Opportunity Plus Preparation Equals… ITS Success

Tip Franklin and Jorgen Pedersen on why the ITS sector has to make hay while the sun shines – and it’s shining now

As it has been from the beginning of the ITS movement, technical development is always easier to achieve than jurisdictional agreement. In the beginning most ITS systems were designed, deployed and operated in a standalone or silo configuration.


Additionally, in the recent past we have seen an increase in the cooperation in and between traffic management agencies and with the various local public safety agencies. Now we are seeing more and more pressure to not only achieve inter-jurisdictional agreements within the traffic management universe but the requirement for many traffic management systems to work in a far more expanded, regional context and with other municipal services which has raised the bar considerably. To add more pressure, the emergence of the system of systems management philosophy associated with the Smart City will raise the bar to levels of interoperability way beyond that even thought of just a few years ago.


So how best to overcome these hurdles and begin to provide (and receive) quality support within a multi-agency regional context? The key is information or, more accurately, the collection, processing and distribution of information.




It has been stated in other forums that data becomes information and processed information becomes intelligence. And variations of all of the old clichés like – “one person’s information is another person’s intelligence” – are very applicable. Short form is that the data/information/ intelligence (DI2) equation is at the core of enabling and fostering system interaction and integration.


From the positional and purely philosophical perspective the “three-zone” operational model has now been recognized as being the most descriptive of the pressure for operational inter-relationships between agencies and functions.  Every machine, every person, every agency and every function that “operates” does so within the context of three zones.

  • Zone One – which is labeled as the “Zone of Control” represents the geographical, political or otherwise described boundaries or limitations of the function or area which is to be managed or controlled – the operation. The “operator” is given all of the tools, responsibility and accountability to perform the assigned task(s) throughout that zone. The principle of RAA (Responsibility, Authority and Accountability) is the driving force behind establishment of the boundary.
  • Zone Two – the “Zone of Influence” – is defined as that area surrounding Zone One in which activities occur which will impact the task performance in Zone One but will be managed/addressed by someone else. For an example – a major traffic accident on an arterial just outside the city limits will impact the flow of traffic within the city limits yet the city traffic engineer has neither the tools nor the responsibility to manage the actual incident. He does (or should) have the tools and responsibility to manage the impact of the accident that spill over the city limit. This is a classic example of a positional relationship. The size of Zone Two may swell or decrease depending upon the probability that activities within the zone will impact the operation of Zone One so at any given time. Zone Two may only be a part of the adjacent jurisdiction (positional) or on a much larger scale a hurricane evacuation activity (situational) may extend a Zone Two outer boundary across a state line or to a state level agency.
  • Zone Three – the “Zone of Interest” – is defined as that area surrounding Zone Two in which activities or events might cause an impact in Zones One and Two and thus should be monitored closely. Again, the boundary will float depending on a number of factors.


Notice that the operative words in the description of Zones Two and Three are “will impact” and “might cause an impact”. Essentially activities in Zone Two will always require a response while those in Zone Three may.


But the key point of this whole zonal discussion is what is being described is that each “three zone” configuration is but one node of a very complex Venn diagram since, by definition, every Zone One is bounded by one or more other “Zone Ones” thus the corresponding concentric Zones Two and Three overlap.




That concept is easy to understand from a traffic management perspective because there are very clear political subdivisions that make identification of the zones generally easy to establish. Where this becomes more difficult is in the other aspects of ITS deployment – the operation of a regional transit authority, a tolling system operator or a statewide traveler information system and, in the future, the vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) information exchange associated with the Connected Vehicle, because the same forces that drive the requirement for a seamless system may clash with the desire for jurisdictional or agency autonomy because of liability and budgetary issues.


To add an additional dimension to these descriptions one could think of the data extant in Zone One as being “Actionable”, that in Zone Two as being “Relevant” and that found in Zone Three falling in the “Tertiary” or third order category. An operator would respond to actionable data, be concerned about relevant data and keep an eye on the tertiary data.


So all we have to do is establish a mechanism to gather, process and distribute DI2. That is what makes the FHWA-sponsored Integrated Corridor Management (ICM) program so valuable as a prototype. Based on complete and open data sharing it melds the management and operation of a number of transportation management-related activities, this program has merit in both the situational and positional aspects mentioned earlier. We now see agencies willingly coordinating to foster a more efficient use of the infrastructure, achieve a higher level of systems integration and overall process harmonization. Most importantly, we see the beginnings of an information management (gathering, processing and distribution) system that clearly acknowledges the zonal concept that reaches beyond the traditional traffic management milieu.


The ICM program has also highlighted the changing field of data management from one that constantly looked for more sources of data to one that is going to require significant upgrades in the ability to filter, fuse, prioritize, store, secure and distribute data coming from an increasingly varied and larger environment. Connecting a two-way data stream to the data streams of other municipal agencies (can you say “crowd sourcing” and “in the cloud”?) is going to provide not only significant expansion in the amount of “information” available but concomitantly the tremendous increase our data processing capabilities just enumerated. And then – there is the emergence of the connected and autonomous vehicle fleet and the Petabytes of data that are expected to emerge.




One could say the future is bright and it is. But a good percentage of the illumination is going to be attributable to burning of the midnight oil to stay ahead of the curve. We cannot afford to wait like many did during the early days of IVHS. The cost of catching up will far exceed the cost of starting now. Agencies have got to have a data plan that gives them the solid foundation to move forward into the next generation of operations. Can you imagine the consternation if you were a modern Rip Van Winkle who slept the 25 years from 1990 to 2015 and was handed a modern smart phone or told about the Internet?  Don’t go to sleep!



Tip Franklin is Smart City Advisor for the Thinking Cities Alliance

I am not sure who Jorgen Pedersen is