Stay Ahead of the Line

If you’ve ever watched Olympic swimming on television, you’ve probably seen the moving line superimposed on your TV, indicating world-record pace. Stay ahead of that line for glory. Fall behind and risk obscurity. In 2017, that’s exactly where we are in traffic management and transportation.

Our industry is evolving faster than it has in the 60-years since President Eisenhower oversaw the creation of the interstate highway system. The population in the United States then was 169 million people. Today the population is approaching 330 million, each person with a need and a hunger to be mobile. But that hunger doesn’t translate to an appetite to build roads. Even if there was a political will, there’s just no room in many places.

The answer is technology.

Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) are more than a quarter century old but the pace of innovation and deployment has accelerated dramatically over the last few years. Traditional ITS players are being joined by technology startups who see opportunity to integrate their ideas and products into transportation’s future. It’s no surprise that Uber, Tesla and even Amazon are moving into this space. These are companies that embrace evolution – even revolution and disruption. They’re hungry and they don’t play by traditional rules.

Frankly, it would be easy to follow the path to the future, but I believe we have to be better than that. At GRIDSMART, we’re working hard and smart. We would rather help design the future than watch it evolve in spite of us. Society is years, not decades away from the Internet of Everything (IOE), a world in which integrated technology will build efficiencies and conveniences while working to manage most aspects of our daily lives. That’s why our GRIDSMART traffic management products are interoperable, connected and completely updateable to address changing needs. For example, earlier this year, we launched STREETSMART. It’s a tiny device with software developed by Acyclica that uses a vehicle’s own Wi-Fi signals to measure speed, direction and origin destination. We believe STREETSMART will quickly become a critical tool to lessen congestion and with its data-archiving system, help steer communities to improve traffic patterns and eliminate gridlock.

But we’re not just doing things for ourselves. We’re trying to help lift the entire industry.

This November 13-16, for example, under the banner of “It’s time we had the talk,” we’ll convene INTERSECT17, expanding on previous INTERSECT gatherings and opening the discussion to industry and government leaders, even to our direct competitors. I attend a lot of transportation, traffic and technology conferences and many of them have the same ideas, contentions and discussions that get repeated like mantras. At INTERSECT17, we plan to drive the discussion forward looking at the present, the transition and our arrival to the future. We’ll take on the tough issues and try to draw a clear picture of how we can all get from here to there.

As many of you know, our guiding pillars at GRIDSMART are, “Simple. Flexible. Transparent.” As we evolve, we’ll continue to apply those principles to everything we do, simply because they work. Like the Olympic swimmer whose path to success is a simple, repeatable stroke, flexible enough to evolve and transparent without gimmicks or tricks, we’ll constantly work to stay ahead of the line on the TV Screen. Unlike the swimmer, we’ll bring as many with us as we can.

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GRIDSMART was born into eternal and unchangeable Principles: Simple. Flexible. Transparent. GRIDSMART starts every day advancing these Principles in all parts of our business on the road to our vision of Improving One Billion Lives Through Technology. So now, as we proudly roll-out our new STREETSMART, please know that this is a product built and supported entirely in the GRIDSMART Way.

We love our partners at Acyclica, who innovated and commercialized the powerful engine, but to be GRIDSMART, the STREETSMART product had more than a few additional hurdles to clear. STREETSMART hardware is 100% GRIDSMART, designed with the toughness and grit of its big brother GS2. Built from the ground up in collaboration with a prominent design firm, STREETSMART not only has rock-solid components and guts like GS2, he even looks a bit like his older brother.

STREETSMART comes with a Simple and Flexible GRIDSMART user interface (UI). We promise to keep making the UI easier every day, just like GS2. Of course, the heart of STREETSMART is the pioneering Acyclica engine. Same thoroughbred, just gets draped and quality tested the GRIDSMART Way with the kind of UI you expect from GRIDSMART.

Need support?  That is also 100% delivered in the GRIDSMART Way.

And of course, STREETSMART will get better and better because the GRIDSMART Way is to never quit innovating, never quit pushing the limits of Simple. Flexible. Transparent. The GRIDSMART Way is investment in our customers through continuous improvement. It is truly quality over quantity on our line card. We invest in you. I personally promise this. You have my word, GRIDSMART never quits on Simple. Flexible. Transparent.

If you even have a slight suspicion we are falling on our Principles, email and it will show up unfiltered and transparent on my desktop and the desktop of the entire Executive Committee. You will have our attention; that is a rock-solid pledge.

So, give STREETSMART a ride. The hardware is solid. It is Flexible to use with or without GS2. The UI is your friend. The UI is Simple to navigate. And of course, the pricing is Transparent. It is one price all included. No TBD fees or worse yet, none of those infamous user credits or tokens. What you see is what you get. Just a solid product built to help you do what you do so well every day.

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Mismatched Bookends? Not So Fast

At INTERSECT16, I defined what the GRIDSMART Man is when we recognized Tim Smith with J.O. Herbert Co., Inc. as the Ultimate GRIDSMART Man for 2016.

The GRIDSMART Man is not always a bloke, the GRIDSMART Man might be a doyenne, because the essence of the GRIDSMART Man is a conviction, a principle, a strong belief in doing things right and fair. The GRIDSMART Man wears a solemn gaze as he tackles his work. An unfailing look of quiet confidence pronouncing competence never leaves his face. He carries an aura that does not need validation or approval from anybody, because he is in control and his air makes that clear. He understands technology, but only appreciates it when it actually does something of value.

The GRIDSMART Man works hard and independent. He values demanding responsibilities, but he appreciates the Simple, he pursues the Flexible, he knows the best means to get’er done. The GRIDSMART Man boldly punches his own trail, because he knows where to go and how to get there. Not a follower, but a leader by standard. He recognizes there is more than one way, so he demands the best way. He is as Transparent as the ocean is wide. What you see is really what you get. He is simply a good man with good values.

Our first GRIDSMART Man awards went to Amanda Brown and Tim Kinnon with Mr. Tim Smith being named the “Ultimate GRIDSMART Man.”

Today, I add Kori Lautner from Great Schools Partnership in Knoxville, TN to this illustrious society. Kori does unequivocally amazing things for a school at risk.  Kori works for Lonsdale Elementary, where 88% of the students are minorities. 78% of these children live in poverty (national average is an unacceptable 25%). Kori and her equally devoted peers do amazing things to serve these children who go through the day with indomitable spirit and huge smiles despite their situation. Kori makes a lot of these smiles happen.

So, Kori and Tim Smith as GRIDSMART Man mismatched bookends. Tim is a strong, powerful looking man, who can honestly scare you if you don’t know what a great, compassionate and intelligent man he is. Kori is petite with a perpetual smile. They were born in generations separated by some classic rock in the middle.

On the exterior they look a lot different. But real GRIDSMART Men know that a cover does not define a book. These mismatched bookends both aggressively defend their customers (Lonsdale Families and Virginia DOT’s). Neither Tim nor Kori will ever let their customers get a bad deal or have a bad day if they can help it. They go to whatever measures necessary to protect customers, even if protecting the customers might hurt them. Both Kori and Tim never say “it is good enough.” They always work hard and steady to make it better and better and better.

We say the GRIDSMART Man “boldly punches his own trail, because he knows where to go and how to get there.” That describes our supposedly mismatched bookends. Tim and Kori understand what needs to happen in their worlds and they will get you there and do it the right way and with integrity. The GRIDSMART Man is transparent. There is nothing phony or superficial about either of these bookends. They are honest about what they are doing, about what they want and about how they take care of business.  They are also honestly good people. They never seek the spotlight, both are humble and get their satisfaction from a job very well done.

At GRIDSMART, one of our core principles is “always do what is right.” Tim and Kori are part of our inspiration for that. Doing right seeks the same and GRIDSMART is drawn to these two.

So, an NFL Linebacker looking dude and a high school Homecoming Queen looking Doyenne on the outside, GRIDSMART Men on the inside. Not so different after all. Bookends with a lot of Principles in between. At GRIDSMART, we believe that Principles make all the difference in the world. In the end, Principles is what we all bank on. Thank You Tim and Kori for being GRIDSMART Men. We salute you and we appreciate you both more than you will ever know.

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What is at the Heart of a Smart City?

Some say connectivity is the heart of a Smart City; others say government and many point to technology as the heart of a Smart City. The very wise say that citizens are the heart of a Smart City. I agree with the latter, but if I think about the first thing a Smart City would break down without, I turn to Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). Don’t get me wrong-without power there will be chaos and without IoT, the circular economy of a Smart City becomes a linear economy almost instantly. Nevertheless, without the safe movement of people, goods and services, all the above gets outright dangerous quickly.

First, let’s define what a Smart City will encompass. The Smart Cities Council “envisions a world where digital technology and intelligent design have been harnessed to create smart, sustainable cities with high-quality living and high-quality jobs.” The Smart City concept consists of three concepts including:

  • Livability to provide clean, healthy living conditions without pollution and congestion;
  • Workability allows cities to provide the enabling infrastructure — energy, connectivity, computing, essential services — to compete globally for high-quality jobs;
  • and Sustainability provides services without stealing from future generations.

Overall, building a Smart City aims to provide seamless connectivity, improved systems delivery, and a better, more equitable quality of life for citizens. This is why the Smart City Pavilion at the ITS World Congress in Montreal is so intriguing to me. The Smart Cities Pavilion will be the epicenter of the ITS World Congress in Montréal and showcase how cities across the globe are using technology to create their vision of next generation integrated mobility solutions in urban settings.

The Smart City Pavilion will focus on how Intelligent Transportation is the heart of Smart Cities’ critical infrastructure, including traffic management, roadways, rail, parking, bike share, transit, car share, traveler information, connected and autonomous vehicles and integrated mobility.

You see, Intelligent Transportation is what makes a difference in the daily life of commuters by moving them faster, smarter and more efficiently. It is also how we reduce traffic fatalities for drivers, bikers and pedestrians. Intelligent Transportation also provides the framework for freight to move vital food and supplies, which are essential for the world’s citizens. Intelligent Transportation keeps us all moving daily, without realizing it’s taking place.

The Smart City Pavilion at the ITS World Congress in Montreal will be a real life demonstration of successful ITS deployments that work together to deploy Smart Cities. It offers us the chance to see Smart Cities united by common ITS threads sharing what they are doing. Smart Cities from multiple continents will present and display and allow attendees to better understand the challenges, opportunities and technologies that interplay in a Smart City. The Smart City Pavilion will also introduce sponsors and vendors outside of the traditional ITS players that also contribute to this world. Every man and his dog has a Smart City show these days, but how many have a show with the common thread of arguably the most indispensable piece of the puzzle?

ITS World Congress in Montreal is October 29 to November 2, 2017. Register here to attend the event or better yet, learn about joining us as a Smart City Pavilion Sponsor here.

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The Value of Perpetual Data

So, it is football season and I got to thinking about something…….

A long, long time ago when I was a lad in South Detroit, we use to watch radio (the talkie).  We accepted that the Big Ten was not allowed to play in any bowl game except the Rose Bowl. Then change happened. My beloved Wolverines lost to that “Ohio” school, who then earned going to the Rose Bowl because they kicked our butt and WON the rivalry game.

Blue was headed to the Orange Bowl for the first time. That was good, but the reaction of some of my fellow fans was not. “It is ok we lost, it is great to get to go to Florida and play someone besides the Pac 10”. Bull-Crap on a Ritz! The Orange Bowl is great, but nothing like beating Ohio if you live 42.2 N by 83.7 W.

Today it feels like the same sad fan argument gets used for traffic data collection. A day or two of data is nice because……. Just like Michigan going to the Orange Bowl, it is nice, but it is not the Rose Bowl. A day or two of data is nothing like perpetual knowledge. No exception, end of story.

You can simulate and extrapolate, but the problem is that if you do that for too long, it starts to feel like the real thing and it most certainly is not. Perpetual data has more value.

Let’s look at practical application. About a month ago, a company who installed GRIDSMART a while back and paid one price,  looked at 900 days of minute by minute data. Turns out that on about day 730, someone changed a protected left turn to a permissive left turn.  Within 72 hours, 4,000 more vehicles (+12%) went through that intersection daily. Folks at that intersection got through faster, and 4 other intersections had a lessor load because of it. The City has actionable intelligence about what works and what does not.

Everyone won. Because GRIDSMART permits you to record video (and lets you see it now or whenever through a built in DVR without waiting or paying more), we know that there were zero T-Bones from turning on left during a permissive for the first 50 or so days and counting after the change.

So, one can record millions of hours of traffic around the world 2 days at a time and make you pay for it with a token credit system. “3 tokens for an hour of counts if you live here, but five tokens if you live there.”  (BTW – how much does a token cost?  That varies as well???). Or, one can actuate an intersection, or monitor a corridor while collecting data in perpetuity for a simple straight forward cost that is the same around the country. A price that is lot more cost effective. Then, you can pull that data any time you want with a point and a click or even have it emailed to you.

Because sometimes I might not get lucky enough to have my temporary cameras up on the day before, during and after the change was made to the timing or environment that made everything different. How many tokens for peace of mind?

Just like the 10 year old boy telling his friends that losing the football did stink, even if there was a consolation prize, I tell you today that perpetually updated, single priced data is the grand prize. Small windows in time counted by someone, somewhere else in the world is a consolation prize and the consolation prize is better than a sharp stick in the eye. Still, ask the question, consider the value of your data and then ask if you want to rationalize or get the grand prize?

That’s All I Know.

Be Well and Be Happy,

Bill Malkes Signature







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