Putting the IoT vs ITS debate to rest
IoT (Internet of Things) and ITS (Intelligent Transport Systems) have largely evolved as two separate streams within both standards and industry initiatives. Today, IoT is deeply rooted in ITS – in particular cooperative and connected automated mobility – to give vehicles a complete perception of their environment.
The “IoT vs. ITS” debate continues to generate much discussion. Pilot projects in smart cities and smart mobility are helping us to understand their value propositions and positioning.
Even though ITS systems were largely defined and specified by automotive standards long before the term IoT came into popular use, the future of smart mobility is becoming clearer and we are now seeing IoT playing an increasingly central role. More IoT in the automotive sphere will make more data available to increasingly connected and automated vehicles – supporting ITS, and taking smart mobility to new heights.
There have been many attempts to define IoT
Most definitions agree that IoT is mainly about automation achieved by connecting sensors and actuators to applications running certain logic.
IoT architectures are made up of ‘proximal IoT’ and ‘distal IoT’.
Proximal IoT supports communication among devices in close proximity with functionality targeting fields such as smart homes and buildings and vehicle-to-vehicle communications. Here devices often discover each other using multicast or broadcast capabilities and then exchange data directly.
Distal functionality targets larger-scale IoT deployments, basically connecting proximal IoT islands to the Internet. Reusability of resources and datasets is emerging as a cornerstone of modern IoT systems. Data generated by a sensor can be used multiple times by different applications, provided proper authentication and authorization. Reusability increases the value generated by data and maximizes efficiency; helping us to master the total cost of ownership for IoT. One of its values within the context of smart mobility is cooperative awareness. IoT architectures include data post-processing and analytics components, producing knowledge from the data collected by sensors. For instance, the IoT platforms analyzing vehicle and other sensor data may detect traffic jams or other road hazards and make virtual representations of these road events directly available to connected vehicles. These virtual representations, managed by IoT platforms, are expected to spur significant progress in automated mobility.
ITS is an instantiation of IoT
ITS innovation builds on information and communication technology (ICT) to enable smarter, safer, more coordinated and increasingly automated transport. Connected sensors, cameras and other connected devices provide abundant data to distributed applications, applications which process this data to provide drivers and vehicles with actionable insights or trigger the actuation of other devices part of the ITS system, often in real time.
The concepts underlying IoT have in fact been around for a very long time. The energy industry, for example, developed SCADA systems (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) more than 20 years ago. Although not termed IoT, the underlying principles are very similar and one can easily draw an analogy between SCADA and IoT. SCADA is about connecting devices and applications to automate infrastructure monitoring and control. The same analogy applies to ITS. Vehicle-to-vehicle communications are not any different from proximal IoT, vehicle-to-infrastructure communications enable both proximal and distal IoT, and application intelligence resides in devices (including the cars), edge clouds and centralized cloud infrastructures.
The increasing importance of situational awareness in smart mobility
The increasing use of sensors and engine control modules is enabling safer and more efficient road transport. In-vehicle sensors generate data used within the vehicle itself to enhance awareness and decision-making. Subsets of this data can also be exchanged with other vehicles to create cooperative situational awareness. Cooperative ITS enables vehicles to gain access to valuable information from surrounding vehicles or historical, yet still valid, data generated by vehicles that have travelled the same route. IoT makes this possible: data from sensors published on an IoT platform, eventually running on edge-computing clouds to ensure low latency, becomes a shared resource for a network of connected vehicles.
The European Union’s H2020 Large Scale Pilot project, AUTOPILOT, uses various car sensors to detect bumps or potholes, making use of technologies such as LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) or front cameras. Related data is published on an open IoT platform based on oneM2M standards. Such road-hazard detection mechanisms give service providers the real-time information needed to deliver always up-to-date live maps and navigational services. Such real-time information is even more important for automated driving scenarios. In cooperative ITS scenarios, not all vehicles need to be equipped with all forms of detection capabilities – automated vehicles will use IoT to share data with one another, therefore anticipating hazards better by increasing their collective situational awareness.
Smart mobility will profit from IoT proliferation and reusability
Device and application proliferation are at the heart of the IoT vision. More IoT in the automotive sphere will make more data available to increasingly connected and automated vehicles. If this data is processed, shared and acted on, smart mobility will profit from better situational awareness and associated gains in safety and efficiency.
This concept is further explained in the figure below.
*Any views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ITU.