Guys from Iteris and Brown Traffic (Michael Wieck, Mark Fayta, & Tony Juettner) stopped by my office a few weeks ago to show me their new traffic counting product – Abacus. I sent Michael a video clip from my Miovision recording system to see if the Abacus could do an automated turning movement count. They tested it and said the video camera had too much motion, but they hope to revise their system within a couple of months to handle “wiggly” video. Right now they need a fixed camera. A third player could be Aldis Corp who claims to be able to do turning movement counts with their camera system, but they won’t return my inquiries.
I like the Miovision system, but the economics don’t work very well for me here in Minnesota. They charge per hour of video being processed. I am not a big user, so they charge me about $25/hour. $25/hour doesn’t compete well with me sending out people if I am being hired for a few hour count. It is also a stiff price if I want to do a 48-hour turning movement count (which I think the traffic engineering industry needs to gravitate towards).
Iteris is trying to develop a more traditional traffic counting model (like Jamar, Peek, etc.) where you buy the hardware and software up front. Then you own the system and can charge what you want for whatever duration count you want.
Iteris could be real competition for Miovision if the Abacus can process video from a temporary, non-fixed video camera. Michael told me the Abacus can process four intersections at a time (post processing in the shop) and they have a $30,000 price point for the system (this doesn’t include the video camera system you’ll have to put out in the field). At Miovision’s $25/hour price, the Abacus would save me money after I process 1200 hours of turning movements. Not bad.
Neither the Miovision system nor Abacus are silver bullets for me in this down economy (all things being equal I’d rather pay my people who have been with me 5+ years instead of a computer in a different country), but I believe doing turning movment counts by hand will be largely replaced by computerized systems within a few years. The business case will eventually force me to use technology over manual labor.
2021 Update: A lot has changed in the decade since I wrote this post! Check out SpackSolutions.com for the affordable camera/processing systems I developed for term traffic data collection.