Transportation

IoT and the Smart Connected School Bus

Create: 10/17/2016 - 13:00

Solutions provider Presidio is changing the age-old image of the creaky yellow school bus by giving it a fresh new IoT makeover.  One of its marque transportation transformations this fall was in the fleet of buses owned by the Huntsville, TX, Independent School District (ISD). Located 70 miles outside of Houston, the large district has 6,300 students and spans a whopping 644 square miles. This means two things: Its school buses pound out a lot of miles every day, and kids spend a lot of time on the bus.

“We really wanted to provide wireless access to our students. Some of them are on the bus for an extended amount of time, some up to 90 minutes,” says Dr. Howell Wright, Superintendent of Education, Huntsville ISD.

The school district turned to New York City-based Presidio with the wish list for its fleet. “Presidio and Huntsville ISD have had a fairly long partnership together,” says Bob Daughrity, Director of Education Solutions at Presidio. To help with budgeting and integration costs, the school district wanted to work with only one solutions provider for its smart bus retrofit. 

Presidio systematically began the process of upgrading the bus fleet by adding a bevy of solutions, including: on-board Wi-Fi for students, real-time engine telematics, real-time view capabilities for cameras and ridership check on/check off. Presidio tapped into its working portfolio of IoT technology for smart transportation, which includes Intel® IoT gateways, Intel® vPro™ technology, and Intel® IoT security solutions.

Education on the Move

Presidio started by making the buses into virtual classrooms in motion, adding Wi-Fi for the students who use digital Chromebooks. “The solution really enhanced the ride and enabled the students to access their textbooks and their work while they’re on the school bus,” says Wright. The Wi-Fi is also helpful for students to keep up-to-date with classwork during field trips and athletic events when the students don’t get back until late at night, he adds.

Beyond bus-based Wi-Fi, Huntsville wanted to tackle the more complex challenges of student safety and location monitoring by bus stop. The bus drivers are given a tablet as they go to their bus each morning. Presidio developed an application that allows bus drivers to keep a tally of students getting on and off at each location, so they know what students are on the bus at any given time.

The tablet provides drivers with turn-by-turn directions, traffic and road conditions, and communications with dispatch. In an emergency, drivers can use the tablet to contact first responders. Using the tablet’s GPS capabilities, police and ambulance services can quickly identify the bus location.  

The district also wanted to the capability to see what was happening on each bus. Presidio started the project by using the camera technology that was already installed on the district’s buses and added live video functionality. “If there is ever an issue on the bus, we can see live video at that time,” says Wright.

Presidio safe bus IoT solutions

Photo credit: Presidio

Telematics for Better Performance

Presidio also integrated telematics into the bus fleet, which is beneficial to the district’s mechanics. The system has the ability to see more than 2,000 readings from the computer on board the engine of each bus. The driver has the ability to get real-time feedback on speed and overall vehicle safety. By giving accurate information to the driver and mechanics in charge of the fleet, the school district hopes to benefit from lower maintenance costs.

So far, Presidio has earned an A+ in bus IoT. "Presidio has been able to transform the way we do transportation. It has allowed us to give our kids opportunities that other students don’t have, to allow our kids to make improvements not just through transportation, but also in the classroom. And that’s really what this is all about: improving the opportunity for our students," says Tim Hookes, Director of Transportation at Huntsville ISD.

Learn more about how IoT is hopping on the bus. Watch the video.  

Connect the Dots: Government Acts on 5G; Sets Off Autonomous Vehicle Alarms

Create: 09/28/2016 - 13:00

The IoT got much-needed government support with the FCC opening up new 5G spectrum and the DoT issuing autonomous vehicle guidelines.

Autonomous vehicles and 5G wireless, two of the most influential technologies for the Internet of Things (IoT), got some welcome and some not-so-welcome attention recently. In the case of autonomous vehicles, you still have until November 19 to submit your concerns.

First, 5G. The success of the IoT depends to a large degree upon our ability to deploy billions of wireless sensors as securely and efficiently as possible, in terms of cost, power consumption, size, density, manageability and myriad other “…ity’s,” such as scalability and firmware upgradeability. The list goes on.

These “ity’s” depend upon the ability to communicate reliably and quickly, in some cases with latencies down to sub 1 millisecond. With current 4G cellular data networks, we’re enduring latencies of 50 ms or more.  This performance lag doesn’t bode well for critical applications such as warning systems, industrial control, autonomous transportation systems or even fun consumer applications such as virtual or augmented reality (AR and VR, respectively.) Along with high data rates for images and video, AR and VR also require a fast response time to user movements, or the cognitive dissonance can be nauseating.

However, fast data rates and low latencies are anathema to the current state of spectrum usage and availability, with crowded, noisy and interference-limited unlicensed bands, and expensive, bandwidth-limited licensed bands. A limited bandwidth, of 10- to 20-MHz, translates to limitations on data rates.

These limits are why the FCC’s adoption of new rules for wireless spectrum usage for 5G back in July is so important—and exciting—for IoT solution providers. The commission opened new spectrum above 24 GHz that will allow for the implementation of the many technologies and modulation schemes that will enable the 5G promise of 10-Gbit/s downlinks and 1 Gbit/s uplinks. The open, clean spectrum and faster communication and lower latencies, down to 1-ms, support the desired, almost-real-time IoT response times. 

You can view the full details on the FCC’s site, but in summary, the FCC opened up 3.85 GHz of licensed spectrum at 28, 37 and 39 GHz, and 7 GHz of unlicensed spectrum between 64 and 71 GHz. Within that 7 GHz, the bands can be up to 200 MHz wide, or 10 times the current bandwidths.

Of course, few individual IoT-type devices or systems will demand the 10-Gbit/s data rates 5G enables, but the low latencies are critical, as is the ability to aggregate data via gateways and other edge devices, and have a “fiber fast” wireless backhaul capability for both urban and rural locations. These capabilities greatly simplify and lower the cost of IoT network deployment.

Autonomous Vehicle Guidelines Set Off Alarms

The ubiquitous, low-latency, high-reliability wireless communications that 5G promises is a major enabling factor for autonomous transportation vehicles, yet much depends on Federal policies regarding automated vehicles. Up until September 20, it hadn’t said anything. It then released the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy, and while welcome, the policy caused quite the stir.

autonomous car guidance from DoT

Figure 1. In the framework for the DoT’s “Vehicle Performance Guidance,” it’s up to the manufacturer to determine the AV level, per SAE International’s definitions, which the DoT has adopted.

Released under the auspices of the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Safety Administration (NHSTA), the 116-page document is wide ranging in scope, addressing many of the concerns of users and technologists alike. However, the NHTSA is quick to point out up front that:

“We do not intend to write the final word on highly automated vehicles here. Rather, we intend to establish a foundation and a framework upon which future Agency action will occur.”

Its reasoning for getting involved at this juncture with what it calls “highly automated vehicles,” (HAVs) has to do with safety, with the policy pointing out that 35,092 people died in U.S. roadways in 2015 alone, and 94 percent of crashes can be tied to human choice or error. The promise of HAVs, it said, is to address and mitigate the “overwhelming majority” of crashes.

To that end, the policy addresses many issues, from a much-needed definition of the various levels of autonomy, all the way to how systems should be tested and deployed, including safety and security (Figure 1.) For autonomy definition, the NHTSA chose to go along with the SAE International definitions, which divide vehicles into levels based on “who does what, when.” Generally:

  • Level 0, the human driver does everything;
  • Level 1, an automated system on the vehicle can sometimes assist the human driver conduct some parts of the driving task;
  • Level 2, an automated system on the vehicle can actually conduct some parts of the driving task, while the human continues to monitor the driving environment and performs the rest of the driving task;
  • Level 3, an automated system can both actually conduct some parts of the driving task and monitor the driving environment in some instances, but the human driver must be ready to take back control when the automated system requests;
  • Level 4, an automated system can conduct the driving task and monitor the driving environment, and the human need not take back control, but the automated system can operate only in certain environments and under certain conditions; and
  • Level 5, the automated system can perform all driving tasks, under all conditions that a human driver could perform them.

​For security and functional testing, the policy simply advises that best practices be followed.

The document went further than many expected when it set up a policy of demanding that self-certification of automobiles be replaced instead by NHTSA pre-market approval of new technologies. This requirement has the potential to drastically slow the development of HAVs and is causing quite the uproar.

Marc Scribner, a Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute went so far as to issue a formal statement about the policy changes in this regard, making it clear that the:

"NHTSA must work to limit its precautionary impulses, which have the potential to delay and increase the cost of automated vehicle deployment—meaning more preventable crashes, more injuries, and more deaths." 

Again, the policy statement has 116 pages, and the NHTSA is wide open to comments, for 60 days from September 20. So take a look now, while you have a chance to make a difference, or hang back and work within the confines of the outcome from what is an overly cautious and odious approach to technological deployment.

New Companions of IoT: Windows 10 IoT Core and Intel Joule

Create: 09/11/2016 - 13:00

To demonstrate new IoT functionality, Microsoft built the first Windows 10 IoT Core and Intel® Joule-powered device, a smart robot named Bamboo.

While focusing this summer on the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, Microsoft ramped up its attention to IoT. Specifically, it honed in on enhancements to Windows 10 IoT Core, the edition of Windows that targets small, embedded devices that may or may not have screens. While Windows 10 IoT Core is smaller than its desktop and mobile counterparts—it's a free, lightweight version of the operating system—it could potentially outstrip its parent OS in terms of popularity, if it gathers its share of powering the billions of connected IoT devices in our future.

To push Windows 10 IoT Core forward in the market, Microsoft recently announced a handful of new capabilities aimed at expanding the platform's reach, including a new Windows IoT Core Extension for Visual Studio Code. That program is Microsoft's newest lightweight code editor for Mac OS X, Linux and Windows.

But Microsoft didn’t stop there. It announced that Windows 10 IoT Core Anniversary Edition also supports the Intel® tiny new Joule™ board, a technology module that contributing editor Patrick Mannion says “makes IoT easy.” The Intel® Joule module, built specifically for IoT applications, packs a high-performance system into a low-power package. “The board enables developers to take a concept from prototype to production at a fraction of the time and cost,” explains Lenny Tran, Business Development Manager at Intel in a recent blog.

Introduced during the recent Intel Developer Forum (IDF), the Joule module uses sensors inspired by Intel’s RealSense™ computer vision technology. Two models are available, the 550x and 570x, both based on the Intel® Atom system-on-chip (SoC) offerings, the Atom T5500 and T5700, respectively. They feature 64-bit processing, 802.11ac WiFi with MIMO, Bluetooth 4.1 and support for Intel RealSense™ cameras. The Intel® Joule 570x module combines powerful computing with video, high-speed connectivity, security and massive software support on a module measuring only 48 x 24 mm.

The Robotic Joule of IoT

To showcase the new enhancements to Windows 10 IoT Core Anniversary Edition, Microsoft put together a smart mini panda. The Microsoft team worked six weeks to build Bamboo, the first Windows 10 IoT Core and Intel® Joule-powered robot, according to Steve Teixeira, General Manager of Microsoft's Windows Partner Application Experience Team.

bamboo, Windows 10 IoT Core and Intel® Joule-powered robot

Photo credit: Microsoft Windows Developer blog

The goal of this particular design was to build a device—a companion of sorts—that could help parents of children with diabetes. Bamboo allows parents to set reminders remotely and reminds children to check their sugars.

Teixeira describes the Bamboo buildout in his Windows Developer Blog.

In addition to running Windows 10 IoT Core on Intel Joule, Bamboo connects to cloud-based Microsoft Azure and Cognitive Services, which provide sentiment analysis and translation. “You can speak to Bamboo in any language, and she can translate into her native English and understand your mood via Twitter,” says Teixeira.

Bamboo can move about and build an understanding of her environment with the compute platform and an Intel® RealSense camera. Additionally, she is animated via the EZ-Robot EX-B control system. 

Availability of Windows 10 IoT Core and Intel Joule

According to Microsoft, the Windows 10 IoT Core for Intel® Joule will become available as part of the Windows Insider Program release scheduled for September.

Intel will offer a developer kit for each of the two Joule models. Intel® Joule 570x developer kits are available immediately through Intel’s worldwide distribution network and reseller partners, including Mouser and Newegg. Intel® Joule 570x and 550x platforms as well as the Intel® Joule 550x developer kit will be available in the fourth quarter 2016.

To learn more, download the Intel® Joule platform fact sheet.

Autonomous Car Innovation Shifts into High Gear

Create: 08/21/2016 - 13:00

Intel, BMW Group and Mobileye are putting their heads and technologies together to make autonomous cars a reality by 2021.

In 1939, the World’s Fair Futurama exhibit introduced the public to the idea of autonomous cars and the roadways that could make them possible. The General Motors’ sponsored installation provided a glimpse into the future—specifically, 1960. While designer Bel Geddes’ exact vision didn’t come to fruition, progress toward creating a fully autonomous vehicle kept moving forward.

At this year’s Intel Developer Forum (IDF), a self-driving car literally took center stage as Elmar Frickenstein, Senior Vice President of BMW’s automated driving group, emerged from the passenger-side of a cutting-edge BMW i3 electric car that drove itself onto the forum’s stage. The future had arrived—well, almost.

Joining Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, the two men discussed their new partnership focused on revolutionizing how we drive. Intel, BMW Group and Mobileye—three leaders from the technology and computer vision, automotive and machine learning industries—have joined forces to finally turn self-driving vehicles into reality. Through their collaboration, the companies are shooting to bring solutions for both highly and fully automated driving into series production by the year 2021.

The companies plan to work together on the creation of iNEXT, an electric BMW model that, according to the company, will be the foundation for the automaker's autonomous driving strategy. Their goal is to produce a fully driverless Level 5 car together, as well as Level 3 and 4 offerings.

So—what does that mean exactly?

Where We Are—Where We’re Going

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International classifies vehicle automation using five levels and two subgroups:

Human driver monitors the driving environment

0 – No Automation

1 – Driver Assistance

2 – Partial Automation

Automated driving system monitors the driving environment

3 – Conditional Automation

4 – High Automation

5 – Full Automation

0 through Level 2 fall under the “Human driver monitors the driving environment” category. We’re all familiar with 0, which is essentially a standard, traditional vehicle. Level 1 and 2 still require a physical driver to have their hands on the wheel, but bring things like adaptive responsive braking, cruise control and parking assistance into the picture. (According to Frickenstein, BMW development is currently at a Level 2.)

Levels 3 through 5 fall under the “Automated driving system monitors the driving environment” category. Level 3, Conditional Automation, puts the car’s technology in the driver’s seat, but maintains the expectation that a human driver will respond to the system’s “request to intervene” when needed.

Level 4, High Automation, requires significantly less engagement. This level enables a driver/passenger to be completely passive—being free to take a nap, for example. While the car may still produce a “request to intervene,” it can continue to safely navigate even if the driver fails to respond.

A Level 5, Full Automation, car is fully autonomous, which means it can function fully without a driver or passenger ever needing to be in the vehicle. A Level 5 car has myriad potential uses—from picking you up at the airport or after a dinner out to being used commercially for shipping and food deliveries to providing disaster relief. The possibilities are unlimited.

SAE International Autonomous Car Levels

Credit: SAE International

From Strength to Strength

With the help of Intel and Mobileye, BMW is ready to take their Level 2 and vault forward. “That means for us, from level to level, we have to enable transition from the responsibility of the human driver, to a computer,” said Frickenstein, during his IDF talk. Working together, the outlook is good and the goal closer than ever before. As leaders in their fields, the three companies each bring an essential component to the project.

To reach their target, the companies must create an end-to-end system together, both inside and outside the car. “Inside the car we have to have a central computing platform, a supercomputer,” explained Frickenstein. Which is what Intel is going to contribute to the project. BMW will rely on it to ensure network readiness, and to store, share and protect the extraordinary amount of data that will feed the deep learning algorithms used to train their autonomous vehicles.

They will also need motion-control for the highly dynamic driving, a sensor cluster and a safety, security and privacy environment. Which is where Mobileye will come in.

Mobileye is contributing its expertise in sensing, driver policy and localization to do its part in making autonomous cars a reality. The handling of sensing will be deployed on Mobileye’s newest system-on-chip, the EyeQ®5, with collaborative development of fusion algorithms deployed on Intel computing platforms. “In addition, Mobileye Road Experience Management technology will provide real-time precise localization and model the driving scene to essentially support fully autonomous driving,” Amnon Shashua, the chairman of Mobileye, said in a statement.

The collaboration between the three companies means more to them than simply producing the first self-driving car—as revolutionary as that is. “Our goal really is not just a new product. Our goal is to build an industry standard that will really allow others to build on it,” said Intel’s Krzanich. Part of the objective of the collaboration is to create an industry platform that enables developers worldwide to create new functions on a standard framework. “The door is open to the next century, and all of us, we can create the future and we can shape the future,” concluded BMW’s Frickenstein.

I, for one, can’t wait.

California’s First Smart Highway Project Comes to Life

Create: 07/27/2016 - 13:00

The state’s first full-fledged smart highway project, SMART Corridor, uses IoT, digital signs and active traffic management tools to reduce jammed sections of I-80 in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Drivers stuck in a very congested section of Interstate 80 in Emeryvillle, CA, and Berkeley, CA, finally got to see the state’s new freeway metering lights and digital signs come to life in mid-July after a two-year wait. Dubbed the Interstate 80 SMART (Safety, Mobility and Automated Real-time Traffic Management) Corridor project, the goal is to bring innovative congestion relief and safety improvements to the I-80 corridor from the Carquinez Bridge to the Bay Bridge, according to the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). This section of I-80 carries approximately 290,000 vehicles a day and has on average one major incident a week.

Caltrans says the project is expected to reduce the impact of commute and incident-related congestion on that particular stretch of freeway, including long delays and stop-and-go traffic, congestion-related traffic collisions, long emergency response times, unreliable commute times and cut-through traffic.

Smart Corridor Project

Photo credit: SMART Corridor Project

Traffic flow improvements include adaptive ramp metering to smooth merging lanes and maintain consistent speeds. The metering lights will be phased in over a three-week period, starting this month. The state has also installed an array of digital signs at 11 locations along the initial 20-mile section. The digital signs include colored arrows and X’s, so drivers can quickly and easily know which lanes are flowing freely and which ones are blocked by an accident or other snarl.

The entire SMART Corridor project is expected to be fully operational by Labor Day 2016. The $79 million project includes a broad set of components, IoT devices and traffic management tools. The plan includes:

  • High occupancy vehicle (HOV) bypass lanes at ramp meters
  • Active management of traffic during freeway incidents using variable advisory speed limits and lane management on the freeway and coordinated traffic signal timing on the local streets
  • Bus priority at traffic signals and ramp meters
  • Enhanced traveler information, including large roadside panels with travel-time information and other advisories, such as “construction ahead.”

Integrated IoT and Traffic Team

The coordinated operation of all of these components will be controlled by automated technology and a staff working in the traffic management center in downtown Oakland. The traffic staff will monitor sensors and cameras to help traffic flow.

One part of the project is to synchronize traffic lights on major city streets that motorists frequently route to when collisions jam I-80. Improvements on the local thoroughfare San Pablo Avenue and crossing arterials include “Trailblazer” digital signs to tell drivers who detour around an accident when to return to the interstate when the wreckage has been cleared. Signal timing improvements will also ease traffic flow and bus operations on San Pablo Avenue when traffic from the congested freeway spills over onto city streets.

The SMART Corridor project was schedule to launch in 2015 but the challenge of getting multiple cities, counties, transit agencies and technologies working together took longer than anticipated, according to the SF Chronicle.

For more information on the project, visit www.80SMARTCorridor.org or search the Twitter hashtag #80smart. 

Top 10 IoT Technologies, Top Opportunities for Solution Providers

Create: 07/25/2016 - 13:00

New technologies will give organizations of all types and sizes the means to harness the power and potential of the Internet of Things (IoT). These organizations will need a wide and expanding array of tools and technologies to reap the full benefits of IoT.

Solution providers that understand the hottest IoT technology trends can get a jump on these opportunities, identified by Gartner as the 10 top IoT technologies projected for 2017 and 2018.

1. IoT Security

The IoT introduces an assortment of new security challenges and risks – to IoT devices, their platforms and operating systems, their communications and the systems that connect them. Sophisticated security technologies are needed to protect the devices and platforms from information attacks and tampering, to encrypt information and to address additional threats.

2. IoT Analytics

IoT “things” collect plenty of information, including consumer behavior, machine usage and more. Organizations will use analytics to make sense of the information and to create actionable insights from the vast amounts data. 

3. IoT Device Management

All sorts of “things” will need to be managed and monitored. Tools and technologies must be able to manage and monitor thousands, or millions, of devices at once.

4. Low-Power, Short Range IoT Networks

Gartner reports that low-power, short-range networks will dominate wireless IoT connectivity through 2025, far outnumbering connections that use wide-area IoT networks.

5. Low-Power, Wide-Area Networks

Traditional cell networks aren’t able to provide the right combination of technical features and acceptable operational cost for IoT applications that require wide-area coverage, relatively low bandwidth, good battery life and high connection density. A wide-area IoT network should deliver up to tens of kilobits per second with nationwide coverage, a 10-year battery life, endpoint hardware cost of about $5 and support for hundreds of thousands of devices connected to a base station or the equivalent.

6. IoT Processors

Architectures and processors define many of their capabilities, says Gartner, like whether they’re capable of strong security and encryption, whether they’re sufficiently sophisticated to support an operating system, updatable firmware and embedded device management agents.

7. IoT Operating Systems

Traditional operating systems like Windows weren’t meant to handle IoT applications, which consume too much power, need fast processing speed and lack other important features. An array of IoT-specific operating systems suit many different hardware footprints and feature requirements.

8. Event Stream Processing

Because some IoT applications generate very high data rates that have to be analyzed in real time, systems that create tens of thousands of events per second have become commonplace. Distributed stream computing platforms have emerged to address increasing requirements.

9. IoT Platforms

IoT platforms bundle many infrastructure components of an IoT system into one product. The services provided by these platforms fall in three categories: Low level device control and operations; IoT data acquisition, transformation and management; and IoT application development.

10. IoT Standards and Ecosystems

Ecosystems and standards aren’t exactly technologies, but most eventually materialize as application programming interfaces (APIs). Standards and APIs are essential since IoT devices will need to interoperate and communicate – and because many IoT business models rely on data sharing between multiple devices and organizations.

 “Many IoT ecosystems will emerge, and commercial and technical battles between these ecosystems will dominate areas such as the smart home, the smart city and healthcare. Organizations creating products may have to develop variants to support multiple standards or ecosystems and be prepared to update products during their life span as the standards evolve and new standards and related APIs emerge,” says Gartner.

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