Next Generation Networks for the World of Smart Transportation

Written by Richa Daga

A smart city is based on efficient and reliable infrastructure to achieve sustainable economic growth. But can a city be called smart if its roads have traffic congestion or roadways get blocked by landslides, or it witnesses frequent road accidents? These are just a few of the challenges faced by cities on their way to becoming smarter. The solution to meet the needs of the present and scale to the requirements of future transport applications lies in Intelligent Transportation. Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) use various technologies for collecting, analyzing, and managing data in real-time. The growing need to transport data instantaneously has caused increased network demands which require support from a robust communication network infrastructure backbone. This article highlights the next-generation networking technologies to build Smart Cities powered by Smart Transportation.

Benefits of Smart Transportation

Smart transportation has many important benefits:

  • Real-time traffic alerts and navigation data available in today’s automobiles prove valuable by providing information helpful to re-route paths due to road closures or natural disasters.
  • Vehicle identification systems and online payments allow commercial vehicle operators to travel without needing to stop at tolls.
  • Adjustable traffic signal timing at traffic intersections based on the behavior of vehicles and pedestrians allows the automobiles to stop or move dynamically depending on the current state of crossing and thus reduces congestion and travel time.
  • Infrared technology detects the presence of animals and alerts drivers, thus reducing crashes between vehicles and wildlife which can come on the road unaware in rural areas.
  • Network operators can inform authorities of accidents or natural hazards instantaneously so that immediate help can reach the affected person or area. State-of-the-art traffic management systems collect and distribute traveler information and help to dispatch emergency response teams at the affected location.

All the above-mentioned benefits need transfer and analysis of information from road-side video cameras, sensors, connected vehicle applications in real-time. But what makes the real-time flow of information so important? The fact sheet on road traffic injuries shared by World Health Organization mentions that approximately 1.3 million people die each year because of traffic accidents. Road injuries are becoming the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5-29 years old [1]. To mitigate the risk on roads, traffic engineers in remote operations centers need real-time access to data flowing from road-side devices and analyze this data to get a clear view of what’s happening on the road. Traffic operators and Intelligent Navigation Systems need to inform the motorists instantaneously about the hazards that lie ahead so that drivers can take immediate actions and remain safe.


Need to Handle Data Explosion and Congested Networks

As data collected from thousands of monitoring devices and sensors on the road increases exponentially, the network can get clogged. Operators face issues in interpreting the data and video images impacted by latency and jitter hampering the smooth functioning of the transportation system. A fiber-optic network with smooth always-on connectivity across streets to the highways is required to handle applications supported by an Intelligent transportation system.

Legacy SONET-based network infrastructures can no longer support the numerous data collection devices that simultaneously send data through an intelligent transportation system core network. This limitation gave rise to the need to upgrade fiber networks to a carrier-grade level which also supports migration from a legacy network.


Technologies Enabling Next Generation Networks

With initiatives such as autonomous vehicles becoming a reality, a move to a packet-optical communication platform becomes necessary to develop a resilient network.

Fiber optic networks with Ethernet Switching enable the development of a robust and scalable infrastructure. Leveraging Wavelength Division Multiplexing (WDM) technology to combine multiple wavelengths into a single optical fiber helps optimize fiber utilization, ensuring a high return on fiber investments. There are two types of WDM: Coarse WDM (CWDM) for short-range communications and Dense WDM (DWDM) for long-haul and metro transmission, with wavelengths packed tightly together. DWDM supports capacities of 100G/200G/400G per wavelength. Depending on the location and needs, operators can use either or both WDM technologies.

With cyber-attacks on the rise, networks must be prepared to handle cyber security issues. Encryption of In-transit data goes a long way in securing the network and guarding against attacks that can bring down the transportation system. Optical Transport Network (OTN) Encryption helps protect data from hackers who keep an eye to tap data from fiber optics. At the time of designing networks, choosing solutions supporting data encryption will help overcome losses caused by delayed decisions due to compromised networks.

Edge computing for autonomous vehicles helps to achieve reduced latency required for real-time decisions, much needed to avoid split-second delays which can lead to accidents. The closer decision-making is at the edge where data from road-side video cameras and sensors is collected, the faster and safer the experience of driverless cars is.



It is essential to plan the networks to enable technologies and applications supporting Intelligent Transportation Systems. The future of smart transportation requires a network that is highly reliable, available, and scalable. Packet-optical Solutions cost-effectively deliver both existing and emerging services across the network from the access to the backbone. They offer the capacity and Quality of Service (QoS) capabilities required to support high-bandwidth and low latency applications, becoming the go-to technology to design networks enabling smart transportation





  1. WHO - - last accessed on 28th October 2021.




This article was edited by Sara Paiva

To view all articles in this issue, please go to November 2021 eNewsletter. For a downloadable copy, please visit the IEEE Smart Cities Resource Center.

Richa Daga
Richa Daga has vast experience working in the telecom and optical networking domain as an embedded software engineer at Ciena. Before this, she worked at Cisco Research and Development offshore center and has developed cutting-edge products supporting data traffic up to terabits of speed. Her passion lies in technologies and chipsets that connect the world. She was the chairperson of the IEEE Women in Engineering group of her alma mater and is a core member of the she speaks bureau initiative, supporting the cause of Diversity and Inclusion. She is a global speaker at Internet of Things Community’s conferences and had shared her insights regarding 5G, IoT, Smart Grids, Edge Cloud, Submarine Networks, cybersecurity, and optical technologies in her past IoT Slam conference talks. She is also an author at Enterprise Viewpoint publication for their smart cities’ edition. She believes in investing and sharing knowledge via technical communities.

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