Ambulances See Green All the Way

by OMA | Thursday, March 28, 2013

Innovation Generation, Eshwar Pittampalli, Marketing Director, Open Mobile Alliance, March 13, 2013

We’ve all been in a situation where there is a screaming ambulance behind us, struggling to get through traffic, especially at intersections. A patient in the ambulance is fighting for life; the driver of the ambulance is trying to get through the gridlock; and the emergency medical technicians are trying to keep the patient alive.

While everybody is trying to help the situation, the transport system, unfortunately, is ignorant of all underlying emergencies to accommodate a real-life situation. This situation is much more intense in some countries, where I have seen two-lane roads accommodating a row of six to seven cars right at the front of the traffic light. Imagine the difficulty of any ambulance or emergency vehicle going through this intersection.

With M2M-equipped sensors, transponders, and Intelligent Transport System (ITS), it’s now possible to make the underlying transport system more accommodating, responsive, and efficient in real-time to help the situation.

Here’s how it works: As soon as an ambulance picks up a patient, an on-board system communicates the state of the patient to the ITS system. The ITS then communicates with the emergency patient monitoring and advisory system at the hospital, or wherever it’s physically located, and gets the emergency treatment advice.

Following the medical advice, a set of appropriate care instructions is passed on to the emergency medical technicians onboard, informing them about the actions they need to perform. The ITS then identifies the appropriate route close to the hospital and pushes the navigation directions to the ambulance navigation system. At the same time, the ITS sends signals to the traffic light controller en route to the hospital, informing them of the approximate time when the ambulance can be expected to arrive at the respective traffic intersections.

Once a traffic intersection receives the information, it starts flashing traffic lights and turns on its alarming siren just in time to inform and instruct the drivers to move aside and clear the way for the incoming ambulance. The advanced heads-up time that’s computed and passed on to the traffic control systems is adequate for the motorists to pull their cars aside, allowing the ambulance to pass through in the fastest time.

With enough education and stricter traffic violation penalties, motorists would be forced to respond and move their vehicles aside. Built-in camera systems at the traffic light can capture license plate numbers of all violators who would be greeted with heavy penalty violation tickets, while the motorists that abide by the rules will get the satisfaction of saving a precious life.

In my view, most of the building blocks for the implementation of such a system are in place. However, an end-to-end integration effort needs to happen with the right business model for the value chain players. A service like this is very attractive to healthcare institutions, insurance carriers, service providers, and of course, to patients and their loved ones. The connected-car technology presently available in automobiles is a giant step towards realization of such services.

With an Intelligent Transportation System and M2M deployments, a patient in an ambulance can expect to arrive at the hospital much faster, reducing the risk of losing his or her life battle. Motorists get the satisfaction of performing a civic duty and potentially saving a human life.