Toronto signs Here, Iteris, for smart city traffic platform

The City of Toronto is building a smart traffic management platform in an attempt to alleviate its infamous congestion issues. The project seems to be the city’s first of its type, and could eventually form the basis of a much broader reaching connected ecosystem – gradually building in other pieces of the smart city puzzle into the platform.

The project is employing the helping hands of mapping expert Here, for its Open Location Platform (OLP), and California-based informatics firm Iteris, for its iPeMS (Performance Management System) software. Here’s intelligent mapping capabilities will be familiar to most, having won some major deployments for funneling back vehicle sensor data, most recently at BMW, but Iteris is a company that has so far eluded our radar.

Iteris says its iPeMs software can automatically analyze and visualize traffic while monitoring factors that could potentially impact the safety or efficiency of road traffic, such as weather conditions, construction work and infrastructure. The software can be applied to freeways and arterial roads by using Integrated Corridor Management (ICM) – a method of managing transportation by taking a multimodal approach to actions which can benefit the corridor as a whole.

A representative from a major transportation consultancy firm explained to Riot, “ICM is taking real time information and feeding this back to users on particular corridors in order to encourage them to use all available infrastructure and routes. Information is fed back to the users directly through messages along the main and surrounding corridors and indirectly through traffic signals which are optimized in a way to aid the traffic flows on and around major corridors.”

The US Department of Transport (DoT) launched its ICM Research initiative way back in 2006, and today the method has become a key component of intelligent transport systems (ITS).

Here will be feeding its “real-time and historical” traffic data into the Iteris iPeMs, to provide the City of Toronto’s DoT with traffic insights via visualizations and analytics, from where actions can be taken to improve its transportation network. The iPeMs has already been deployed at the Virginia DoT and California DoT.

Iteris also has a portfolio of traffic detection hardware, including sensors and cameras, but there is no mention of these products in this week’s announcement, suggesting the deal is purely software-based from the Iteris point of view and the City of Toronto will be sourcing its V2I (vehicle to infrastructure) hardware from elsewhere.

Here says it powers its map with data from over 80,000 sources, including highly precise static data captured by its 3D mapping cars and a wide array of dynamic data. As autonomous cars creep onto the roads of the future in Toronto and other major cities, this data becomes increasingly important, and more and more data can be harnessed by jumping into bed with manufacturers – using a crowd-sourcing model to bulk up its OLP.

As for the long-term strategy for the OLP, Here is looking to become an open data marketplace that would be able to provide data resellers with customers, building on its expertise in location services to eventually encompass data from smartphone makers, app developers, municipalities and government traffic departments.

Here’s CEO, Eszard Overbeek, has previously described the aspirations for his company’s OLP as becoming “the nerve center for future autonomous vehicles, smart cities and intelligent transportation systems.” Here clearly has big plans to become the de facto open standard in more aspects than the automotive industry alone.

Notably, there is no mention of Here working alongside Ertico’s Intelligent Transport System (ITS) working group – for which it has been using to push its Sensoris vehicle-to-cloud (V2C) communications specifications as a global standard.

Toronto, the most populous city in Canada housing some 9.2 million people, has had a busy week in the smart city scene. The Canadian city has reportedly received a bid from Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs division to turn a 12-acre area of downtown Toronto into a connected hub, according to Bloomberg.

Details of the bid have not been released yet, but Sidewalk Labs has been successful with its huge New York City public WiFi project LinkNYC, which claimed to reach a milestone at the start of this year as its 547 kiosks reached one million registered WiFi users.

These kiosks also have scope for harnessing data from devices such as traffic monitoring sensors for heat mapping in an analytics platform, perhaps one just like the combined Here OLP and Iteris iPeMS initiative. If the sources are accurate, then Sidewalk Labs may have already presented Toronto with an extra piece of the smart city puzzle.

Ramin Massoumi, GM and SVP of Transportation Systems at Iteris, said, “the City of Toronto is taking a proactive and innovative approach to intelligent transportation systems management. It is our privilege and honor to deliver our cloud-based transportation performance management system in the service of Canada’s most populous city.”