How PB Traffic Prevents Traffic Light Theft

Battery theft can be a lucrative business, so organizations with battery-powered equipment in quiet public places will need to find a way to protect it.

This was the problem PB Traffic of New Zealand was trying to solve. Since 2009, the company has been providing traffic management equipment, including portable traffic lights. Its clients include contractors involved in infrastructure projects such as the Puhoi Expressway in Warkworth NX2 and the reconstruction of Kaikoura SH1.

The company’s full name is Peter Berghaus New Zealand, and although it exclusively uses products from German Peter Berghaus – “a force to be known”, according to PB Traffic managing director Akshay Gupte – it is a completely separate and locally owned company that sells, services and rents traffic lights and related equipment.

PB Traffic has 110 sets of portable traffic lights which are primarily used in situations where road works mean that traffic can only flow in one direction at a time and human traffic controllers are not suitable. The pairs of traffic lights are linked by radio and are activated by the presence of vehicles.

The problem is that construction sites are rarely busy 24 hours a day, and even metropolitan sites can be very quiet during the wee hours of the morning. This makes the equipment a target for thieves looking for the batteries.

PB Traffic started by hardening the cases so that it was much harder to remove the batteries, but the result was that criminals started stealing complete units so they could access the batteries at their leisure. The change had made matters worse instead of better, as traffic light CPUs – the expensive parts – were stolen along with the batteries.

The company was losing around NZ$60,000 a year in equipment and associated costs, so something had to be done, not least because of the safety hazards resulting from inoperative or stolen traffic lights.

He considered installing GPS trackers powered by traffic light batteries, but instead adopted the self-powered asset tracking units provided by local technology service provider Pollin8, in part because they offered the ability to implement functions that go beyond theft detection.

“As well as being a lost asset, roads without functioning traffic lights create huge safety risks. heavy traffic jams that cause stress for drivers and pedestrians,” Gupte said.

“So we needed a tracking system to give us complete monitoring of our traffic light systems no matter where they are and the ability to understand if they are working as expected. With Pollin8’s IoT [internet of things] devices and software plus Thinxtra’s 0G network, we have a cost-effective and efficient solution that works beyond standard GPS tracking capabilities.

“Pollin8 had the answer to the PB Traffic problem, took the time to find the best solution, and they were absolutely fantastic,” he added, noting that the 0G network provides good coverage even in the most remote areas. more remote.

PB Traffic now works with police to track stolen traffic signals back to the address they were taken to, and that ability has helped recover property, Gupte said. As a result, the devices paid for themselves in about six months.

And it’s not just the final destination of the traffic lights that is of interest: the system reveals other places where they have stopped, information that can be useful to the police.

Gupte said “word is getting around” about the tracking capability, and none of the tracker-equipped traffic lights have been stolen in the past three years.

In addition to theft detection, the location of traffic lights has been linked to live traffic flow information, allowing PB Traffic to determine if the timing of cycles has been set appropriately. If traffic is growing on one side of the site but not the other, the former is clearly not getting an appropriate share.

“Staring at a red light can be frustrating – you don’t know if it’s working,” Gupte observed.

Knowing the traffic patterns in this way allows preventive actions to be taken, such as adjusting the priority more precisely according to abnormal flows such as heavy traffic at the end of a long weekend, or even the temporary reopening of the road, if necessary. possible.

At this stage, light schedules can only be adjusted on site – usually by the customer, but PB Traffic will come on site if requested.

“As a provider of traffic management solutions, PB Traffic has an incredible responsibility for the safety of everyone involved with its systems,” said Pollin8 CEO Nick Pickering.

“By taking the guesswork out of asset management with our IoT devices and nationwide connectivity from Thinxtra, the organization can focus on proactively managing theft and optimizing traffic flow, making roadworks safer with less impact on commuters,” he added.

Other new features are being explored, including providing road authorities with vehicle counts or measuring vehicle speeds, but these are for the future, Gupte said. And PB Traffic will likely offer remote management of temporary lights along the lane, although this is not possible today with the current arrangement which only provides one-way communication.

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