Whether it is at the recently concluded Mobile World Congress (News - Alert) (MWC) in Barcelona, or on the Web -where articles about smart automobiles and road hogs on the cyber super highway aka the Internet, it is hard to escape the impact next generation communications networks will play on how we all get around. And, while stories about connected cars tend to sizzle because they are and will be so high-touch, realities are smart highways are equally if not as, important.
We’re all aware of webcams for traffic surveillance and electronic toll booths, the fact of the matter is traffic control involves a whole lot more. Indeed, as a recent TechZine article, Highway communications networks get green light, by Thierry Sens, Director, Transportation Market Segment, Nokia (News - Alert) highlights, it’s complicated. Creating a next generation infrastructure needs to take into account virtually every aspect of computing and communications. As such, Sens explains, it puts a premium on public safety agencies to have an agile next generation communications network as its foundation.
Sens, starts with an explanation of the requirements for an intelligent highway communications network by saying it must be one that provides, “automated, integrated, and mission-critical communications based on IP/MPLS.” He then looks to the present as what the future can be. He notes that such a network, as is the case with Highways England, are now a preferred path going forward for highway agencies worldwide to fulfill their missions.
He cites an interesting list of applications and capabilities that an Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) needs to support for traffic control, infrastructure, drivers and roadside workers. These include:
- Closed circuit TV (CCTV)
- Corporate LAN/WAN
- Emergency telephone
- License plate recognition
- Mobile radio
- Public address
- Toll collection
- Traffic flow monitoring
- Traffic signal controller
- Variable message signage
- Weather station
The visualization of this highlights well the breadth and scope of activities needing connectivity.
Source (News - Alert): Nokia, TechZine, Highway communications networks get green light
As Sens explains, “Adding to the complexity, each application has particular bandwidth, quality of service (QoS), and availability, as well as latency requirements. That’s why the ideal communications infrastructure enables agencies to set parameters—critical, priority or best-effort—for each service and traffic type according to operational requirements.”
For those interested, he also provides a look at what an ITS network typology based on IP/MPLS looks like. It is a 1-to-1 or 1-to-many network topology which includes the transport of all traffic types effectively and reliably in real time with low jitter and delay.
MPLS assures QoS and more
A key takeaway is that because ITS’ are about as mission critical as things get, ensuring Quality of Service (QoS) is paramount. Sens, points out that this can be a challenge for legacy networks as: “QoS levels beyond best effort, traditional IP and Ethernet networks are often found wanting. They lack the ability to scale to support traffic and to optimize the use of network resources. Also, making matters worse, they are unable to react to network events quickly so as to guarantee end-to-end QoS per application.”
This is why a single IP/MPLS network is the next generation network approach of choice. Benefits of IP/MPLS networks include:
- The robustness and predictability of a circuit-based network paired with high capacity and support for bursty traffic.
- Highly scalability and reliability with redundancy and fast reroute capabilities.
- Backward as well as forward friendliness to accommodate new IP/Ethernet applications, as well as existing TDM-based applications.
- Ability to address a range of QoS and service level agreement requirements.
- Optimize bandwidth usage through traffic engineering.
- Extensive OAM tools for troubleshooting and maintenance
Sens concludes by saying, “...Automated cars, intelligent roads that communicate with drivers and passengers, and roadside smart grids are already in development with numerous trials underway. Moreover, vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications are just around the corner.”
So the next time an article about connected cars captures your interest don’t forget that smart automobiles, trucks and buses for safety and congestion relief reasons are not the only things that need to be connected. In fact, in many ways they are just the tip of the iceberg. Smart highways are a critical part of the equation. This means using not only wireless connectivity, but also fixed and converged, secure, high performance, highly reliable, programmable and easily managed networks. It means that IP/MPLS will be center stage. It may not be as sexy as a self-driven electric car with all the bells and whistles, but is as if not more important for making sure the light stays green on the path to an intelligent transportation future.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi