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Region to pay Kitchener tech firm $2.7M for intelligent traffic signals

The Miovision tech will help improve traffic flow, cyclist and pedestrian safety
Traffic light. Photo/ iStock

"Fundamentally, it's about making safer, more efficient streets, and using data to do it."

A Kitchener-based tech firm is getting the multi-milliondollar nod to help improve traffic in Waterloo Region.

Regional Council voted unanimously Wednesday morning to approve the funding of almost $2.7 million plus applicable taxes, which will go towards purchasing 240 traffic signals from the company.

"I always describe what we do as almost like the 'smartphone of the intersection,'" said Kurtis McBride, CEO of Miovision. "That's to say, you know, some people use smartphones to make phone calls, some people use them as flashlights or calculators, or to watch Netflix. The point is, the device can do lots of different things."

Those different things include improving traffic flow, LRT safety, pedestrian or cyclist safety, and more.

"One of the things we're really excited about is if you can imagine almost a 'heat map' of the city, like 'where are there lots of cyclists now, and does that actually correlate to where the bike lanes are?'"

McBride wasn't the only one excited, as Regional Councillors each voiced their support for the tech, which has already had a small trial run here in Waterloo Region.

"I am fully supportive of this technology and I'm quite sure that, once citizens catch onto it in the future, if we're using it, that everybody will want it on their particular street to show some of the issues that they often bring to council, said Cambridge Mayor Kathryn McGarry.

The technology uses cameras and artificial intelligence to scan a traffic scene and find patterns, which can eventually be used to improve that area depending on what staff need.

"Optimized traffic flow has different meanings for different parts of the city, for different constituents of a city. Some of it might be about creating safer use of the roads for cyclists, whereas for some people it might be about optimizing a commuter route home, and getting everybody through the network faster," McBride explained. "What we try to do is provide tools that allow people to optimize for different policy outcomes, and we don't set the policy outcome, obviously, but we'll work closely with staff to figure out, you know, 'Given that you have this policy in the downtown, which is different than this policy along the commuter corridor, here's the types of metrics you could deploy in each of these different areas."

Waterloo Region certainly won't be the first to adopt the wide use of intelligent traffic systems. Miovision's biggest deployment so far is south of the border.

"This particular system is deployed across North America in roughly 200 municipalities in various stages of rollout," said McBride. "The largest rollout would be in the city of Detroit, where we have over 500 intersections deployed, or roughly 75 per cent of all the intersections in Detroit."

All of those different deployments also share and pool their data, meaning lessons learned from across the continent can be applied to Waterloo Region if needed.

McBride also noted that having one of their biggest rollouts in their hometown will be a great factor for future sales pitches, and will help to put Miovision on the worldwide map.

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