The Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s (TTI’s) invention known as AWAM — which stands for Anonymous Wireless Address Matching— is a perfect example of the old saying “success is the intersection of hard work and luck.” Though AWAM might never become a household word, for those in the transportation business, it’s quickly becoming the next breakthrough in traffic monitoring.
In 2010, the Texas A&M University System granted exclusive licensing rights for the TTI AWAM Intellectual Property (IP) to Post Oak Traffic Systems, Inc.., a Texas small business. Post Oak has partnered with other private companies that specialize in manufacturing traffic detection equipment to market products through sub-licensing agreements. The host system software is an integral part of the IP package being marketed by Post Oak Traffic Systems.
AWAM is a traffic data-collection technology that reads unique addresses from anonymous wireless devices (such as Bluetooth®enabled devices) from vehicles and measures the travel time between two points along freeways and arterials in rural and urban environments. It’s the building block of real-time traveler information that’s needed by traffic management systems, like Houston’s TranStar, to better operate roadways.
The technology was developed as TTI researchers were working on a project with the city of Houston. “The city was investigating ways to monitor traffic on major arterials,” TTI Research Scientist Darryl Puckett explains. “They were considering AVI technology [used in tolling] and license-plate recognition. The deployment of these systems would likely have been cost prohibitive within public agency budgets, however. It provided the opportunity for our team of TTI researchers to develop something less expensive and non-proprietary, and it was during that process that the notion of Bluetooth was considered.”
Puckett and his team members developed the new system, and extensive research and field testing determined it to be accurate, dependable and more cost effective for monitoring traffic on city streets than other available technologies. They applied for a patent and kept exploring ways to use their discovery.
In 2009, AWAM devices were installed by TTI staff along I-45 between Houston and Dallas to assist in monitoring traffic during hurricane evacuations. Fifty of the devices have been installed on I-35 between Hillsboro and San Antonio to inform travelers of construction-related delays and provide for enhanced traffic management for nearly 1,000 directional miles of busy Texas Interstate roadways. Other Texas cities where AWAM has been installed include Beaumont, Sugarland, San Antonio, Dallas, The Woodlands, and College Station. Additionally, the installations in the Houston area include separate systems managed by the city of Houston and Harris County.
“Other U.S. states are installing AWAM devices with the TTI intellectual property,” Mike Vickich says. “But the world market is getting started and looks promising, with an existing system in Canada and opportunities being explored in other countries.”
As well as it’s going now, Vickich says, AWAM could go full throttle soon. “One of the biggest drivers of the potential success of AWAM is new federal regulations that will go into effect in the next two years that require agencies to monitor the performance of their roadway systems. Of course, we think AWAM will do that efficiently and cost effectively.”