A year or so ago I wrote about the scourge of potholes for drivers, cyclists and other road users. They are a by product of constantly using a surface, rather like wearing out a shirt or pair of jeans. The only difference is that they are dangerous and expensive to repair.
I would think that many motorists who pay a sizeable chunk of their earnings in taxes (income, sales, rates etc) would like to see the problem go away or heavily reduced. Potholes start with a surface that has some weakness in it. Then with changing weather and traffic conditions the surface layers start to break up. Often local Government workers come along and bodge the repair which inevitably makes the problem worse!
In the last article I discussed some of the methods used to make the repairs more reliable and how different materials are being tested to ensure that the surface lasts longer, however there is another important step before repair – finding them. This can be a costly affair with workers being sent out to find and record where the holes are appearing and then another team dispatched to fix it.
In Kansas City, they have come up with a modern and cheaper way of finding the holes: data analysis. What the City Council has done is to put small cameras onto traffic lights at junctions and then some sensors into the roads when they have been resurfacing them. The data collected from the cameras and sensors is then mapped to data from weather systems and internal data about when the road was last repaired, what surface materials were used and the traffic flow information for the road.
This “big data” analysis means that the City Council can estimate when a repair will be needed and as such they can redirect taxpayers funds to the roads and streets that most need it. It also means that the Council can use different grade materials for heavy traffic as opposed to a cheaper material for lower usage pavement.
To enable this analysis, Kansas City has collaborated with Xaqt, a company who describes their systems as an urban intelligence and collaboration platform. The partnership has helped the city become a massive data generator with 54 city blocks delivering data through Wi-Fi and fibre-optic cables. Combining all this data with 4,200 existing datasets means that the partners can accurately find, fix and forecast issues in the physical infrastructure that the city relies on to keep functioning. The really interesting thing is that Kansas City is now able to adjust its budget spending through qualified and quantified analysis, something that every city should be able to do.
That has to be good for the local motorists and the residents as a whole.