New technology could bring change to Columbia

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COLUMBIA - Traffic counters on downtown Columbia buildings could provide information that may change the way Columbia traffic lights work.

Ulytic, a local technology company, has produced a traffic counter that records short spurts of video, inputs data collected into a system and deletes the footage so no video of public places is saved permanently. 

The CEO of Ulytic was scheduled to present his long-term plan to the Downtown Columbia Leadership Council Tuesday afternoon in order to continue the company's research. 

Billy Martin, CEO of Ulytic, says the company contacted the city for permission to put up the counters but has decided to put them on downtown buildings in order to get a better view of the streets and sidewalks. 

There are two on Broadway Boulevard at the Ninth Street and Tenth Street intersections and two on Ninth Street at the Locust Street and Cherry Street intersections. 

Martin said the company expects to see non-optimal traffic light coordination, meaning the lights do not correctly "time and coordinate traffic." He said it is not uncommon for cities like Columbia to have inadequate systems. 

"In 2016, the state of the art method for taking pedestrian and vehicle counts is to stand on the sidewalk and count the objects that pass by," Martin said. "Unsurprisingly, this method does not create the data necessary to program traffic signals in a way that optimizes the flow of traffic in bustling cities."

Martin said the need for "smarter, analytical cities" is a national one and hopes the research Ulytic does in Columbia can reach other cities in Missouri and throughout the country. 

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