Experience from iFlorida Model Deployment
The iFlorida Model Deployment, which was started in May 2003, called for the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District 5 (D5) to complete the design, build, and integration of the infrastructure required to support operations in 2 years. The required infrastructure was extensive, spanned numerous stakeholders, and included many technologies that were new to FDOT D5, such as sophisticated traffic management center (TMC) operations software, a wireless network deployed along I-4, an interface to Florida Highway Patrol Computer Aided Dispatch (FHP CAD) data, statewide traffic monitoring, and many others. The iFlorida plans also called for deployment of these technologies in ways that required coordination among more than 20 stakeholders. It was an ambitious plan that would result in dramatically different traffic management operations for FDOT D5 and other transportation stakeholders in the Orlando area.
In implementing the iFlorida plan, FDOT faced many challenges ranging from higher failure rates than expected for some field hardware to difficulties with the Condition Reporting System (CRS) and Central Florida Data Warehouse (CFDW) software. "Despite these challenges, it can be readily claimed that the overall iFlorida Model Deployment was successful," noted in the final evaluation report for the iFlorida Model Deployment, published in January 2009.
The difficulties associated with the iFlorida Model Deployment provided many opportunities to identify lessons learned from the experiences they had. The most important of these are presented below in a series of lessons learned articles.
The LYNX, the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority, operates a public transportation system in Orlando. The FDOT viewed the LYNX Bus Security project, completed in 2005, as a technical proof of concept that would indicate the feasibility and cost of using a broadband wireless network to support transmission of surveillance video on mobile assets, such as a bus. One part of the iFlorida Model Deployment established network connectivity between the FDOT ITS network and the LYNX Command Center. This provided LYNX with network connectivity to roadside locations in many areas in which it operated buses. The LYNX Bus Security project took advantage of this connectivity by deploying a wireless network along a 14-mile stretch of I-4 between Orlando and the Disney World attractions. This wireless network bridged the gap between LYNX buses and this roadside network. Buses that used this portion of I-4 were then equipped with security cameras and wireless equipment for transmitting video from these cameras to FDOT and LYNX. Lessons learned include:
- Incorporate diagnostic tools to identify and verify problems in the transmission of video in a transit bus security system. The deployment of the LYNX Bus Security System occurred with few surprises and was completed in the fall of 2005. RTMC operators reported receiving high-quality video images from buses while on the instrumented portion of I-4. However, they found it difficult to consistently verify that the system was operating correctly. Buses were on the instrumented portion of I-4 at regular but infrequent intervals. RTMC operators periodically checked the system to see if video was present as a method for gauging whether the system was working. Without knowledge of when the buses were present, the lack of video could be caused by either the system working incorrectly or the fact that no buses were present on the instrumented portion of I-4. As time went on, it became apparent that the system was not working reliably, and FDOT reported in May 2006 that the system had been out-of-service for several months. Also, the cost of the system was relatively high-about $640,000 for the initial deployment and for maintaining the system from its deployment date through May 2007. The result was a high-cost approach for providing network connectivity to a small number of buses.
- Beware of rapid advances in video communications technologies while considering the deployment of a bus security system. The rapid advance of broadband communications technology has meant that this project, which was a cutting-edge application in 2003 when it was first considered, is no longer cutting-edge. A number of cities are now considering deploying broadband wireless networks on a much more extensive scale than that deployed in Orlando. Other approaches, such as cell modems, are being used to provide network connectivity to buses, and some of these approaches also provide sufficient bandwidth to support security video.
At the time the LYNX Bus Security System was deployed, few extensive broadband wireless networks had been deployed and it was not clear that a wireless network could successfully transmit video from a mobile vehicle. The system successfully demonstrated that such a network could be created and that it could be used to transmit real-time video from mobile vehicles. The FDOT also reported that the video transmission worked well, when the system was operational. However, the system was rarely operational, as reported in the project’s evaluation report, lacking the proper diagnostic and verification tools that would have enhanced the reliability of the system to attain the safety and security goals the system was meant to serve.