How Traficon is Conquering the World14 August 2008
Traffic detection-based video image-processing company Traficon has over 50,000 detectors operational worldwide. Frances Penwill-Cook takes a closer look at the company's systems to find out more about the technology and the traffic problems that Traficon is resolving.
Traficon has been leading the way in traffic solutions for more than 20 years, with no sign whatsoever of slowing. In Belgium ten years ago, traffic flow on the E313 between Antwerpen and Hasselt was becoming dangerously busy and dense. Road works had been in operation for some time and accidents, due to speeding drivers, were on the increase.
A mobile solution was required by the Flemish government, so it implemented a series of cameras which were connected to Traficon detectors (VIP22) and VMS panels. With cameras mounted on trailers (30 in total) as soon as a queue develops the VIP22 detector signals an alarm to the other trailers so drivers are aware there is a queue 1.5km ahead. Drivers are reminded every 500m of the remaining distance. Figure 1 and figure 2 show in more detail how the trailer and camera set up works.
"There are often a lot of unexpected queues on major roads because of road works. Our system informs the drivers in real-time and helps to avoid primary and secondary accidents," explains international sales manager Koen Soenens.
A few months after installation the Flemish government's 1998 yearbook published statistics showing a 60% reduction in accidents. It is still the system of choice for the transport department with updated, newer versions installed over the last five years, not only on the E313, but also on other major roads, including the Antwerp ring road, Brussels ring road, E40 and E17. This and other international successes lead to the Flemish government awarding a prestigious export award to Traficon for best performance in 2003.
Due to a firm commitment to research and development, Traficon is continuously updating and developing its products, keeping the company ahead of the competition. "Traficon is a R&D-driven company with an annual R&D budget of almost 20% of our turnover," says Soenens. "Video detection for traffic is our core business, so we have 100% focus on this product, which results in the best overall performance and lowest false alarm rates."
Traficon tunnel systems
Traficon has implemented systems in more than 250 tunnel projects worldwide. It was this experience, along with its existing successful partnership with Siemens that won the contract to execute automatic incident detection systems in the Nefise-Akcelik tunnel in Turkey. The success of the system, Soenens tells us, was measured through, "increased tunnel safety, satisfied tunnel operators, because of fast and accurate detection of incidents and events, and minimal false alarms."
As a result of its success, KGM, the Turkish freeway management authority, ordered a roll-out across its 350km-long Black Sea road later on this year.
"Currently we have two tunnels equipped along the Black Sea, the other 20 tunnels with, in total, 350 of our incident detection VIP-T units are scheduled for installation from September onwards," explains project manager Steven Van Caet.
The automatic incident detection system detects stopped vehicles, wrong-way drivers, pedestrians, speed changes and traffic jams and is monitored by a number of networked operators - allowing for continuous coverage of the entire highway. "Traffic operators will be able to monitor all our detection boards, even those at the other site of the highway stretch, some hundreds of kilometres away," confirms Van Caet.
Due to the project's scale, the biggest challenge is ensuring that the systems integrate into one network without losing data, a problem that can be resolved by implementing several networked servers. "If one of these servers should fail, the remaining ones will automatically take over the job of the failing one without any loss of data," explains Van Caet.
The Palm project
While Europe continues to benefit from Traficon's technology, so does the rest of the world as its systems extend across the US, Asia and the Middle East. In 2006 Traficon won the first project on the world's first artificial island, the iconic Palm Jumeirah in Dubai, to provide incident detection and traffic data collection along the main arterial road.
The technology used included 18 detection units and was won with Siemens Building Technology. Last year saw Traficon win the contract for the tunnel – 26 detection units, in cooperation with Japanese Kinden Corp.
"The Palm Jumeirah vehicular tunnel is in fact the third tunnel – the others are the airport tunnel and Al Shindagha tunnel, which is part of the Falcon project – equipped with Traficon's incident detection system," explains Van Caet.
The Palm project is famously ambitious. The island will expect 20,000 visitors a day, who will be transported from the mainland to the island via the 1.4km, six-lane highway. Key components of Traficon's system include: traffic incident detection and flow monitoring, traffic data collection and pedestrian detection, an IP-addressable board for communication, along with a software platform for collection, and storage of traffic events and data in a relational database.
Data and events are provided to the server and the system is integrated and networked into the larger traffic management system.
Over 26 cameras are mounted in the tunnel and video signals are transmitted to the detectors in the control room. These detectors also generate technical alarms for incidents such as power failure.
Traficon is clearly proud to be winning contracts on this 'eighth wonder of the world' despite the pressure on top performance. "The Emirates, more specifically Dubai and Abu Dubai are considered references for the Gulf region and Middle East. Success highly depends on proven experience and references," explains Soenens.
However, with new projects on the horizon all over the world, including: France, Norway, Chile, Croatia, Australia, China and Saudi Arabia – to name just a few – Traficon thrives on the challenge of leading the market for traffic solutions. "Traficon has always been the reference in the market and we are continuously investing in manpower and technology in order to stay ahead of what the traffic market will be looking for," explains Soenens. "Traffic problems are a worldwide phenomenon, and we are ready to tackle these by focusing on new applications and advanced algorithms."