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nections] are generating huge amounts of information,” says
Francisco Cáceres, chief technology officer at Madrid’s Telvent.
And Bitcarrier is one of the first two companies in the world
to commercialize a product that picks up on these signals to
count vehicles on the road.
CounTing wiTh signals
Today, traffic counting is generally accomplished by using induc -
tive loops buried under the road, which register the magnetic
interference of cars passing over them; since this is expensive
and time-consuming to implement, few intersections can provide
this critical information. Though other technologies for continu-
ous traffic counting have been developed, they are too expensive
to be widely used.
Bitcarrier’s founders believed they could devise a method to
capture the public Bluetooth signals that emanate from con-
sumer products, each with an individual signature. “The signals
are public—you cannot track the person—but you can track
the device,” says Barceló.
To date, in most Western countries, about 30 percent of
cars and trucks—or their drivers—are equipped with a smart
phone or GPS system. The proprietary sensor that Bitcarrier
has developed can be hung from a traffic light or lamp post
and plugged into a socket with no additional infrastructure, and
it can pick up the signals from equipment that passes within
approximately 120 feet.
This equipment collects data about both the number of vehi-
cles on the road and their average speed, as the sensors can
monitor when specific signals pass multiple sensors. Wireless
transmission directs this information to a central computer,
where highway managers can use it to notify drivers about
congestion and driving times ahead. The system can also alert
operators immediately to traffic jams from accidents.
This idea was conceived four years ago, and for the past year
and a half Bitcarrier has been creating the device and testing its
accuracy. In February 2010, after an eight-month trial period,
the transportation concession Abertis Infraestructuras—which
operates toll roads in Spain and other countries—bought 150
units to monitor traffic on a major Spanish highway. Abertis
has already announced that it will purchase additional units
for other roads. The city of Zaragoza, in northern Spain, has
decided to blanket the city with these sensors to capture nearly
100 percent of city traffic flow information, and inquiries are
coming in from around the world.
phanToM TollBooTh sysTeMs
Traffic traditionally slows to a crawl at tollbooths. To counter this,
companies and cities have been using onboard tags that allow vehi-
cles to drive through without stopping. The advanced information
systems and systems integration company Tecsidel, which designs
and supplies tolling systems around the world, is one of the few
international companies that has moved beyond barrier-free tolls
to create an open tolling system. In this system, implemented by
Tecsidel in Oslo and elsewhere in Norway, cars continue moving
at normal speed when approaching a toll; the toll scanner stretches
over the highway like a traffic signal. This can save fuel by prevent-
ing traffic jams, and the scanner can be installed rapidly without
major remodeling of the road.
As vehicles zoom underneath the apparatus, overhead cam-
eras pick up a vehicle’s image at speeds up to 120 mph (200
km/h). If the vehicle has a tag, like an EasyPass in the U.S.,
the user is charged automatically. Otherwise, the license plate’s
image is captured and deciphered by a software program that
then sends a charge to the driver.
“Everything is based on the quality of the pictures,” says
Gerald Pelle, Tecsidel’s marketing director. “It’s a mature tech-
nology, but there are still limitations: if there’s a lot of snow or
dirt, the license plate is not even readable by human eyes.” The
Tecsidel apparatus captures both front and rear plate images to
minimize such challenges.
Today there’s a trend in some places—Portugal, for one—to
equip cars at purchase with ID tags, similar to license plates, that
can facilitate country-wide free-flow toll systems. Madrid-based
Indra Sistemas, a world leader in information and communica-
tion technologies, with projects in more than 100 countries, will
introduce the first such automated toll system in Portugal, on a
stretch of highway that runs north to the Spanish border. Indra’s
payment platfor m can handle up to 1.5 million transactions a day.
Indra integrates technologies that are available on the market
into complete systems, marketing them throughout Spain and in
Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Indra manages ITS for nearly
2,500 miles of Spanish highways and controls toll lanes and pla-
zas in 15 countries. Leveraging their defense experience, Indra
engineers have developed a product that capitalizes on radar
technology from Spain’s Department of Defense to provide a
more advanced radar system for civilian roads.
Indra is one of a number of systems integrators (which include
major international companies such as Telvent and Sice) which
develop their own products in house while also integrating avail-
able technology to present a cities or regions with complete traf-
fic management. Telvent supplies intelligent systems that control
traffic at more than 9,000 intersections a day, and toll networks
that handle 1.5 million vehicles annually; its clients include the
New York State Department of Transportation and the Munici-
pal Corporation of Greater Mumbai.
Sice integrates complete highway solutions in Europe, Latin
America, and North America, and at times operates highway
road tolls as a concessionaire standing in for a public authority.
In Melbourne, Australia, “we’re capable of managing 8 million
transactions a day [in tolls],” says Angel Aguilar, Sice’s inter-
According to infrastructure director Vicente Sebastián of
Grupo Etra, which provides integration service to cities such as
Madrid, his company’s goal is “to optimize the hardware with the
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