Trinity research group in Dublin transport initiative


4 Nov 2003

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The Distributed Systems Group (DSG) at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) has signed an agreement with Dublin City Council to embark on a major IT initiative that will involve the current management of Dublin transport initiatives, including the M50 motorway, the Dublin Port Tunnel and the Luas light rail system.

Entitled the iTransIT project, the initiative will also define the overall IT systems architecture for Dublin City, outlining how different control centres interact.

Within the agreement there is a specific project to provide a real-time traffic congestion map for Dublin, which will analyse road intersection data supplied by current sensor technology located underground at traffic lights and display it online to provide an up-to-date graphical picture of the state of traffic congestion in Dublin City.

Another project involves the design of monitoring software for the Luas light rail system that will be able to provide complete data on tram call time through intersections and to estimate the arrival times on a junction-to-junction basis.

The iTransIT project will also investigate the impact of wireless networking technology on urban traffic management. This will involve the Wireless Ad-hoc Network for Dublin (WAND) previously reported by siliconrepublic.com, which involves investment from Ericsson and Intel as well as research support from Media Lab Europe.

“This will mean the investigation definitiation and prototype implementation of a range of IT initiatives,” said Professor Vinny Cahill, head of DSG, “that will help to manage the current and future IT needs of Dublin’s main transport systems in an integrated approach.”

For example, under the WAND project, the plan is to create a self-routing wireless data network that will ultimately serve Gardai, taxi drivers, bus drivers, car owners and ordinary internet users on laptops and PDAs, providing them with up-to-the-second context and location-specific information based on 802.11g networking standards. What’s new here? The difference about this network is that it will make use of various nodes and network access devices such as PDAs, phones and laptops to share the load on the network in such a way that any always-on device that is not currently being used by its owner can be used to help distribute vital information organically. The result? A high speed 54Mbps wireless network that can think for and manage, itself.

Police can use the network to inform bus, car and taxi drivers of traffic blockages in specific locations and advise them on alternative routes. Ambulance drivers and fire brigades interacting with the network could arrange for traffic lights to ‘go green’ to enable them to get to emergency locations faster. And mobile workers travelling through the area can use the network to get instant wireless internet access or play interactive location-specific games using GPS.

“By applying the knowledge of the DSG researchers with the Dublin City Council experience of managing infrastructure and transport systems, we can begin to create an operational model based on technology that can apply across all transport systemsin the city,” said Owen Keegan, director of traffic at Dublin City Council.

The DSG at TCD was established in 1981 and has spawned notable IT success stories like Iona Technologies, Aurium, Wilde Technologies and Havok. Focusing on four key areas – middleware, ubiquitous computing, mobile computing and software engineering – the DSG is made up of six senior academics, five research assistants, 25 PhD students and 15-20 science graduates. The current budget for DSG is €500k and financing comes from research partners and sponsors such as Iona Technologies, Microsoft, Intel, Dublin City Council, the National Roads Authority and Enterprise Ireland.

By John Kennedy