Researchers in Spain are taking a unique approach to intelligent transportation systems (ITS), having just completed a two-year trial of new audio-based technology to help gauge traffic levels and alleviate congestion.
The system, dubbed Ear-It, makes use of acoustic processing units (APUs) that use microphones and sound-interpreting algorithms to collect data on traffic volume, speed, vehicle-lane occupancy and parking availability; the APUs also account for other “sonic events” such as emergency sirens or gunshots. All data is carried back to the central processor, where it can then be digested and evaluated.
Testing of Ear-It was conducted over two years in the town of Santander, Spain, by Pedro Malo of the Portuguese UNINOVA Institute and Philippe Cousin of IT consulting firm EGlobalMark. According to the research team, an audio-based ITS could be preferable over more traditional systems based on Bluetooth and other more visually-based systems for two reasons: It is easier to install as no sensors need to be embedded in the road; and audio sensors will be able to pick up more data beyond simple traffic counts.
Malo and Cousin are expected to publish the full results of the trial in late November, noting that other cities are already expressing interest in the Ear-It technology.