Smart Sensors to Pave the Way for Emergency Vehicles in Bangalore
Caught up in traffic snarls, Bangalore’s first responders race the devil to save lives. Here’s how Vigilante’s Emergency Vehicle Pre-emption system (EVP) stepped in to the rescue.

Summary:

Caught up in traffic snarls, Bangalore’s first responders race the devil to save lives. Here’s how Vigilante’s Emergency Vehicle Pre-emption system (EVP) stepped in to the rescue.

An ambulance stuck in traffic, wailing miserably, honking incessantly, careening in and out of traffic – is an all-too-familiar scene played out thousands of times in most traffic intersections across Bangalore.

Consider this: A research by Dr. Seymour Cole and Dr. Eliot Corday indicates that the chances of survival of a cardiac arrest patient reduces from 42 percent to 7 percent in just four minutes. And, it’s not just heart attacks that’s worrisome. Unattended, a fire doubles in intensity every 17 seconds.

Bursting at the seams with 1.5 million vehicles, growing at a rate of 7 to 10 percent annually, the city’s situation worsens each year.

But all that’s about to change – Vigilante Technologies, a Bangalore-based firm has developed an emergency vehicle pre-emption system that senses the location of emergency vehicles at traffic intersections and clears the path by turning the signal green.

The company has shortlisted 300 intersections to install traffic-sensing devices by the end of this year. This makes Bangalore the first Indian city to be equipped with a traffic pre-emption system.

What is Traffic Pre-emption?

Traffic pre-emption is a system that gives priority to emergency vehicles depending on the location, or the direction in which they are heading. The speed and various other parameters are gathered from sensors mounted on traffic signals. Upon detecting the presence of an emergency vehicle, the sensors trigger the signal to turn green.

This ensures that the emergency vehicles like ambulances or fire trucks are able to get a free passage through dense traffic intersections.

“Currently, traffic signals work on a regular priority for everyone – it doesn’t differentiate between regular and emergency vehicles. Any intervention required has to be manual or from the control center, and that is hardly there,” says Ahindra B. Ganesh, MD, Vigilante Technologies.

Ganesh says that traffic constables manning intersections have often reported that hearing a siren is not enough. Gaging the direction of approach, and distance from the signal too isn’t possible.

 

How does the technology work?

There is one sensory device installed at every intersection, and another embedded in the emergency vehicle.

Now, these two devices interact with each other. The device at the intersection could detect an emergency vehicle approaching from 800 meters up to one kilometer. Once detected, the signal doesn’t immediately turn green. Doing so would result in a chaotic situation.

“The algorithm is designed in such a way that it knows where the ambulance is heading, and the exact time of approach. Various parameters could be attributed to that: Speed, direction, latitude, and longitude. The pre-emption can be initiated at a particular distance from the junction,” explains Ganesh.

This makes the technology completely user provisional – it can either be run from a local traffic intersection, or remotely from a traffic control center.

So, what if there is more than one emergency vehicle at an intersection? The intersection device is capable of simultaneously handling up to 15,000 vehicles at one intersection. Provisions can either be made on a first-come-first-serve basis, or a higher priority can be assigned to ambulances, or to fire response services. All this can be controlled remotely from a traffic control center, depending on the incident reported. So, if there’s a fire incident, high priority can be given to fire response units.

Once the system is set up, the entire operation is automatic – with little or no human intervention. Also, there’s no third party involvement of cell phone network providers, or radio network providers. “Our system is a secure and dedicated private network. So, there’s no competition with any other bandwidths,” says Ganesh.

What is the technology based on?

The core of the system is GPS-based. But Vigilante adds its own proprietary algorithms to make sure that the GPS is as optimized as possible – making the system more efficient, compared to the commercial GPS available on cell phones.

The software is developed by Global Traffic Technologies, a US-based company with over 35 years of experience in dedicated, priority-controlled signaling equipment. These systems have already been installed in more than 2800 cities across the world. But Bangalore is going to be the first Indian city to implement this technology.

Why Bangalore?

“Bangalore is quite open to new technologies, and as a Bangalorean, I want to see this implemented in our city,” says Ganesh.

In November 2013, Vigilante did a pilot project for four months in the Sadashivnagar and MS Ramaiah junctions. This was done in coordination with the Bangalore traffic police, the Karnataka Fire and Emergency Response Services, and the Karnataka Health and Family Welfare Department (108 ambulances). The outcome was successful, and the company got the ‘go-ahead’ to implement the technology across Bangalore.

Vigilante isn’t done here. The company has many projects featuring smart technology in the pipeline: Smart traffic sensing technology, intelligent acoustic sensors, and more. With these technologies on the block, you can now be assured of timeliness of emergency services, rush hour or not.