Zephyr, our central control system is here

‘Intelligent’ urban environments demand a smart, intelligent response to the management and control of transport and traffic. And that intelligent response, is Zephyr.

Urban centres can be complex environments comprising multiple technologies. Full colour Matrix signs, Variable Message Signs (VMS), Car Parking Signs, Vehicle Activated Signs and School Warning Signs are just some of the ‘assets’ adopted by local authorities to protect their highways and enable people and vehicles to live in harmony together.

So imagine if those same ‘assets’ could be managed and controlled from a single location, anywhere in the world. Imagine if the messages displayed could be edited or changed at the touch of a button, and automatically checked to ensure they comply with the relevant regulation. And imagine if ‘mass messages’ could be programmed to display across an entire region, to alert the public to upcoming events or diversions.

All of this is possible and more, thanks to the launch of Zephyr, a new cloud-based management software from SWARCO Traffic Ltd. Zephyr is designed to provide local authorities with total control over their traffic sign assets and strategy. A web-based user interface enables users to quickly and easily edit message and pictogram displays at the touch of a button, as well as being able upload new text and graphics as required.

The interface also comes with a TSRGD (The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016) rule checker, to ensure that any free-hand messages comply with the appropriate industry regulations.

Designed very much with the user in mind, the new technology features easy drag and drop windows, and the ability to ‘dock’ certain assets so that they remain in view if required. Key features of the interface include pan/zoom maps, enabling each of the assets to be easily located and their status monitored. This includes the current messages displayed, schedules for any changes that are due, and red flags for any faults or errors that could impact the signs’ operation. The software also enables the segmentation of data to include traffic count or car park occupancy that can be detailed in a separate report.

With Zephyr, intelligent transport solutions are easier to manage than ever before. It allows users to programme and monitor their signs to ensure traffic is being managed in the most effective way possible, including taking into account ‘special days’ and exempting certain days or times to manage traffic flow. Users can even set ‘mass messages’ to warn visitors in advance of forthcoming events, or highlight a more immediate diversion.

To access the interface, all that is needed is a web browser such as Chrome, Edge or Firefox. Individual password-protected staff accounts can be created so that each user can set their own preferences. This also means that security cannot be compromised by allocating the same details to a group of users. Signs can be connected to Zephyr using a variety of communications such as GPRS, 3G,4G and other wireless networks.

VMS Parking Guidance for shopping centre

SWARCO Traffic has installed an innovative new parking guidance system at one of Northern Ireland’s premier shopping centres, Abbey Centre, Belfast. The investment is part of a major rebrand and redevelopment to attract new retailers and further enhance the customer experience.

A combination of seven Variable Message Signs (VMS) and seven car parking count sensors were commissioned and installed by SWARCO as part of the contract. The technologies combine to alert visitors to where spaces are available, helping to reduce congestion, improve convenience, and ease the customer journey. Abbey Centre attracts some 115,000 visitors every week, and provides 1,265 free car parking spaces.

The signs and sensors were strategically installed both outside and inside the car park to direct drivers appropriately and ensure they park safely and efficiently. The sensors also automatically report to the relevant VMS on how many spaces are available at each of the centre’s car parks, bringing greater convenience.

Mark Stewart, Centre Manager at Abbey Centre, says the installation was at a key retail period and therefore required the utmost efficiency: “SWARCO designed, installed and managed the process seamlessly with all works occurring out of hours to minimise inconvenience to shoppers, retailers and all stakeholders.

“The entire process was effortless – the company’s experience knowledge and enthusiasm for the project was apparent from the get go,” he adds.

Additionally, SWARCO implemented its PGS Management software that communicates directly to the centre’s management via GPRS. Key strategic information is made available to inform the client’s decision making, and ensuring they are aware of the centre’s peak times – so that the messages displayed can be amended accordingly.

Jeremy Cowling, Managing Director at SWARCO, says the installation ran very smoothly: “The team installed and commissioned all of the signage and detectors over four days, working overnight to complete the project ahead of schedule,” he says. “Now installed, Abbey Centre has been able to swiftly move on to undertake the rest of its upgrades as planned.”


SWARCO Traffic Ltd. has launched Profectus – a new system that allows local authorities to monitor and control the performance of school signs, and improve safety.
From a simple web browser interface, users can ‘see’ when a sign is operating, check faults and change configuration for the master and slave signs. Fault notifications including failed LED displays can be sent via SMS or email, to reduce the possibility of a failed sign going unnoticed and potentially putting children at risk, Profectus also allows for energy consumption to be evaluated. Energy monitoring and control are key to Profectus providing a small footprint solar solution with the added communications and monitoring.

SMS secure message control provides control and monitoring facilities accessible from the local school to override normal operation.

Already successfully trialled at a primary school in Northern Ireland, a particular advantage is the ability to create bespoke timetables for when and how the signs are used, and the messaged displayed. Users can therefore accommodate ‘special days’, sending different messages or alerts at weekends and other off-peak times.

Profectus has a radio connection allowing multiple sites to be connected over 300m or extended range data connections of 6km, ‘dummy’ signs can also be used to target longer distances.

Andrew Walker, Business Development Manager says that considerable research and development investment has gone into making Profectus a success: “One Profectus sign is also able to create a network of eight signs, meaning a single sign has up to seven ‘slaves’, which report everything back into Profectus. This gives customers complete control of the area in and around their school, while helping to keep the traffic flowing as smoothly and safely as possible.”

David Cousins, Head of Engineering at SWARCO and main developer of Profectus, says Profectus gives users a level of control and reliability not previously possible: “Without Profectus, users might not be aware of an issue until a routine maintenance check is carried out,” he explains.

“Now they have total control, and visibility of data to further inform their traffic management decisions and further improve safety.”

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