Years ago, a popular daily cartoon showed a noble knight riding into a joust, pennants flying, lance up and ready, but with a hand over his eyes. It was funny, but also a bit profound, as we too often take on noble aims without a clear view of the challenges ahead, sometimes with serious consequences.
Batteries are like tools: you must get the right one for the job. You wouldn’t use a sledgehammer to drive a nail in a wall, for obvious reasons, and you wouldn't use a AAA battery when a D battery was required. Fortunately, most consumer devices are built so you can't insert the wrong battery, but in data center and other commercial situations, we are sometimes using the wrong batteries without even knowing it. One fundamental operating differentiator for industrial batteries is power versus energy. Every battery delivers both, but each type is better at delivering one or the other. The kind of battery you need depends on your application and, like a sledgehammer vs. a hammer, you get better results when you choose the right one.
Dark intersections can take an outsized toll on both drivers and services. Last year's Hurricane Irma exemplified the costs: with more than half the traffic lights in Miami-Dade County out, road crews scrambled to deploy limited numbers of generators; police and sheriffs departments were stretched thin trying to direct traffic manually and writing tickets to drivers mishandling the outages; and accidents were caused by confused drivers blowing through dark intersections. While a hurricane like Irma doesn't happen every day, any dark intersection is an accident waiting to happen, and two-thirds of those are injury accidents, according to a New York DOT study. For the sake of drivers, DOTs, and first responders, transportation departments need strategies to minimize the occurrence and duration of traffic signal outages.
Knowledge is power, and the city of Portland, Oregon, is about to use the power of knowledge to save lives. As part of its Vision Zero Program, the city is deploying a network of smart sensors along its three most dangerous streets to gather data about the speed and flow of traffic. Traffic system designers will analyze data from the sensors to figure out what's not working and how to make those and other city streets safer for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.
With all the exciting new developments in Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), the subject of UPS technology and batteries may seem about as sexy as a pair of socks. But traffic system outages aren't sexy either, so backup power matters. And there have been new developments in UPS technology in recent years, giving ITS system designers more options for building systems with maximum uptime.
The dog days of summer are upon us: High temperature records have already been broken, from southern California to New England, leaving power outages in their wake. Heat also puts a stress on the UPS and batteries in traffic cabinets, just when they are needed most to handle power brownouts or outages. While the ITS Cabinet Standard specifies operating ranges up to 74° C (165° F), the effect of summertime temperatures in excess of 100° F plus direct sunlight on the cabinet, plus the heat produced by the electrical components themselves can quickly turn a traffic cabinet into an oven, shortening the lives of components and, worst case, leading to system failure.
The “World’s Smartest Intersection” debuted at that ITS America show in Detroit this past month. It’s the result of smart people creatively solving difficult mobility problems and it's worth checking out. They’re also hosting a webinar offering a more detailed overview on July 18th and you can register here. It’s actually five smart intersections (but who’s counting) and it can make us all smarter. Traffic Operations for the City of Detroit, working with Miovision, started with simply tracking the real-time operational status of their traffic lights. Then, they all recognized that the technology could be leveraged across other departments including police and emergency services as well as improving freight priority, cyclist dilemma zone extensions and pedestrian safety analytics. This has changed the way their traffic engineering teams work and kudos to Detroit, a city that has been through some tough times, for leading the way. At ZincFive, we talk about the “Always-On ITS World” we now live in and this project demonstrates how more of ITS becomes mission critical every day.