The vision of a smart transport system for cities has so far given rise to many technologies, from driverless cars to automatic detection of incidents and traffic light-free transportation designs. The GHOST consortium is contributing with a solution of its own: geo-localised snapshots of ‘Points of interest’ (POI) reporting the likes of street lighting anomalies or road deterioration.
The idea behind GHOST (Galileo EnHancement as BoOster of the Smart CiTies) is simple yet incredibly effective. Instead of requiring heavy investment in new technologies, the consortium makes use of existing public transport solutions and connects them to a web portal by means of a camera equipped with a Galileo receiver. Once set up, the system takes pictures of predefined POIs, sends them to an image processing server that automatically detects anomalies, and reports these anomalies to relevant authorities by means of a web portal.
‘At this stage of the project, GHOST is designed mainly for reporting street lighting anomalies and road deteriorations, monitoring public garbage completion levels and detecting double parking infractions or disabled parking occupied by unauthorised vehicles,’ says Emiliano Spaltro, the Managing Partner of Alpha Consult — the company in charge of the project’s dissemination and communication activities. ‘In addition to that, other more advanced services have already been identified such as bus lane and CC (congestion charging) area violations. These are expected to be implemented in a second stage of solution development.’
Completed in December 2016, the GHOST project culminated with a ‘Test Readiness Meeting’ held in Belgrade. A live-demo session was held using a bus provided by one of the project partners. ‘All participants took a ride along the predefined route for about 20 minutes. Within this timeframe, they successfully witnessed eight points of interest covering different use cases,’ Srdjan Tadic, BITGEAR’s Vice President and GHOST Technical Coordinator, explains.
The system’s key selling point arises from the use of Galileo positioning, with a capability to perform the snapshots in total autonomy with an error range of 1 to 10 metres depending on POI size. In urban environments with increasingly high population densities, such a level of service could only be achieved thanks to the exploitation of E-GNSS technologies combined with inertial sensors through Kalman filters — an algorithm that uses a series of measurements observed over time instead of a single one to increase precision.
Another key part of the Belgrade test was the use of the smartphone application developed by the project consortium, through which they intend to appeal to citizens.
‘Thanks to this app — which is free of charge and already available on app markets — and on a voluntary basis, citizens can contribute by collecting geo-localised snapshots using their smartphones when they are detecting any anomalies on city infrastructures,’ Spaltro points out. ‘This engagement enhances the overall system and gives a key role to individuals.’
Project partners are currently working on the fine-tuning of a business plan to bring GHOST technology to the most promising markets. ‘Some key contacts have already been established and interested public administrations have been involved. Moreover, the consortium’s commercial network will be deeply leveraged to facilitate GHOST introduction in future contracts,’ Spaltro says.
In addition to public administrations and citizens, the consortium also targets the likes of garbage management companies or traffic police departments. In order to overcome potential regulatory issues such as national laws related to circulation or privacy, GHOST has carried out a risk assessment to list integration constraints and make sure that the novel system complies with existing European regulatory standards.
By taking advantage of fleet movements, GHOST proposes a competitive way to improve efficiency in city operation and infrastructure monitoring. Project partners are confident that the system will enable a faster detection of double parking event or road deterioration, thereby resulting in a reduction of potential traffic, accidents and pollution.
‘Thanks to our field tests and favourable results in the lab, we are already setting up the continuation of the GHOST project with the aim of taking the system to technology readiness level 9. The next step for us is to provide on-board image processing in real-time in order to allow the system to handle more dynamic scenarios such as bus lane infractions or congestion charging enforcement,’ Christoforos Kavadias, TELETEL Project Manager and GHOST Administrative Coordinator, concludes.