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With a cloud-based network management platform and cellular routers, the Indiana Transportation Department can easily monitor its statewide network of internet-of-things devices.
The Indiana Transportation Department (INDOT) is using cellular routers and a cloud-based network management platform to securely and reliably connect thousands of internet-of-things devices, such as traffic signals, weigh-in-motion stations and weather information systems.
“My goal was to streamline the process from installation and setup all the way to final configurations and dumping the information into other databases and software,” Randy Myers, intelligent transportation systems director at INDOT, said of modernizing the network infrastructure in the past two years.
It used to take up to three weeks to configure hundreds of routers, which the state relies on to connect the IoT devices, including 80% of the 850 cameras that stream video. Using Cradlepoint routers, it now takes 30 to 60 seconds to set one up, he said.
That’s because Myers wrote an API to handle router configurations. When technicians need to set up a router, they log into a webpage using Active Directory, enter the MAC number assigned to each network-connected device and tell the system to find the information. From Cradlepoint’s NetCloud, it brings back the information. If INDOT staff need to make changes, they can do so, hit submit and see that the router is up and running.
INDOT has more than 23,000 end devices statewide and 3,500 routers in the field now, with plans to install another 1,000 to 1,500 in the next 12 to 18 months.
They provide information every 10 seconds, whereas the previous system pulled data only every minute. “It wasn’t very accurate,” Myers said. “In a minute timeframe, you can be a mile or two down the road. We have this displayed on a webpage where you can see where the person is … constantly.”
They also provide location information that has helped INDOT workers assist drivers in need of help on I-465. The state’s Hoosier Helper trucks grab GPS information every 30 seconds so managers know where they are. “Our dispatch people know exactly where [the trucks] are,” Myers said. “So if there are any incidents, they know which one is closest.”
The department uses a Zabbix monitoring tool to make sure the routers are working. If one doesn’t ping, the technicians know they need to get it back online.
In addition to using Active Directory for security, INDOT runs an AT&T cloud tunnel through NetCloud. “Essentially, we are using the internet to bring the data back, but it’s tunneled and encrypted, so it’s not really on the internet even though it’s going across the internet wire back into our site,” Myers said.
In terms of connectivity, the routers use 4G because the department isn’t using 5G, and the 250 miles of existing active fiber don’t reach rural locations where many of the cellular devices are situated, he said. Meanwhile, the state expects more IoT-enabled traffic signals in rural areas, and those will use routers. There are also plans to install more fiber or light up the 1,000-plus miles that are dark. When that fiber becomes available, Myers said he can send technicians out to change the router’s IP address and the Generic Routing Encapsulation protocol tunnel to pick it up.
“Right now, we have our own infrastructure as far as fiber optics,” he said. “Trying to transport [our data] all back up into the cloud for us would be a rather large expense, not only for storage in the cloud, but also for the actual throughput to get all the data through. So, we just bring it into a data center.”
INDOT installs cellular routers where there are traffic signals, dynamic message signs, traffic cameras, remote weather systems and weigh-in-motion stations that measure truck weights. The department is looking at rolling out radar detectors for vehicle counts, speeds and classifications on many types of roads and will add more routers for those, he said.
“I’ve got projects right now set up for like 40 [routers] going in for traffic signals on state highways that we don’t have any kind of connectivity to bring that data back, so we’re putting on [routers] that also allow us to bring back into traffic signal information,” Myers said. “I don’t know what I’d do without [routers] right now with all the devices we’ve got.”
Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in Northern Virginia.
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