Internet of Things technologies have been positioned as the cure-all for numerous urban challenges ranging from public safety to sustainability commitments to transportation issues. Cities are increasingly using IoT both reactively — to address obstacles like crime as they arise — and proactively — to collect and analyze data and inform future policy. But understanding and tackling these complex obstacles requires not only deploying the technologies, but the know-how and experience of experts in each of these sectors.
Serial entrepreneur and transportation authority Bryan Mulligan is one such expert. The founder and president of Georgia-based startup Applied Information, Mulligan is originally from South Africa but founded and exited two successful tech companies in the U.S., one of them in the intelligent transportation technology space. He also served as the CTO of U.S. Traffic Corporation, a maker of traffic and parking products.
Over the course of his career, he’s been working within the technical side of transportation and traffic for almost two decades. It’s that experience, along with a deep interest in the potential of intelligent, connected technology to solve traffic problems, that led him to found Applied Information.
“The future of transportation is electric, connected, and autonomous,” says Mulligan. “And the tipping points are sooner than we think.”
Applied Information produces a suite of traffic-related IoT products. These include connected school zone beacons, which allow school officials to change beacon schedules from a dashboard (for example, for an early-release day or holiday) and can alert them when a beacon is malfunctioning. Another solution, called Glance Parking, is an intelligent parking guidance system.
Yet another connects directly into fire trucks and emergency vehicles, as well as traffic lights, to make sure the light
turns green when an emergency vehicle is needed.
“This is truly life-saving technology,” says Mulligan.
The company is piloting versions of their solutions in eight cities thus far — the technology is collecting data on 80 intersections in Tuscaloosa, AL; 120 in Marietta, GA; and recently, has been deployed along Atlanta’s Smart Corridor pilot on North Avenue.
The Atlanta pilot contains a number of Applied Information’s products, including the emergency vehicle tool, which has been installed in fire trucks in two fire stations adjacent to North Avenue. They’ve also inserted sensors in the corridor’s traffic signals. It’s all managed by city officials on a dashboard, and all the data will be funneled to researchers at Georgia Tech for analysis.
In this pilot, they are also asking consumers — both drivers and pedestrians — to participate. Applied Information has launched a consumer app, called Travel Safely, that allows a mobile device to connect to the traffic light sensors and audibly alerts them when the signal will change from red to green, when the turn signal is on, and whether there are pedestrians or cyclists they need to be aware of.
For example, imagine this scenario — you’re stopped at a red light, but there are too many cars ahead of you to see the actual signal. You have no idea when or if it has turned green. When cars start moving, you waste precious seconds (which, when aggregated in heavy traffic, turn into minutes or hours) looking up, shifting to the gas pedal, and actually getting moving.
Recently awarded a designation for Social Impact Award winner from Mobile Breakthrough, the app has the potential to impact not only traffic time and gridlock, but public safety. It runs in the background of your mobile screen and has been designed with an unobtrusive UX to be as non-distracting as possible.
The Beta version of the app launches in Atlanta this week and is free to consumers.
Applied Information charges a fee per sensor, about $4,500 per intersection. Mulligan says when looked at within the perspective of public safety costs, this is actually deceivingly affordable.
“These devices have five years of connectivity,” he says. “You could deploy all of Atlanta with sensors for less cost than building a firehouse.”
Mulligan says over the next year, the team of about 50 will continue to stretch their reach with additional city pilots (installing between one and ten thousand sensors), and will continue to study the data collected to refine their solutions.
Images provided by Applied Information