You may have noticed that a number of white V shaped boxes are being placed on lamp columns around MK. These boxes are sensors which collect data about traffic flow and transport types in the city. The type of information they collect includes data about availability of parking spaces and how busy the roads and pavements are.
MK Council are working in partnership with Vivacity Labs on this project which comes from work developed under MK:Smart - a project that looks for innovative solutions to support economic growth in MK.
The council will also be using the data from the sensors to reduce the costs of providing transport services, including supporting decision making about transport infrastructure and planning new roads.
How do the sensors work?
Each box has a video camera, a processor, and an internet connection. Images from the camera are processed automatically to understand what is going on at that location. The information is then fed back to a central source.
How is this being funded?
This system will be installed through £1.3m of private investment raised by Vivacity with a further £1.7m from Innovate UK, a government public body, sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
This covers all initial set up costs for the system so that MK Council does not have to cover any capital costs. However, this does not cover ongoing maintenance of the system.
How do the sensors work?
Each box has a video camera, a processor and an internet connection. Images from the camera are processed automatically to understand what is going on at that location. The processed images are then deleted. The processed data is then fed back to a central source and is then available for general publication.
Is this like CCTV?
No - the sensors are only looking for data about the operation of MK's transport system. For example it can see that 5 out of 10 standard purple parking bays are occupied, or that 3 vans have just passed a stretch of road.
The sensors will not record any identifying features such as vehicle number plates, they are just there to gather anonymous data about the operation of the transport network.
How will this benefit me?
As part of this project and an extension from work delivered under MK:Smart, Vivacity Lab have also been developing an app called “MotionMap”. The app will allow you to find available parking spaces, check which roads are congested and plan alternative routes to avoid traffic.
Does this mean less waiting at traffic lights?
The data gathered from the sensors will be used to plan improvements for the traffic system in MK. There is no intention to install more traffic lights. Existing city centre traffic lights could in the future be improved using real time data.
The underlying technology in the sensors is highly adaptable and will learn and improve over time. The 'artificial intelligence' of the sensors will mean that they remember daily traffic patterns which will help the overall traffic flow around the city.
It may also 'learn' that certain locations have more congestion at specific times e.g. after an event at the MK Dons Stadium , and plan in advance for large volumes of traffic moving within a specific area.
The council want to use this new technology in collaboration with leading innovators to ensure the city works better for everyone and is inclusive of all forms of transport.