blank space

South Dakota Department of Transportation
Project Synopsis

Title: Use of Wireless Technology for Field Applications
Project Researcher: Bill Hymen, Applied Research Associates
Project Manager: Jon Becker
Research Period: 5/24/2005 - 6/30/2006
Cost: $39,997.00

Problem Statement:

The South Dakota Department of Transportation uses a vast array of electronic equipment and sensors in the field to help accomplish its mission:

  • Traffic monitoring equipment collects vehicle counts, weights, classifications and speeds;

  • Road Weather Information Systems (RWIS) measures weather and road conditions for forecasters and traveler information;

  • Dynamic Message Signs (DMS) display crucial information for travelers;

  • Winter maintenance equipment may soon collect information along their snow routes regarding road conditions, pavement temperatures, and the rate of application of deicing chemicals;

  • The Construction Management System (CMS) is used to enter and access information regarding construction projects. Presently users of CMS use phone lines provided at construction project labs, but due to the volume of data that needs to be transferred, users frequently wait until they get back to the office to upload data causing delays;

  • Pavement distress survey data is collected and stored in laptops for up to a week before being downloaded. A computer failure could result in the loss of important data;

  • Right-of-Way appraisal and acquisition documents must be transmitted to the central office in a timely manner.

  • All of this data must be transmitted to the States computer network so that it may be stored, analyzed and used. Currently, phone lines are used for nearly all of these applications, and monthly phone bills to the Department have been increasing. Not only are the operational costs quite large, but the cost of trenching and installing new phone lines are high. Fixed phone lines do not support portable DMSs, which are used for traffic control in work zones, at large events, and during incidents.

    This proposed research would determine what wireless technologies exist in South Dakota and investigate a number of them to replace costly phone line communications and establish reliable communications to locations previously inaccessible by fixed phone lines or cellular phone due to its limited coverage. Some examples of wireless technology now available are:

  • Spread spectrum radio, capable of transmitting over 30 miles and providing over 100kbps data rates;

  • Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM-IP) providing equipment direct access to Internet providers and allowing constant communications, but charging only for bursts of data;

  • 802.11, the standard for short range wireless networking;

  • The 150 MHz state radio system, which will provide 9600bps that may suffice in some circumstances, but not all;

  • Satellite communications.

  • Findings: The study's purpose was to investigate the wireless technology available in South Dakota and to determine which ones would serve the Departments data collection needs for traffic monitoring, Road Weather Information, Dynamic Message Signs, construction management, pavement distress surveys, and right-of-way appraisal. Currently, these field applications are served by telephone lines, but the number of field devices has been increasing, as well as the operational costs for phone lines. The research team performed a literature search to determine what technologies exist and what other states have been doing. While the research team identified and defined the available wireless technologies, the panel felt that the feasibility assessment was weak. Although the panel didn't select any of the researcher's recommendations for a pilot study, the researcher stopped short of making suggestions for overcoming obstacles that would prevent a pilot study. The draft final report stopped short of recommending specific communication technologies for field applications. The researcher remedied this to some extent in the revised final report. While none of the pilot project recommendations were accepted by the panel, the panel has identified two projects it would like to pursue. The local government agreements with SDDOT to perform traffic signal annual maintenance inspection may include updating inspection records using laptops equipped with cellular cards. Other uses of cellular technology may include transferring files from the road profiler van, and transferring construction contract and materials testing data.

    Research Objectives:
    1  To assess the feasibility of various communication technologies to support field equipment, data collection, and maintenance and construction activities.
    2  To perform pilot installations of communications to support data communications for SDDOT field activities.

    Research Tasks:
    1  Meet with the project's technical panel to review project scope and work plan.
    2  Assess communications needs through interviews with personnel from construction management, Right of Way, Inventory Management, Internal Services, Planning & Programs, Operations Support and the Bureau of Information and Telecommunications.
    3  Review literature relevant to other state DOT's efforts as well as those of Canadian provinces. The search should include a review of BIT standards and data needs for those offices listed in task 1.
    4  Assess the applicability of each technology to each of the user needs.
    5  Perform a cost/benefit analysis of available technologies in South Dakota indicating its impact on field computers and network hardware.
    6  Prepare a document that recommends communications technologies for each data need.
    7  Recommend equipment specifications and plans for a pilot installation in one SDDOT area, to be determined by the panel, that would address each data need. This document should include an evaluation plan, and be complete enough to be used in the prepa
    8  After completion of the pilot installation, performed under separate contract, evaluate the usefulness of the technology for the data application it addresses and measure data rates. The newly implemented technology should be evaluated for a minimum
    9  Prepare a final report and executive summary of the research methodology, findings, conclusions, and recommendations.
    10  Make an executive presentation to the SDDOT Research Review Board at the conclusion of the project.

    Documents Available:
    blank space