When it’s information technology (IT), Bangalore shows the way. Infusion of IT into India’s urban transport infrastructure has mostly been piecemeal, sometimes defeating the purpose. As Praveen Sood says, it is not enough until the data leads to information, resulting in positive action and reduction of “incidents”.Every city in India seems to be doing something or the other in technology in the various components of urban transport management. But Bangalore is special in that we have integrated these elements. It is the first and only city in India where all signals in the city are connected to the same console as the cameras at the intersections.The system—a kind of an outsourced traffic management system (software vendors: CMS, CMC; server: IBM, applications: Microsoft)—operates with an extended desktop with four monitors on a single mount.The first monitor provides the live feed from the cameras, while the second monitor surveys how the signal systems are working, and so on. Input, analysis, intervention and dissemination are all in real time.Five steps to e-enforcementOur plan for Bangalore—already executed—is five-fold. The first among these elements is that we are able to collect information about vehicular movement from across the city in real time, which is done primarily through surveillance. We have installed 179 surveillance cameras (vendor: Schneider, erstwhile Zycom) at all major intersections in the city. All these cameras are connected through seamless bandwidth to our Traffic Management Centre (TMC).The second part of this integration is that we analyse the incoming data real time. Of course, we haven’t yet reached a video analytics stage, but this is mainly because in under Indian traffic conditions, it may be impractical to correctly define unusual activity. A vehicle stranded at an unauthorised place is so rampantly common that it may raise thousands of alarms in a short span of time.Thirdly, we are able to intervene in real time in response to what we analyse. We have 370 signals (exclusive vendor: Bharat Electronics) in the city, all connected to our TMC. In case of any unusual traffic patterns, the personnel that observe the activity at the TMC can change the pattern to smoothen the problem; for example, they can extend the green signal to a certain direction of traffic.The fourth element is dissemination. We have a variable message system, all of which are connected to the TMC. There are situations that a traffic cop cannot help. It is important to tell citizens where not to go. The cop can key in the information from the site and we can warn citizens through electronic billboards. We accomplished this system three years ago with technology from Spain.The fifth cog in this wheel is enforcement. Bangalore is the only city in the country where no traffic cop carries a paper notebook for booking offenders. Each of them is equipped with BlackBerrys (vendor: Airtel) connected to printers via Bluetooth. The cop enters the vehicle number and the type of offence. The Bluetooth printer generates the penalty amounts—in real time. The advantage is that we collect a database of every case of enforcement, history of violations, and that repeated offenders are tracked real-time and penalty is increased.Leading the wayWe are extending this BlackBerry-assisted enforcement system to the rest of Karnataka, which will become the first state with real-time traffic enforcement. Mysore, Hubli-Dharwad and Mangalore are next in line for IT-based enforcement. Systems are go, and we will roll it out in the next 15 days. [Interview conducted on 17 May.]We have proved that technology can pay for itself. Our investment has been returned five times in the past three years that the system has been in operation. Until 2008, our revenue generation was in the range of Rs 15 crore a year from traffic violations. After the integrated system was implemented, that amount went up to Rs 29 crore in 2009, Rs 39 crore in 2010, Rs 49 crore in 2011, and we may make Rs 60 crore this year. All this on an investment of Rs 6 crore on the system and a recurring investment of about Rs 3 crore a year.This is why Karnataka Traffic Police is flushed with funds. The governments have realised this is good economics, and that more investments will result in better revenue generation. That said, this system is easy on the operating staff—our police officials. There is also an enhanced sense of credibility: There is more transparency and certainty that the offender’s money is indeed going to the government coffers. When a traffic official produces a Bluetooth-generated receipt for the penalty, there has been much more willingness to pay. In our country, there exists a parallel economy in traffic enforcement and toll collection because of a huge amount of vested interest. Technology removes discretion and vested interest.Also, the number of cases has increased from 18 lakh in 2008 to 60 lakh now, reflecting the fact that the enforcement is more comprehensive now. While this may be about 20 per cent of the total violations, our target is not to have 100 per cent enforcement, but to send a message to potential violators.This revenue model sustains the system in large cities. However, when applied to, say, highways, this model may have its limitations in that respect. If we have to induce technology on highways, it must start with controlled projects such as expressways on PPP.Our TMC has been opened up to Bangalore’s IT giants that I have mentioned before virtually as a laboratory for R&D—much of it gratis. Although we learned by a tough trial-and-error, aided by training by our individual vendors, we now have permanent staff for training.This system has yet to penetrate urban India, and there are clear reasons. One of the challenges in adoption of technology in our cities is that traditionally, we simply copied it from a foreign city. Customisation is key—and most of us didn’t ask the police officer on the ground what the real problems were on the street that we were trying to solve.Finally, this kind of technology-based enforcement has resulted in better awareness—people stopping at stop signs when there is no cop to be seen, etc. With a huge floating population, most people are still not aware of this kind of enforcement. However, that awareness is spreading. The ultimate goal is to improve traffic behaviour.The author is Additional Director-General of Police—Computer Wing, and Commissioner of Traffic & Road Safety, Karnataka. As told to Infrastructure Today.