The first step of any major public works projects, especially highways, is the collection and analysis of data. How this information is gathered and analyzed are hot topics and there are a wide variety of tools that highway planners have at their disposal to collect the information they need. Another issue arises when the question of how all of this data will be stored comes into play.
The collection of data for the purpose of highway planning can draw information from a huge number of sources and can incorporate unexpected information in interesting ways. One of the first things that needs to be considered is the population of the area as well as socio-economic factors such as how many people in the area actually own vehicles. This information is generally widely available from census data and can be easily accessed by highway planners.
The next thing they need to consider is the physical layout of the area they are designing the highway for. Things like how many miles a day the average person drives and how long the average drive takes are important factors to consider. The layout of the area in regards to where people live and where they have to travel for work or leisure is also important. Many of the tools for the collection of this data are still on the horizon, but things like traffic cameras, GPS, and traffic sensors do exist, allowing highway planners to peer into people’s daily travel habits.
The storage capacity needed to record the information from arrays of sensors and GPS data is tremendous. In the past an on-site database made up of physical drives would have been sufficient, but in recent years the amount of data being collected has skyrocketed, necessitating a transition to a more reliable and large-scale storage solution. The solution to the problem of storing, and analyzing, big data seems to be in the cloud. Cloud storage allows traffic agencies and highway planners to store their data off-site on massive servers.
These servers also have tremendous number crunching capabilities, meaning the department doesn’t have to build their own supercomputer just to analyze their data. Selecting the right cloud storage and computation solutions is incredibly important for highway planners, but good cloud solutions also feature substantially greater security than an onsite solution would. In the digital age, cyber-security is of pivotal importance and high-security standards can often be make or break when a department is selecting a cloud provider.