We have often come across the term “building bridges” as a powerful idea to solve complex problems, resolve conflicts or foster innovation. In a metaphorical sense, we tend to think about this as the coming together of people from diverse backgrounds or disciplines to work towards a common goal. In the present information age, we can extend this idea a bit further to how building bridges of information can unlock value and impact across a wide range of sectors and applications.
Our work on bringing real-time situational awareness to solve transportation problems is, at its core, based on this very idea. If we think about it, the various components/agents in the transportation system are essentially operating in “information silos”, without any information exchange, or one that rarely happens in real-time. Consider these commonly occurring scenarios:
- A driver does not have real-time information about road conditions or disruptions further ahead on the route.
- Emergency responders (police, hospitals, etc.) don’t have real-time information on occurrence of accidents and their locations
- A fleet manager often doesn’t have any historical or real-time information about his/her driver’s driving behavior
- Government agencies and road management companies don’t have real-time access to road conditions for better monitoring and resource allocation for efficient maintenance.
In each of the above cases, we can see that access to information in real-time to relevant stakeholders can unlock significant benefits in safety, efficiency, performance and reliability, among other things. So what’s the missing piece in all this?
We believe mainstreaming situational awareness through real-time information access would require both i) capturing all the relevant information across different system components/agents and ii) more importantly, building bridges of information between them, to enable seamless and real-time information exchange. In complex transportation networks comprising of numerous components and agents, these bridges act as information pathways built not just on accurate data but also on robust technology applications.
The following examples provide a glimpse into how we are building these bridges of information between different components/agents to enable transformational change in the transportation sector:
- Infrastructure and driver: Bringing real-time information on road conditions to drivers either in the form of alerts for potholes or optimal routes for safety, comfort and reliability
- Infrastructure and regulator: Bringing real-time information on road conditions to decision makers in the form of road network dashboards for efficient monitoring and maintenance
- Driver and fleet operator: Insights on driver behavior patterns for fleet operators to promote safe driving practices
- Vehicle and fleet operator: Insights on vehicle performance characteristics for fleet operators for preventive maintenance and enhanced fleet performance
- Driver and insurance company: Insights on safe driving behavior for insurance companies to identify risky drivers.
Echoing the words of Victor Hugo, we strongly believe that building bridges of information to solve some of the most pressing problems in our transportation system, is “an idea whose time has come”.