roads.”

But sorting out who is allowed to access, share, and monetize that information will require clear new legislation and policy, he noted.

That won’t be easy in today’s highly partisan and not-always data-centric political climate. It doesn’t help, Connor notes, that “particularly in the United States … several individuals within various agencies may be responsible for the same stretch of highway.”

6. IoT will impact the lifespan of vehicles and transportation infrastructures

While many observers note that IoT technology evolves much faster than the vehicles and infrastructure they power, Connor had an opposite viewpoint.

“In fact,” he said, “the IoT data collected and analyzed from connected cars and infrastructures can help extend the life of these vehicles and the transportation system through predictive analytics and preventative maintenance. For example, by aggregating and analyzing traffic data from IoT sensors on streetlights, transportation agencies can determine which roads are most frequently traveled and service them first.

“Additionally, connected cars can alert drivers when maintenance is needed to keep the vehicles running smoothly. And with vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) connections optimizing routes, alleviating congestion and helping drivers avoid road hazards, there will be fewer accidents.”

All that could very well come to pass, but it won’t do my 2005 Acura much good. And ironically, if IoT does help keep older devices in service longer, that will increase the time it takes to “modernize the fleet.”

7. We need to choose a standard for V2V and V2I communication

“The ability of vehicles to communicate with one another and with ambient infrastructure could vastly enhance transportation safety if deployed on a mass scale,” Connor said. “But it remains an unfulfilled dream because there isn’t a universal agreement on communication protocols.”

The choice, he said, is between Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) or 5G. While the mobile carriers support 5G, not surprisingly, he bets that the highly anticipated S. DoT Report to Order on Vehicle to Infrastructure will settle on the carmaker-backed DSRC due to its rigorous testing for automotive safety.

But most of all, it seemed, Connor is hoping for a universal standard that everyone can get behind. I couldn’t agree more.


Fredric Paul is Editor in Chief for New Relic, Inc., and has held senior editorial positions at ReadWrite, InformationWeek, CNET, PCWorld and other publications. His opinions are his own.