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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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