In Smarter Transportation Ecosystem, Physical and Digital Networks Will Be Interconnected

Aging transportation system restraining growth, but linking physical and digital networks will enable the ecosystem to evolve to meet changing market needs, Frost & Sullivan report argues

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Mountain View, CA — October 5, 2010 — An aging transportation system is threatening to restrain globalization, as current systems are struggling to meet the needs of a highly urbanized planet in which the business of moving goods and people from one place to another typically generates toxic byproducts and lost productivity, according to a new report from consultancy Frost & Sullivan.

Ground-breaking innovations in transportation technology are difficult for the current system to accommodate, and the system itself has yet to evolve to meet the changed set of fundamental needs and demands placed on it, Frost & Sullivan reports in the new whitepaper, "A Smarter Transportation System for the 21st Century."

Whereas the system has not yet completely gridlocked, there clearly exists a need for something that is smarter, more efficient, and better than what is in place now, the consultancy asserts. Frost & Sullivan believes that the answer is a new ecosystem that marries information technology to the global air, rail, road and water transportation networks. The firm outlines the challenges, tactics and strategies to carrying out this new plan in the white paper.

Nearing Capacity Limits

Frost & Sullivan believes that there are four fundamental factors that underlie the need to change the transportation ecosystem: a rapid population expansion, hyper-urbanization, globalization and pervasive information and communications technology.

"The consequences and costs of an inefficient transportation ecosystem have both an economic and environmental impact," warned Brian Cotton, vice president of Frost & Sullivan's information and communication technologies consulting practice and author of the study.

Current transportation systems, Cotton said, are nearing their capacity limits, and a better system must be developed to adequately manage our interconnected world. Future transportation must be "smart" in that it needs to be able to not only react quickly to the demands placed on it but also anticipate them.

Main Challenges

According to Frost & Sullivan, this new system should address four main challenges that are emerging from the current system:

  • Mitigating congestion and planning capacity
  • Empowering transportation system users
  • Ensuring safety and security
  • Eco-efficiency

Given the adverse impacts that result from an outmoded transportation system, planners and strategists in all segments of the transportation ecosystem are creating more intelligent systems as a means to mitigate these problems and increase the value the system can bring. In order to implement any transportation system, requirements for both the physical as well as digital infrastructure must be considered, Frost & Sullivan said.

In the smarter transportation ecosystem, the physical and digital networks are interconnected to enable rapid sharing of data, control access as appropriate and allow for feedback loops so the ecosystem constantly modifies its behavior. The deeper the network penetrates into the components of the smarter system, and the wider the scope of the interconnection between components, the better it can address the users' imperatives.

Key Turning Point

"The key turning point for when any transportation system becomes 'smart' is when digital infrastructure is overlaid to interconnect and 'fill in' the downfalls that the physical infrastructure cannot avoid," explained Cotton. "Today we are at a point where advancements in physical and digital infrastructure can work hand in hand, placing us in a prime position to develop smart, intelligent, and forward-thinking transportation solutions."

Cotton will be discussing the findings of the research in "Smarter Transportation for a Smarter Planet," a virtual event hosted by IBM, taking place October 7. Cotton will be presenting along with speakers from IBM, Intelligent Transportation Society of America, Transportation for America, Motorola, Total Resource Management, Regional Plan Association, and Zebra Technologies.

More information on the "Smarter Transportation" virtual event is available here.