The UTMC conference was held at Bristol this year and whilst I
have had flying visits in the past, the beauty of the city had not
truly captured my heart. Its old Victorian past is clear for all to
see with proud structures and prominent Gothic cathedral. It is
also good to see a city think about vehicles that are not just on
four wheels. Their city centre maps were very helpful in getting
around plus there were dedicated lanes for push bikes and
motorbikes can use bus lanes. If only all cities were like
The first thing that caught my eye (other than Bristol it's
self) was the recent development with the Highways Agency and UTMC.
With the HA actually putting money in to the business of UTMC I
foresee a stronger link between local and unitary and the trunk
road network. In the past the goal has sometimes been to get
traffic off of their roads and on to each others, often with
difficult consequences! What remains to be seen is how involved
they become. UTMC is partly about standards, but it is also partly
about a philosophy and a common purpose. Indeed I have even taken
to re-interpreting Urban Traffic to mean Unified Transport. Think
for a second about how one can get around. Walk, Bike, Motorbike,
Car, Van, Truck, Arctic, Bus, Coach, Light Rail and Heavy Rail. My
worry is that UTMC's already heavy bias on "Urban Traffic" will
just become "Traffic" and forget that our green and pleasant land
isn't very urban and there is more to transport than cars. Overall
I feel it is a positive move and will move UTMC forward in the next
few years in a way which hasn't happened since its inception over
10 years ago.
The final area I wanted to cover is the very exciting
development of Freeflow. Nick Knowles of Kizoom gave a great
presentation about the subject, but perhaps to the wrong audience!
The main thrust of Freeflow and his presentation is about opening
up UTMC to a wider technology audience. Whilst there may be "open
standards" and "open technologies" the current state of UTMC is far
from open. The non technical ones you might not know but UTMC
is primarily based on CORBA. CORBA was a little understood
protocol in the 70's and 80's and even less so now.
Freeflow allows data to be exchanged using XML, the internet's
language, which will open up the market to many more players.
Whilst you may think Cloud Amber and our competitors have a vested
interest in keeping UTMC closed I like to think I am different.
Anyone interested in how business based on intellectual property
can use different business models should read the excellent book by
Christopher G Pike called Virtual Monopoly (http://www.virtualmonopoly.net/).
I believe innovation is the key to success, not building barriers
in ivory towers. As a result this is an important step in UTMC's
history, it will allow further innovation, further integration and
hopefully and ultimately bring more business to the industry.
One question begs to be answered though, when will traffic
signal controllers be open?
I attended the UTMC technical workshop in Hammersmith this last
week to discuss the technical interface between a ANPR camera and a
UTMC system. I was joined by representatives from PIPs, CRS and CA
Systems and the meeting was hosted and chaired by Halcrow.
It was a positive session with everyone contributing their
experience and expertise. There are 2 key outputs from the session
I am particularly excited about. The first key output is raw
vehicle registration numbers (VRNs) and secondly the format is in
eXtensible Mark-up Language or XML. I offered my services to help
hone the ideas and concepts coming out from the meeting and honing
this in to a document / UML for wider circulation.
With these two innovations it will now be simpler and easier to
integrate ANPR in to our UTMC system in a unified and coherent
fashion. Guess what, dates are in ISO
8601 as well!