It is hard to comprehend rebuilding Christchurch after the unprecedented devastation caused by the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes and continuing aftershocks. It is easiest to see the physical damage and the steps to recovery. Less obvious are the ongoing environmental, economic, social and psychological impacts and the challenges to manage these.
Can you imagine the behind the scenes work demanded of technology to support shattered infrastructure? Most remarkable is the work of the Christchurch Transport Operations Centre (CTOC): the partnership of the Christchurch City Council (CCC), the New Zealand Transport Association (NZTA) and of ECan.
CTOC has had to continually re-arrange traffic flows due to on-going planned and unplanned road closures and changes, due to repairs to infrastructure, to demolition, repairs to buildings, and in response to the changing city landscape.
CTOC must manage technology and connectivity to intersections, cameras and other Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), without fault.
Tim Livermore, Senior ITS Engineer for CTOC, says there’s been a lot of scrabbling around to get infrastructure up and running. Yet he says it’s an exciting time to be part of the city in terms of ITS as the city is remodeled for the future.
Fusion Networks has been a partner with CTOC for four years now.
Fusion connects many of the CTOC traffic signals and traffic observation cameras in the greater Canterbury area. That’s more than 20 communications hubs connected to the Fusion Bit stream service, both in the city and the region. There are 80 intersections connected to Fusion with at least two examples of one Fusion circuit backhauling data from 15 intersections.
Part of the system is managed in-house at CTOC headquarters at 53 Hereford Street, with 3 SCATS® (urban traffic management software) servers. Fusion then connects the SCATS® servers to many of the intersections and ITS infrastructure.
Tim Livermore says there’s been a lot of building recently on new roads and intersections, getting rid of old circuits. “Looking at a variety of communications options has been a priority. We are taking a more consistent approach in currently reviewing the bigger picture and all of the systems that have been put together over the years,” Tim says.
He says the knowledge there could be a quake any moment also precipitated trying to foresee reducing the impact, keeping everything going and minimising downtime. NZTA Business Continuity Planning (NZ BCP) helps to provide clear steps and objectives for disaster situations.
Tim says from a systems perspective, Disaster Avoidance (DA) is a major piece of work. It all comes down to the network architecture and having a complete understanding of your network.
Today’s businesses are often shifting away from Disaster Recovery (DR) to DA and preventing outages from occurring in the first place with a Disaster Avoidance Plan.
The notion of Disaster Recovery is about the strategy used to minimise the effect of disruptions and restore mission-critical business functions after a disaster. Disaster Recovery includes knowing recovery point objectives (RPOs) and recovery time objectives (RTOs) along with the hardware, software and practices needed to achieve these.
Disaster Avoidance is all about the efforts involved in preventing disaster-based disruptions in the first place. The discussion is about “resilience” rather than recovery – maintaining application availability in the wake of foreseeable disruption. A simple example of disaster avoidance is virtual machine servers hosted in a secure data centre with multiple connections to the network. This is the case for the critical SCATS servers that coordinate and run the CTOC traffic signals.
Tim says the Christchurch City Council learnt a lot after the earthquakes. The Council who is a partner agency of CTOC, has put significant investment in infrastructure to ensure services do not rely on one building or geographical location. CTOC is able to take advantage of this High Availability in the network. A second Fusion connection into the Christchurch City Council network is at its Disaster Recovery Data Centre. “It’s just common sense,” says Tim.
“What we haven’t got is true geographical resilience. Long term we might have back-up system hosted elsewhere in the country”.
“A big concern is the connections of Christchurch to the North Island after the Kaikoura earthquake when the Fibre cables along SH1 got severed in multiple places along the railway line. We were running off one bit of string up the West Coast until ISP’s negotiated with Vodafone to use its submarine cable up the East Coast for backup.”
“We don’t want to be relying on a connection between the North and South Islands if we don’t have to. Historically some of our Fusion connections were routing via the North Island. Now the work is finally finished on all connections being presented locally to Fusion’s POP in Christchurch,” Tim Livermore says.
“Christchurch is many ways is a blank canvas and we have a prime opportunity to get the best infrastructure possible. If we can build relationships in this design phase, then we can invest in the right assets and decisions for generations of technology to come, for example installing our own Fibre ducts,” Tim Livermore says.
“Fusion Networks is a smaller company but with this you have the direct dial numbers of the technical guys if we need to get onto them for a solution… it’s the local response we want, not to go into a queue and get an automated email from a service provider,”
says Tim Livermore.
“We know the service we get with Fusion. First impressions count…if you are sent an automated email versus hearing directly from the person who is going to be looking at your issue. I know which option I would rather have. You want the confidence that your issue is being looked at.”
“Fusion gives us technology thinking outside the box. All the Fusion team on the job have the ability to make things happen. That’s the big benefit of working with a smaller business that still can deliver big stuff. If creative solutions are required they’ll give it everything,” Tim Livermore says.
“CTOC has a wealth of data from Bluetooth journey time data, and real time cameras feeds to bus tracking. We want to use this data more and be able to distribute it further and faster to empower customers to make decisions on what transport products they want to use. Intelligent transport systems apply information, data processing, communication, and sensor technologies to vehicles and transport infrastructure to increase the effectiveness, environmental performance, safety, resilience and efficiency of the transport network.”– Tim Livermore.
Christchurch Transport Operations Centre (CTOC)
Fusion runs the IT systems for Christchurch City Council including SCATS®.
Gain as much data as possible out of the IT systems to provide information: traffic volumes on intersections, delays, sorting traffic congestion, CCTV, and traffic monitoring for commuter services.
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