New Snow Plow Tracker for Howard County

In mid-December, Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman beta launched the County’s new cutting-edge snow plow tracker. Purchased from AT&T and BSM Technologies, the tracker replaces a system acquired more than 16 years ago.

“This new snow plow tracker is infinitely more advanced than the previous software,” said Kittleman. “Its real-time display will provide more accurate information for our residents during weather emergencies. It is also mobile friendly so it can be easily viewed on tablets and smart phones.”

Howard County has installed Automatic Vehicle Locators (AVLs) in 152 Department of Public Works (DPW) Bureau of High- way vehicles, including 135 pieces of snow removal equipment. The software downloads a digital snapshot from each AVL every 10 seconds, providing a comprehensive and constantly updated display of snow removal progress.

As an additional enhancement, Howard County has also purchased 25 “plug and play” AVLs that can be installed in contractor vehicles. That data will also be fed into the snow plow tracker when contractor vehicles are employed to present a more accurate picture of snow removal progress.

The sophisticated software will allow residents to monitor progress across four different time frames while snow removal is underway. Residents will be able to see if their streets have been treated in the last four hours, between four and eight hours ago, between eight and 12 hours ago, or more than 12 hours ago. The snow plow tracker will also aggregate highway traffic camera views, weather alerts and real-time traffic information into the display, providing residents with a one-stop shop for storm recovery information.

“Despite the significant commitment of DPW resources needed for the Ellicott City flood recovery, we worked on an aggressive timeline to get this up and running,” said Kittleman.

“By piggybacking onto an existing state contract, we were able to save on initial cost estimates and have the new system in place for this winter. Because this is a beta site, we have included a link for residents to submit comments and suggestions for future improvements.

The snow plow tracker is one component of a broader initiative to install AVLs in a fleet of 255 vehicles that will also include the Department of Inspections, Licensing and Permits, Bureau of Facilities and the Department of Recreation & Parks.

The County paid $32,400 to develop the mobile-friendly website. It will pay $12,000 annually in maintenance and support costs. The total cost of the AVL project, including the snow plow tracker, is $301,000.

The tracker can be accessed at HowardCountySnowTracker.org. A video tutorial on how to use the site can be found at https://youtu.be/ci3U__fncHA.

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