By Mike Spack, PE, PTOE
Among our core objectives at CountingCars is to be at the forefront of traffic data collection technology to provide our customers with products that are as innovative as they are reliable. With this in mind, we recently teamed up with the folks at Tomorrow Lab to bring you the revolutionary video traffic recording system,
Establishing a Partnership
When we set out to identify a partner to help design and build the new COUNTcam 2, we knew we had to do our due diligence and not cut corners as we vetted the many talented design and manufacturing providers. We looked for a partner that could take the product ideas from our traffic engineers and customers, and create a product that was accurate and durable as well as cutting-edge.
What initially drew us to Tomorrow Lab is that they are not a huge firm pumping out hundreds of products per year. Instead, they’re an innovation studio that dedicates its talent to just 8 – 10 projects over the course of a year. We were further impressed by their three-phase product development process, which includes – as they call it – “obsessive prototyping.” With a dedication to innovation and attention to detail like this, we knew we’d be in good hands with Tomorrow Lab.
Feedback from CountingCars’ customers and our use of recording thousands of hours of video per year, led us to redesign the COUNTcam. Our existing COUNTcam models were good, but we knew they could be better. Even though we are the leader in providing video cameras for traffic data collection, we don’t want to rest on our past success. We want to remove all of the pain points of video traffic counting so our customers can be even more effective. Thus, COUNTcam 2 was born.
CountingCars issued a five-point challenge to Tomorrow Lab for the new video recording system. The new COUNTcam needed to be:
- Lightweight with a slim profile to make it portable
- Easy to set up in the field
- Durable and weather resistant
The result: the COUNTcam 2 is the smallest, most inconspicuous, most affordable, and quickest to deploy traffic video recorder on the market.
What sets the COUNTcam 2 apart is what’s inside of the sleek, durable design. COUNTcam 2 boasts wireless connectivity that allows users to view the video during set up using a mobile app. No need to tether the unit to a monitor, just use a smart phone or tablet with an app to connect to the camera, so you see the camera’s view of the intersection and start recording. The system can record approximately 50 hours of continuous video, which can then be retrieved from the device using a USB cable and a computer. Then use a PC-based video processing software/counting board, such as the COUNTpad and COUNTpro system, to complete the turning movement counts from the video.
The COUNTcam 2 design needed to overcome several challenges to meet our expectations.
- It had to be small enough to be easily transported and installed.
- It had to be pole-mountable using a system that would allow for maximum angle adjustments to ensure you can capture the exact view you need.
- It needed a high-capacity SD card and rechargeable battery.
- It needed great video quality.
- It needed wi-fi connectivity with app based viewing and control.
Tomorrow Lab addressed the issue of video quality early-on in the process by working with a sports camera supplier to identify a high-quality, yet compact camera with a ¼ color HD CMOS sensor with a 170-degree wide angle lens.
Having identified the right camera, it came time to design the enclosure that would house the camera and the system components. Handmade 1:1 scale mock-ups were used to explore options for the look of the housing and the camera tilt function.
Tomorrow Lab developed sketch alternatives for both the internal and external architecture. Internal architecture sketches explored the weatherproofing and assembly. We wanted something that wouldn’t draw attention but would look like part of the city infrastructure if someone did happen to notice it. And of course, it had to be durable.
Our customers told us they want the COUNTcam to be easier to aim. Tomorrow Lab developed a push-button mechanism to adjust and lock-in the vertical angle of the COUNTcam easily.
Our final step included the design of an external, battery booster pack to use in conjunction with COUNTcam 2’s already powerful battery. The addition of the booster pack provides over 200% more recording time, allowing you to extend the recording time from 50 hours to approximately 150 hours. Compared to our previous COUNTcam versions, this gives you flexibility in buying plug-and-play booster packs to extend the recording time vs. being locked into fixed recording limit. Plus the booster packs can be hot swapped or linked together to provide great flexibility with using the COUNTcam 2’s in the field.
Our traffic engineering team is already using and loving the COUNTcam 2 – recently at a large music festival, where we set up 20 COUNTcam 2’s to record traffic movements for a week.
As with all of our products, we believe in delivering a quality product that meets ours and our customers’ demanding standards.