Like many infrastructure providers today, Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) is continuously developing projects to increase the intelligence of their transportation systems. As part of its transition from analog to digital infrastructure, NDOT enlisted Las Vegas Electric to expand Nevada’s network of road messaging signs and fiber optic connectivity.
The catalyst for the overall transportation project was a lane reduction bottleneck on the new Hoover Dam bypass bridge. After receiving federal funding for its proposal to widen US93 to accommodate two lanes in each direction, NDOT was able to extend Las Vegas’ current fiber optics network, as well as add digital signs and surveillance cameras along the stretch of highway.
The initial proposal included installing digital signs to relay traffic information and motorist advisories; radar devices to collect drive time and usage information; video surveillance cameras to provide real-time traffic feeds to motorists and NDOT; solar panels to power the equipment; and new fiber optic lines to provide the communication link.
However, the stretch of US93 included in the widening project ran short of connecting to the existing fiber network ring located in the surrounding Las Vegas area. With the high cost and effort to run new fiber, NDOT was forced to look for an alternative communications technology to execute the widening plan. After close consideration, NDOT chose AirLink™ intelligent gateways from Sierra Wireless to provide proven and reliable wireless connectivity surrounding Hoover Dam.
SIERRA WIRELESS AIRLINK SOLUTION
Las Vegas Electric had previously worked with NDOT on a digital signage project that implemented AirLink intelligent gateways, and both companies were pleased with the reliable wireless connectivity the gateways provided. As a result, NDOT specifically called out the AirLink Raven X gateways on a list of approved products provided to Las Vegas Electric for this US93 widening project.
“NDOT chose the AirLink devices, which was a decision that made me very happy,” said Bill Edwards, project engineer at Las Vegas Electric. “I’ve been working with Sierra Wireless products for years and years, so I’m familiar
with the units and their reliability; they make my life a lot easier.”
When Edwards received the original plans for the US93 widening project, he realized the requirement for using solar energy to power communications equipment was beyond his own experience. Edwards enlisted USAT Corp., an M2M communications expert that specializes in improving the efficiency of wireless data acquisition and had the capabilities to design and build the solar power assemblies required to run the AirLink gateways and other equipment. According to Edwards, USAT Corp. provided the design from beginning-to-end for the solar portion of the US93 widening project, including scoping batteries, solar panel sizing, and charge controllers.
“Not only did USAT Corp. make the solar part work, but they were also integral in deploying the wireless aspect of the project by analyzing location, coverage, and bandwidth requirements needed to support the video surveillance cameras and radar equipment, as well as providing the AirLink devices,” said Edwards.
“USAT has been building solutions based on Sierra Wireless intelligent modems since the late 1990s,” added Lisa Blake, regional sales manager for USAT Corp. “Working on such an innovative project with Las Vegas Electric and Sierra Wireless has been a truly collaborative experience.”
AirLink intelligent gateways are powerful, wireless networking devices designed to leverage today’s 2G, 3G and 4G networks. With remote device management and easy-to-configure embedded software, data transfer is optimized, and overall operational costs reduced. The rugged, compact design and best-in-class session persistence make the devices reliable in even the harshest environments. Its high-speed Ethernet port makes the
Raven X ideal for a variety of enterprise applications, while the serial port and embedded machine protocols make it equally suited for industrial deployments. IPsec VPN provides security for the most sensitive data.
“AirLink devices are feature-rich and highly versatile, so they give us a lot of flexibility,” explained Edwards. He went on to describe the provisioning and configuration as “simple,” and relied on the built-in tools for creating a VPN
tunnel to accommodate multi-casting over broadband.
“I contacted Sierra Wireless’ technical support department while setting up the VPN, and these guys were super; some of the best tech support people I’ve ever worked with,” said Edwards. “They really cared about my problem
and stuck with it; the follow-up was there, and I was really impressed with the level of service.”
The total M2M solution implemented during the US93 widening project involved: radar devices; surveillance cameras; digital messaging signs; and AirLink intelligent gateways powered by solar panels with extended antennas to handle all communication between field assets and the traffic management center.
The US93 widening project was required to pass a series of tests before being officially accepted by NDOT, and Edwards anticipates the AirLink deployment will expand as funding becomes available.
“Especially here in Nevada, there has been a large number of wireless deployments since we have so many Intelligent Traffic System (ITS) locations in the middle of nowhere, making cellular the obvious technology choice.”
The addition of solar-powered digital messaging signs and traffic cameras on Hoover Dam access roads and the by-pass bridge brings an amazing amount of critical functionality to NDOT. Traffic data is captured and transmitted back to the management center where the information is both analyzed for improvement planning and provided to the public for route planning and congestion avoidance. Motorists can access real-time video of specific road locations and be alerted to accidents, travel times, weather conditions, and police advisories on dynamic messaging signs located along the highway.
“We continue to expand out from urban centers into more rural areas, getting further away from the current fiber ring and relying more and more on cellular to support our infrastructure,” said Edwards. “The AirLink products make broadband deployments much easier. I’ve been really happy with those devices over the years, with no complaints at all.”