Skip to main content

Integrated system for queue monitoring and speed automatic modulation in ropeways.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BLUE SNOW (Integrated system for queue monitoring and speed automatic modulation in ropeways.)

Reporting period: 2016-09-01 to 2017-02-28

This project is about mobility resources and its optimisation using the knowledge of their real-time demand, with the aim of saving electric energy in ropeways and fuel in unnecessary trips around fulfilled parking lots.
In ski lifts and ropeways in general attendance uses to be very irregular, with occasional rush hours but with most of time with low or null number of people boarding on them. Nevertheless, the engine of those facilities keeps turning at the same speed with a significant energetic cost regardless the service demand. Moreover, in ski resorts, some ski lifts can be crowded while other can be empty. In that context, knowledge of Queue Waiting Time (QWT) can be used to:
• Be published throughout different means –web page, app, local display…- to inform users.
• Modify the speed of the ropeway within an accepted margin (patent pending).
From publishing Waiting Time Information (WTI) to users, more rational distribution of the demand is achieved. While reducing speed when there are no queues or speeding the system up in the rush hour means a total balance of significant energy savings, in other words, an Energy Optimisation (EO). In other words, the system is aligned with the company mission of providing tools to the society to make more sustainable their activities by reducing the energy consumption.
Knowledge of the QWT is obtained by means of video analytics from existing or new cameras. These cameras can be also thermal in the case of privacy-respectful demanding environments or when fog and snow are usual.
That solution can be applied to cable transit systems like:
• Chair Lifts and Gondola Systems in Ski Resorts
• Tourist Cable Cars
• Urban Cable Transit
Moreover, wherever queues are formed, like security check points at airports, museums, certain public events, etc., QWT information is valuable for the users so that they can plan better their time.
On the other hand, the same technology behind the video analytics system used to determine the WTI in human queues can be used to determine the occupation in outdoor parking lots, where no barriers or other possible control access exists. Also in that case, publicizing the obtained information to drivers can help avoiding unnecessary rides searching for an available parking.

Conclusions of the action:

1. The product is technically viable as it is currently, after some changes already implemented.
2. Economic viability of the product is now even clearer, after a deep review of the commercialization policy with respect what was initially considered.

Regarding technical viability, the action showed the possibility to use cheaper elements to reduce the initial estimated price.
Regarding economic viability, the prospection works revealed the necessity to:
1. Widen the initially planned market to those similar applications where the same technology can be applied.
2. Offer the product as a service.
3. Offer the Energy Optimisation module to a cost conditioned to the savings it provides.
Despite moving the economic estimations to a much more prudent scenario, the business keeps profitability higher than 400% at the end of the fifth year.
A total 1M€ investment is envisaged as a balanced trade-off between profitability and risk. Own funds could cover a 20% of it, while search of other funding options, without excluding a priori investors, has started to cover the rest.
During last six months several core improvements and validations have been made to consolidate the algorithms of Queue Waiting Time (QWT) determination applied to the running pilot in the Pyrenees. The obtained accuracy reaches 92% in a 4 minutes period, which can be considered more than satisfactory. In terms of people counting, a complementary calculation to determine QWT, accuracy is now 95%. Moreover, the new algorithms have proven to be more easily reallocable to assess different queue scenes and working with different types of images, not only thermal but also from depth, IR or existing CCTV cameras. Tests have showed it is possible to use cheaper cameras without losing accuracy.

Regarding HW of WTI module, an important endeavour has been made to compact everything in a small box which we have named “Image Analyser”.

Regarding EO module, the following working plan has been followed:
1. Specifications statement, including the four reference speeds of the ropeway to be respected:
a. Safety
b. Minimum commercially bearable
c. Nominal
d. Maximum technically accepted
2. Design and implementation of the converter module “Information to control signal”.
3. Test of the whole system was made on a test-bench composed by:
a. Real Programmable Logic Controller (PLC)
b. A Proportional / Integral (PI) regulator
surveying and verifying that speed was correctly and proportionally regulated along the four above mentioned reference speeds.

We consider technical results of this phase more than positive since they have opened the possibility to deploy the system in most of places and situations, profiting existing cameras and even without permanent electrical power availabilities.
A part of the product, the Energy Optimisation module, with which speed in ropeways is decreased to save energy, involves somehow the users since they have to accept a certain increase of the time needed to be transported to reach that objective. On the other hand, sharing with them information on how much energy is saved thanks to the system and their collaboration, explaining how a ski resort, a tourist ropeway or a urban cable car are more sustainable is also a challenge going beyond the strictly technical and financial issues that have been addressed during this work. Altogether gives to the project a certain pedagogic character in terms of sustainability.