In the old days, writing up a parking ticket meant a pencil, a clock and the ability to withstand being chewed out by an angry driver. But today’s traffic enforcement also relies on video servers—the kind that you can put in back of a patrol vehicle.
Australia’s Xenon Systems has developed 100-watt servers powered by roadside solar energy and mounted inside a roadside installation in a bid to cut power costs as much as possible. The Xenon server runs software by SenSen Networks, a machine vision solution that can be used to identify traffic jams as well as individual cars.
The company also decided on an all-Intel solution, including a low-power Xeon (E3-1220Lv2 2.2 GHz), S1200BTS server board, 240-GB Intel solid-state disc (SSD), and RAID controller, all contained within a 2RU form factor. Powering the system inside the box is Linux Fedora 13 (with an eventual move to Linux Ubuntu 12.04 scheduled) as well as the SenSen video package.
The system’s main requirement was durability: cool enough that it could withstand being mounted outside, within an equipment box, and rugged enough that it could handle the bumps and jolts of the cars used by Australian parking enforcement as they went about their daily business—not to mention being left in a hot car in a warm Australian summer. Xenon said that it had decided to go with an all-Intel solution because the components were pre-validated for one another, and because of the need for future platform refreshes to go seamlessly.
The Xenon server’s low power consumption also meant that, in addition to the solar-power option, the server could run up to 30 minutes on battery backup. From a performance standpoint, the server could run the SenSen video package with few problems.
SenSen offers a number of video packages, but Xeon relied on SenFORCE, software that runs in conjunction with a robotic camera mounted to the top of a patrol vehicle. As the car drives down the street, the camera and software “mark” each car, reading the license plate and either entering it into the system or recording the length of stay. SenSen claims that patrol officers don’t even need to leave their vehicles—they simply capture the video proof of the parking violation, which can be mailed or emailed to the offender.
The Xenon car-mounted server isn’t the first of its kind, or the most high-profile (early Google self-driving cars essentially contained a server in the rear of the vehicle, the same approach that Oxford researchers are using for their own, prototype self-driving car) but it’s still an interesting test of hardware that’s usually left inside a cooled, protected environment.