Digital watch

More than 150 cameras in Marseille’s Prado tunnels are providing a total traffic monitoring solution for all types of incidents, as Kristof Maddelein explains.

Marseille is the second-most populated city in France and has an extensive road network connecting the city to the northern, eastern and western parts of the country. When you need to pass through the city, the 2.5km long Prado Carénage Tunnel will easily and quickly take you across without having to leave the motorway. The Tunnel Prado Carénage connects the southern districts of the city of Marseille and the eastern motorway to the city centre. Via the Vieux Port tunnel and the coastal motorway, it makes a connection to the north.

The Prado Carénage tunnel is very popular with motorists, particularly at peak hours, so the tunnel concessionaries have always focused on safety and mobility inside the tunnel. When the existing incident management system needed to be refurbished, a new technology partner had to be looked for.

At the same time of the Prado Carénage tunnel refurbishment, Marseille was already making plans for a new tunnel: the Prado Sud tunnel. Conceived as a 1,500m tunnel with two superimposed levels, each with two lanes, the newly planned Prado Sud tunnel would extend the existing Prado Carénage tunnel towards the southern part of the city. After a first phase of engineering studies and relocation of utilities networks, which began in 2009, construction got under way in June 2010 and continued at a brisk pace in 2011. The tunnel was opened to the public in November 2013.

Complete monitoring solution

Just as for the refurbished Prado Carénage tunnel, the Prado Sud tunnel concessionaries had to look for a technology partner for a comprehensive incident management and surveillance system that would guarantee the mobility and safety inside the tunnel. After a thorough evaluation of several companies FLIR ITS came out as the partner with the best technical offer.

“For both tunnels, FLIR Systems offered a complete detection and monitoring solution, including automatic incident detection, surveillance cameras, mobile cameras, recording capabilities and visualization,” comments Mario Pinto, area manager at FLIR Intelligent Transportation Systems. “FLIR ITS already had an extensive installed base of incident detection technology in the city of Marseille. Therefore, with the addition of this contract, our technology is now monitoring all current tunnels in the city of Marseille, including the La Major, Saint-Charles, Vieux-Port and La Joliette tunnels.”

FLIR’s incident detection technology has been installed in hundreds of tunnels around the world. Analyzing the video camera image in real time for any irregularity that is happening on the road, FLIR’s detection boards can detect stopped vehicles, wrong-way drivers, queues, slow-moving vehicles, fallen objects in a matter of seconds.

For the Marseille tunnels, FLIR Systems installed high-quality video servers with integrated video analytics, as well as an integrated automatic incident detection system. For Prado Sud, the choice of the technology fits into the growing trend of edge-based analytics, where the video analytics functionality is positioned closer to the traffic camera, to the edge of the network, so to speak. An additional benefit is that the network traffic is heavily reduced when the analytics are running on the edge. In fact, there is no traffic as long as nothing relevant happens.

The bigger picture

A total of 57 cameras in the Prado Sud tunnel and 95 cameras in the Prado Carénage tunnel are feeding traffic information for all types of incidents to video screens in a central control room. There, operators keep a constant eye on what is going on in the tunnel. They can see both the tunnel entrance and the interior and sees events in real time. Whenever an incident is picked up by one of the installed cameras, an alarm is generated and sent to the control room. This allows the control room operators to react instantly and to take the appropriate actions: they can neutralize one lane of traffic, send a patrol person on motorbike or a recovery vehicle, and in serious cases call the CRS (national police) or the Marseilles Marine Fire Battalion who will then take over the emergency operation.

All this information, provided by a combination of cameras and encoders, is collected and managed by FLIR’s Flux video detection management system. Flux collects traffic data, events, alarms and video images generated by the video detectors. The main goal of Flux is to manage and control all traffic information generated by these various detectors and to make it useful, meaningful and relevant to the user. Flux provides a user-friendly interface composed of a monitoring and a reporting application and enables real-time monitoring of events and alarms.

Flux 2.1 video detection management system

Although a proven software system, the Marseille tunnel project required some additional new features that were specifically useful for Prado Carénage and Prado Sud. To meet customer needs, FLIR added the following features:

Advanced camera and detector management
The traffic camera installed base for the Marseille city tunnels includes cameras from several manufacturers. As such, the updated Flux is able to manage sources from any major camera manufacturer out there, not only from FLIR detection modules. This way, the Marseille tunnel authorities can use Flux as a comprehensive traffic and surveillance monitoring solution.

Mobile camera support
Flux offers joystick functionality, so the mobile cameras inside the Prado Carénage and Prado Sud tunnels can be remotely controlled with the greatest precision.

Record, export, control
The new Flux has extended recording capabilities that allow operators to control all their recorder units in their network, manage their recordings, playback and export their recorded session to a file type of choice.

Video stream visualization on one or multiple video walls
Flux allows operators to present their video sources, coming from any type of camera or detector, on a large video wall or on multiple video walls. Easy drag and drop functionality enables them to organize their display wall according to their own preferences.

Close collaboration with the customer

“The collaboration with FLIR ITS has been perfect since the start of the project,” comments Dominique Monnier, Head of Equipment Maintenance at the Société Marsellaise du Tunnel Prado Carénage (SMTPC), the concessionary organization. “We also value FLIR’s responsiveness in handling the Carénage project, as well as the fact that FLIR ITS has an office very nearby. This has certainly contributed to our close collaboration.”

The contract with FLIR ITS includes a maintenance period of five years, including preventive maintenance and repair services. “The FLIR video-based incident management system is very reliable and needs to be fully operational 24/7, all year round. Still, technical follow-up is very important,” comments Mario Pinto. “Certainly in the beginning, the most important job will be to monitor whether the calibration of the system is optimal, in order to have the best possible detection results.”

Kristof Maddelein is Editor/Content Manager at FLIR Systems