Connecting public transport to the Internet of Things

Matched with contextual traffic data, information about the route and changing traffic conditions can be supplied in real time, so that both passengers and companies improve their planning efficiency.

Offering seamless and highly mobile IoT requires high bandwidth and thus only makes few applications practical.

Real-time location tracking is probably among the most common. Companies already use GPS to track their assets, but the data could also be used to offer riders accurate information about the time to destination, estimated arrival times, or traffic events.

On board entertainment systems offer a more personalized travel experience; location information combined with events information can drive travellers to activities or sites relevant to their itinerary and preferences.

In terms of planning, cameras and sensors installed in public transportation means and in their surrounding premises can collect information to estimate traffic flows and better plan and allocate their resources.

Safety can be improved with live video streaming, allowing a more rapid intervention and enabling the prevention of misconduct.

To make these solutions possible, it is essential to provide high bandwidth connectivity, and that is in itself a challenge. Even with Access Points installed in vehicles, resources from the mobile network still need to be accessed. Technology try-outs in this sense include LTE-A carrier aggregation to increase the bandwidth (as discussed here), MIMO systems to enhance spectral efficiency, or small cell technology to bring the radio cell closer to the device.

Alongside, connectivity on-the-go needs to be managed at carrier level in the sense of providing seamless coverage irrespective of the mobile operator. As this 2014 EU report underlines, ubiquitous connectivity for public transport requires ‘terminals to get connected regardless of the operator exploiting the access network’, and ‘avoid services cut-offs’. Tower infrastructure sharing is the solution adopted today, and it is particularly viable because it also allows to reduce their operating costs and provide additional capacity, reports the GSMA.

Internet of Things applications have already started to enable some of these trends in large metropolitan areas all over the world. Transport companies, mobile operators, and platform providers can leverage IoT solutions for real-time tracking and monitoring, improved efficiency and safety, and a better travel experience.

Predictions about numbers of IoT/M2M connected devices that we’re supposed to be seeing in the very near future are astounding. So we can only imagine what the huge amounts of data collected will lead to once it’s analyzed and turned into ‘actionable’ information.

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