Traffic Cameras Doubling Every Two-and-a-Half Years

The number of online traffic cameras used to monitor traffic flow on our roads is doubling every two-and-a-half years, according to year over year tracking since 2005 performed by Vizzion, Inc., supplier of the world’s largest traffic camera database. This is a double-edged sword for any product developers looking to give their traffic data or reporting a boost; while markets and applications grow exponentially, so too do the challenges of working with such constantly changing data.


Year over year exponential traffic camera growth, as measured by Vizzion, Inc.

Traffic cameras first appeared on the still-new World Wide Web in the late nineties; a 1997 CUTR study on traffic camera resources for the Florida Department of Transportation reveals just seven cities in North America offering traffic camera images online at the time: Atlanta, Boston, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Seattle, Montgomery, and San Antonio. Seattle was the first to offer traffic cameras online, going live with 45 cameras in October 1996. Seattle’s cameras were a smash hit on the WSDOT site, earning high praise from customers as well as a ‘best of the web’ award. Early online traffic cameras websites found plenty of public support, some receiving over 10 million hits annually – impressive numbers when you consider that fewer than 10% of Americans had internet connections at the time. See our previous article on the public demand for traffic cameras.


A grainy Seattle-area traffic camera, newly available online, circa 1997.

When Vizzion brought to market the first traffic camera XML web service in 2005, it provided access to just 1,000 cameras, albeit already the largest collection of traffic cameras in the world. Fast forward to 2013 and Vizzion’s still-leading database of traffic cameras is an obvious gauge of how the technology has taken over – more than 1,000 cameras are now offered in London alone, for example. Seattle's original network of 45 cameras has grown 1,500% to over 700 cameras and yet it only ranks third for city with the most coverage behind Chicago's 850 traffic cameras and aforementioned London. At the statewide level, Florida is now neck and neck with Texas with approximately 1,600 traffic cameras each in Vizzion’s database – up from just 150 offline-only traffic cameras in Florida at the time of the CUTR study. As of today, Vizzion offers a total of 30,000 traffic cameras worldwide.


Vizzion’s worldwide traffic camera coverage in over 500 cities across 23 countries.

"Online traffic cameras, like most technologies, follows exponential growth patterns,” says Vizzion president Chris Cooper. This growth is actually a key to Vizzion’s business, says Cooper, “Agencies are constantly expanding, moving, and altering their traffic camera coverage, and it’s almost impossible for application developers to keep up. That’s why we provide a turn-key solution that allows our customers to instantly benefit from 9 years of technology development and partnership building.” Cooper projects 120,000 traffic cameras within five years’ time. "We will likely see some paradigm shifts in the way traffic camera images are generated and collected in the coming years, but overall we expect the doubling trend to continue," he says.


The history (and future) of traffic cameras.

To keep pace with this exponential growth, Vizzion has fought what Cooper describes as a “technology arms race,” developing numerous proprietary technologies to aggregate, manage, filter, and deliver traffic cameras to a wide-range of products across the fleet-tracking, broadcast, navigation, mobile, web, and automotive industries. Cooper points to the custom technologies such as automated coverage expansion, real-time camera filtering, and dynamic camera viewpoint detection as the reason that Vizzion has grown faster than competitors while maintaining the highest quality standards.


Within one year, an un-managed traffic camera database (red) will drop in quality by almost
one-half when compared to Vizzion's managed database (blue).

In addition to keeping pace with the exponential growth in the number of cameras, Vizzion overcame numerous other challenges. Agreements must be formed with hundreds of different transport agencies in order to become a one-source provider – an arduous process that often includes tracking down decision makers within governments, negotiating and signing agreements across multiple languages, adhering to local privacy and safety laws, data integration challenges, and thousands of hours of custom software development. So what keeps Vizzion going? "With every new set of cameras," says Cooper, "there are new markets and new opportunities."

Camera image quality has also benefited from technology’s laws of exponential growth. At the time of CUTR’s 1997 study, the highest quality traffic camera images online were slow to refresh and 360 by 244 pixels. Vizzion now offers cameras as large as 1600 by 1200 pixels, not to mention live streaming video options. Perhaps more excitingly, the applications for traffic data continue to grow alongside technological capabilities; already ubiquitous on the desktop and mobile devices, automotive applications are the next frontier. Automotive experts are projecting over $33 billion in total embedded telematics revenue opportunities in the next five years, reaching over $21 billion annually in only 10 years. Just this year, internet-connected car sales are expected to reach nearly 14 million units. Vizzion is experienced and well-equipped to help product developers differentiate themselves in this lucrative new market.

Vizzion is the leading provider of traffic camera data and services, providing nearly 30,000 cameras in 23 countries. With authorization from over 150 different national and regional agencies in North America, South America, Europe, and Australasia, Vizzion aggregates cameras from more than 500 cities and regions. Traffic cameras are a proven way for websites and application providers to attract new customers and encourage repeat usage. Contact info@vizzion.com for more information.

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