Ghent launches virtual traffic management platform

7th November 2017 Nick Michell

Traffic​ ​Management​ ​as​ ​a​ ​Service​ ​(,​ ​an​ ​urban​ ​mobility​ ​project​ ​driven​ ​by the​​ ​City​ ​of​ ​Ghent,​ ​has​ ​been​ ​selected to receive funding ​by​ ​the EU​ ​initiative Urban​ ​Innovative​ ​Actions​​.​ ​The​ platform​ ​is​ ​a​ ​new​ ​traffic​-centre concept​ ​for​ ​small​ ​and medium-sized​ ​cities.​ ​

“The Traffic​ ​Management​ ​as​ ​a​ ​Service project is unique in the sense that it is the city of Ghent, not the industry, that is taking the lead in creating a technology platform,” Pieter Morlion of Mobiliteitsbedrijf Gent, told Cities Today. “The platform can be used by other small and medium-sized cities as well, so efforts do not need to be repeated. Investments, both concerning time and money, can be accumulated across different cities, and the platform can serve as a common starting ground for collecting, visualising and exchanging information regarding mobility.”

​T​he Traffic​ ​Management​ ​as​ ​a​ ​Service concept​ ​is​ different from previous traffic centres in that it is ​based​ ​on​ ​a​ ​fully​ ​digital​ ​and​ ​virtual​ ​platform that​ ​processes​ ​traffic​ ​data​ ​and​ ​provides​ ​real-time​ ​information​ ​to​ ​the​ ​residents​ ​of​ ​Ghent. To​ ​achieve​ ​this​ ​up-to-date​ ​flow​ ​of​ ​information,​ ​the​ ​data​ ​is​ ​dealt​ ​with​ ​and​ ​distributed​ ​to the​ ​users​ ​automatically,​ ​so​ ​operators​ ​are​ ​no​ ​longer​ ​required​ ​to​ ​continuously​ ​monitor screens.

Current​ ​urban​ ​mobility centres​ ​are​ ​often​ ​expensive,​ ​and​ ​focus​ ​on​ ​installing​ ​costly​ ​hardware​ ​in​ ​order​ ​to monitor​ ​traffic.​ ​Moreover,​ ​those​ ​systems​ ​are​ ​unable​ ​to​ ​provide​ ​personalised​ ​information to​ ​the​ ​city’s​ ​residents.​ ​The​ ​Traffic​ ​Management​ ​as​ ​a​ ​Service system​ uses​ ​data​ ​that​ ​is​ ​readily​ ​available​ ​from​ ​various​ ​partners​ ​and​ ​companies​ ​and​ ​works across multiple modes.​ ​

“Instead of investing in cameras or electronic systems, the city has focused on defining which mode fits best in the ecosystem of the city,” added Morlion. “The City of Ghent wants to realise this, based on its smart city vision. This does not mean building completely new systems or sensor networks, but rather starting from policies and conversations with citizens. By connecting and recycling existing building blocks in an open and transparent way, Ghent wants to lead the way towards innovative mobility solutions for its citizens.”

The​ ​system​ ​automatically​ ​checks​ ​all​ ​data​ ​coming​ ​in​ ​on​ ​journeys​ ​by​ ​bike, bus,​ ​tram,​ ​train,​ ​or​ ​on​ ​foot.​ ​Based​ ​on​ ​that​ ​data​ ​the​ ​platform​ ​will​ ​send​ ​​ ​information to​ ​commuters​ ​through​ ​social​ ​media,​ ​taking into account​ ​each individual’s​ ​personal​ ​preferences.​ ​Citizens​ ​are​ ​also​ ​able​ ​to​ ​provide​​ ​the platform with ​feedback.​ Subscribers​ ​will​ ​receive​ ​real-time​ ​and personalised​ ​traffic​ ​advice​ ​about​ ​their​ ​neighbourhoods​ ​and be​ ​notified​ ​of​ ​alternatives routes or modes​ ​if​ ​need​ ​be.

“Social media channels will be used because it is an easy way to reach a large part of the population in ways they communicate daily with family and friends,” said Morlion. “This approach is extremely scalable; once the integrations with WhatsApp, Facebook or Snapchat have been built, they can easily be reused for other cities at a very low cost. Next to social media connectors, the platform will have an open data interface that makes its data available to any application, screen, mobility service, radio station or in-car app that wants to use it.”

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