5 questions to ask yourself about how your technology works for you
We all depend on technology to make our jobs easier and more efficient. But it can sometimes seem like that technology has been implemented in a piecemeal fashion, with no grand plan in place for how it should all work together. Interoperable technologies can make managing traffic easier, transit operations more efficient and emergency responses faster and safer.
Here we outline five questions that can help to clarify how you are currently using your technology, and how you can plan to make these systems work intelligently – together– for you over coming years.
1. What is your overarching technology focus?
What’s the overall purpose of the technology you are using? Are you aiming to connect vehicles to infrastructure, or to other vehicles? Do you need to work closely with other agencies or services? Every organization will have a multitude of reasons for utilizing technology, but there’s a benefit in being clear about technology priorities, and in knowing what is core to your operation, and what’s ancillary. This clarity – across the entire organization – will help guide future strategy and investment. There’s no point in being clear about technology focus in the IT department if that clarity is not also understood by other decision-making functions.
2. What other systems do you need to interact with? How often? To what degree of complexity?
If you do need elements of your technology to interact with other systems, either your own or with those of outside agencies, this should be spelled out clearly. What is the nature of those interactions? If they’re complex, or even if they’re relatively straightforward, they’re likely governed by one or more technology interoperability standards.
3. What standards are you using across your systems?
It may seem obvious, but it is worth developing a comprehensive document which includes information about which of those technology standards are being used by your current technology, and those which your current technology is capable of utilizing if required. Many of these standards have existed for many years, such as NEMA TS1 and TS2 – which have helped provide traffic engineers with interoperability in the traffic cabinet – and J1708 and CANbus, which have provided interoperability on vehicles. Standards like GPS and now GNSS provide unified geolocation functionality. Other prominent standards for technology communication include NTCIP, 4G/5G, and DSRC. NTCIP and 4G are currently in widespread use. NTCIP is the standard for smart communication with traffic-side infrastructure, and 4G is used to connect vehicles to other vehicles and to infrastructure. 5G is the evolution of 4G and will soon become more widely available. DSRC is a radio standard specifically for Connected Vehicles communication. Centrally documenting utilization and capabilities will help to ensure future investment is smart and informed.
4. Do you have a technology strategy in place and communicated across your organization?
There’s no guarantee that all the standards mentioned above will be in use in the future, but it seems likely many will co-exist or even complement one another for at least the next several years. A future technologies strategy should therefore take interoperability and flexibility into account, and this should also inform all technology investments at every level. But there’s no point in developing a future-facing strategy if it’s not clear to everyone who might be affected by it. Communicate that strategy clearly across your organization.
5. Do you have a technology champion?
For a technology to be truly successful, in the ideal scenario a long-term champion of that technology would remain at an agency to build and maintain relationships. The technology champion would promote strategic consistency and further understanding of the benefits of these background technologies across departments and agencies, and help ensure that the interoperability plan is implemented to safeguard against future inefficiencies and wastefulness.