Traffic Lights Ease Congestion & Spur IoT, 102 Years Later

Traffic Signal IoT

Smart Cities Use Thinking Traffic Signals to Improve Their Communities

Today we celebrate a technology that 102 years ago changed cities forever — and that continues to open up immense new opportunities in the 21st century.

The world’s first electric traffic signal was installed on Aug. 5, 1914, in Cleveland, Ohio, according to At the time, the signal was supposed to alleviate the chaos of pedestrians, bicycles, horses and street cars sharing roadways. In 2016, it’s difficult to imagine how the world would function without those familiar red, green, and yellow lights.

The Cleveland Automobile Club was quite prescient when it stated, “This system is, perhaps, destined to revolutionize the handling of traffic in congested city streets and should be seriously considered by traffic committees for general adoption.” That said, no one could have predicted just how far the potential of traffic signals would expand.

Consider a few examples of ingenuity and innovation that are taking place today:

  • With remote cloud management, civic agencies can manage traffic signal operations, lane controls, school flasher systems, sensor-based detection devices, and field-mounted video cameras in real time. Look for San Antonio Transportation’s Cradlepoint success story in the coming weeks.
  • Companies are beginning to sync traffic flow information from traffic lights with your connected vehicle.
  • Video technology works with traffic signals to lengthen the duration of a pedestrian crossing period if a large group of people is detected, or even cancel the crossing period if a person tries to begin walking too early.
  • Connected cameras mounted on traffic light infrastructure can bolster traffic safety, catch traffic offenders, and aid law enforcement investigations.

With Americans spending roughly 4.2 billion hours stuck in traffic each year, cities are looking for every possible advantage in their efforts to simultaneously reduce traffic congestion and save money.

Thanks in part to something that happened more than a century ago, the potential for governments to further improve their cities is as robust as before — and won’t be slowing down anytime soon.

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