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Building an IOT Application to Monitor and Display Road Traffic Congestion in Real Time

ABSTRACT:

Road traffic congestion is an increasingly widespread issue. The earth’s population is growing, leading to heightened levels of traffic congestion resulting from additional road traffic. Traffic management concepts such as, speed limits and traffic lights, have been implemented in  an attempt to manage increasing congestion.

Recently, industry interest in the ‘internet of things’(the integration of the internet with physical objects, through the use of sensors, software and networking components)has provided another possible management solution for road traffic congestion.

This project seeks to provide a proof of concept prototype for an internet of things application  that can monitor and display traffic congestion in real time. Current literature relating to road traffic congestion and the internet of things is analysed in order to clearly define: what has been done, what was successful, and issues in this context. Using the literature review a methodology and design approach was developed to achieve the proposed objective.

Finally, an IoT application was designed and built based on the concepts and processes identified in the literature review. Thus, this paper will ultimately describe the process of building the physical device and creating the software for the application.

The success of the proposed methodology for internet of things application development is reviewed and evaluated. The final discussion reviews the successes and failures of the developed prototype, proposing recommendations for future internet of things applications in the field of road traffic management.

LITERATURE REVIEW

To understand what is currently happening in the integration of road management and IoT
applications a range of literature has been reviewed. The following section will analyse and
discuss this literature in an attempt to answer the following research questions:

  1. What are the effects of road traffic congestion?
  2. How is traffic congestion of roads currently being managed?
  3. What is the Internet of Things?
  4. How can the Internet of Things be used in remote locations?
  5. How are Internet of Things applications built?
  6. What  other  IoT  applications  exist  to  assist  with  the  management  of  road  traffic congestion?

Effects of Road Traffic Congestion:

Road traffic congestion is an increasing issue, especially in larger cities around the world.
Increasing populations are leading to a surge in road traffic, which in turn causes a rise in traffic congestion. Australian researchers (Srinivasan et al. 2014; Infrastructure Australia 2015; Rose and  Manley  2012) have found that Australian road infrastructure is nearing a point  of crisis. Srinivasan et al (2014) and Infrastructure Australia (2015) point out that Australia’s transport infrastructure is having difficulty supporting the country’s economic growth. Rose and Manley (2012) claim that the Australian government has underspent on infrastructure for more  than twenty years resulting in a disaster.

Current Management of Road Traffic Congestion:

Before the implementation of statutory traffic regulations, road users were directed by common sense and courtesy. Road users were expected to show care for their own safety and that of others’. Common sense was expected of motorists to avoid causing unnecessary delays to the flow of traffic.

Over time traffic management concepts were developed and implemented in an attempt to make roads safer and to manage traffic congestion. The two main forms of managing traffic are traffic lights and speed limits. This section will investigate these traffic management concepts in order to determine their effectiveness.

The Internet of Things:

The Internet of Things (IoT) concept has some important notions that could help solve 21 st century traffic congestion problems. The Internet of Things (IoT) represents the next step in creating a truly connected world. Originally, before the internet existed , telephones  enabled people to connect over  great distances. Although limited in their ability to enable worldwide communication, telephones represented the first step in creating a connected world. The second step came with the public release of the internet. Over the years the internet has evolved to the point where worldwide communication is part of daily life.

IOT Architecture Model.

IOT Architecture Model.

 METHODOLOGY

The proposed project involves designing and building a functional IoT application within three months. A well-defined methodology will be an important factor in achieving this goal. The IoT introduces a unique blending of physical and virtual development in which the development of  hardware systems and software systems are tightly interwoven.

Currently a number of authors (Rowland et al. 2015; Bahga & Madisetti 2014; Parker 2015) have created linear IoT methodologies  which have failed to cover the entire IoT development process. Additionally, these methodologies held a common theme of outlining an appropriate time to begin software development but not  covering the process itself.

IOT Methodology:

An IoT methodology should outline the process for designing and building an IoT application physically. As such, an effective IoT methodology should guide the user through all processes involved in IoT development from design to hardware implementation.

During the literature review, three existing methodologies were identified (see Figures 3, 4 & 5). It was concluded that individually each methodology only covered parts of the development process. However, in combination, these three methodologies cover all aspects of the process with some overlap.

Rather than follow the same linear approach demonstrated by others, this section will attempt to merge these existing methodologies in a non-linear fashion developing a framework methodology for IoT development; thus improving the flexibility of the development process.

Software Methodology:

Software development for IoT applications needs to be able to change and adapt around the IoT development cycle. The agile approach to software development offers the most flexible methodology. In an agile development approach, tasks are divided into short sprint cycles (Shore and Warden, 2008).

The sprints provide a break in between goals to assess the direction of the project throughout the development lifecycle. This allows small changes to be made during the software development process.

In standard software development this approach enables the client to shape the product over time and deliver an end product that is very close to what they had  envisioned (op  cit). Similarly, in IoT development which is prone to unexpected changes, the  flexibility to work around any unforeseen changes is crucial to the timely delivery of the product.

BUILDING THE APPLICATION

Using the newly created IoT framework, the concept, design, build and testing stages of the process will be discussed in detail below.

Concept Phase:

In order to build a successful product, the process and concept behind the idea needs to be fully understood. Understanding the process entails defining the hardware and architecture that will be used for the project and detailing the conceptual model that will underpin the system build. Understanding the concept requires the features, constraints and requirements to be  defined.  The process will be discussed in terms of the six-layer architecture derived previously.

Design Phase:

Developing a well-established design is paramount to developing an effective and user friendly application. User interaction, user interface and prototype hardware designs are analysed in order to define the expected end product.

Build Phase:

The following section will outline the build process for the physical device’s hardware and
software and the application’s software.

FUTURE DEVELOPMENT

Traffic congestion is an important topic that deserves more attention. This proof of concept
implementation has shown that the Internet of Things has the potential to display traffic congestion in near real-time. However, several challenges had to be overcome during this project which have bearing on future projects. One of the major restrictions of this project was the decision to use the existing road tube counters. The decision was made because the road tubing is already approved for road use and is currently widely used around Australia for traffic counters.

CONCLUSION

The goal of this paper was to answer the question: Is it possible to build an IoT application that can monitor and display traffic congestion in real time? While there were many obstacles encountered during the process of answering this question, ultimately this study has shown that it is possible to build an IoT application that can monitor and display traffic congestion in real time.

In the process of answering this question, the effects of road congestion and current management techniques were analysed. Road traffic congestion was found to contribute to road rage, psychological stress, increased air pollution, vehicle collisions and natural resource wastage. Currently, attempts to curb traffic congestion take the form of traffic lights and speed limits. However, it was found that in most cases these methods often contribute to the road congestion.

Although this study focuses on road traffic congestion, the findings may well have bearing on the development of all future Internet of Things applications through the IoT framework developed and tested in this study. As the Internet of Things is an emerging industry, little work Building an IoT application to monitor and display road traffic congestion Robert Jacksonhas been done in the way of development  methodologies. It was found that existing IoT methodologies subscribed to a linear model.

The implementation experience in this project has demonstrated that as IoT development is as much about software as it is hardware, that methodologies should provide a more agile approach. The framework developed, incorporated agile concepts in order to provide a more flexible approach to IoT development. Ultimately, the frameworks’ flexible approach resulted in the success and timely delivery of this project.

The major limitations of this study were the sensor technologies used. The rubber road tubing combined  with  the  ball-bearing driven switch failed to function reliably. What’s more, the limitations on the type and amount ofdata that can be collected using road tubing was made abundantly clear with the successful implmentation of the scale model. Road tubing is only capable of single value indicators  (speed,  volume).

However, single value indicators are incapable of providing accurate congestion measurements.  Additionally, the road tubing requires moving vehicles in order to generate data, contradicting  the concept of high traffic congestion where vehicle movement often stops for periods of time.

Further  investigation and experimentation into the Internet of Things role in road traffic congestion is strongly recommended. While this study has provided a proof of concept showing that the Internet of Things can be used to measure and display traffic congestion in real time, the technologies used are dated and incapable of providing the level of detail needed to deliver accurate congestion information.

Future work should extend upon this study through the application of more modern sensor technologies. Additionally, future work could use the concepts identified in this paper to investigate how IOT applications might be used for congestion management in the cutting edge field of self-driving car.

Source: Charles Darwin University
Author: Robert Jackson

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