The new generation of digital services for public transport brings great potential. In addition to enabling a better ride for passengers, modern digital services mean efficient and profitable operations for public transport operators. Working with customers, partners, and the industry as a whole, Telia has identified five trends that highlight some of the digitalization opportunities and challenges for the industry.
1. Real-time data unlocks big-time value
Today, passengers don’t want to know when the bus is supposed to turn up – they want to know when it really will turn up. Similarly, public transport operators don’t want to know where along a route a particular bus should be – they want to know where it really is. Real-time data is unlocking a new dimension of digital services, enabling operators to be more proactive, to act immediately if something happens, and passengers to be better informed .
The Real Time Passenger Information (RTPI) systems enable the feeding of information to timetable apps that let passengers see if they should be running or if they can stroll to the bus stop, or if the next bus is so crowded that they are better off waiting for the one after. Such a system also provides onboard passenger information such as infotainment on screens and automated journey announcements across station and vehicle speakers.
Real-time fleet information enables operators to see the location of each vehicle and how crowded the vehicle is to optimize day-to-day operations.
Real-time vehicle status solutions enable operators to monitor each vehicle and predict any service or maintenance needs.
The challenge here is that while the data must of course provide real-time information, it must also provide information about future potential. Mobility-as-a-Service is certainly coming, particularly as AI and autonomous driving technologies are in a period of rapid acceleration. Seamless journeys with multimodal transport solutions for the first and last mile will soon make public transport far more accessible. But it takes needs reliable real-time information about service demand and availability. This includes data on how many people want to travel at any given time, where they want to go and what the optimal transport mode is to get them there.
This means that today’s technologies must be at least prepped to meet tomorrow’s needs. For example, data formats should be standardized, stored securely and collected in ways that comply with privacy requirements is an essential foundation for making the most of the possibilities of the future.
2. Siloed data blocks progress
The full potential of digitalization can only be realized when connected systems can talk to one another. This creates real-time information ecosystems that can generate value for all stakeholders. However, such ecosystems also place higher demands on network security, and operators need to ensure their networks are “secure by design” from the outset. It also means managing access and authentication with a ‘zero trust’ approach.
As well as real-time interaction, a free-flowing data ecosystem generates big data for big-picture understanding. It lets operators understand what really goes on in public transport systems and how to optimize the operations. To achieve this, many public transport operators are investing heavily in behind-the-scenes integrations.
This may lead to vendor lock-in and proprietary solutions, as separate integrations force data into silos that can’t be accessed by the rest of the data ecosystem. The solution is open platforms and standardized data formats – and to establish clear requirements from the outset to make sure everyone is onboard.
3. Digital expectations require crystal ball estimations
Public transport is evolving so fast that it’s hard for operators to offer quotes for services that will be delivered years into the future. Also, the speedy advancement means operators are facing the challenge of juggling an ever-increasing number of digital solution providers. Any disruption or change at any of the many providers can set off a chain reaction of disruptions and price issues. As a result, operators are forced to include large error margins in their quotes.
To mitigate these cost uncertainties, many operators are seeking long-term technology partners who can integrate and standardize solutions. Increasingly, these partnerships are starting to look like Digitalization-as-a-Service, with end-to-end solutions that include onboard hardware, connectivity and open platforms that can support the operators own services as well as a broad range of third-party digital services.
4. Smart solutions are needed to reach zero emissions
Transportation is one of the major causes of CO2 emissions in cities. One step to mitigate this is to simply get cars off roads and people onto public transport. It would make a big difference. However, it is not enough. Every effort must be made to ensure that public transport is sustainable on every level. This is particularly important during the transition from fossil fuel vehicles.
If the industry is to succeed in the massive transition to electric vehicles that is now underway, an extensive charging infrastructure is required. Since the development of that infrastructure is not standardized or accessible enough, it is vital to optimize the electricity consumption of buses. This requires both data and intelligent systems.
While electrification contributes to a brighter future, retrofittable solutions are required to bring down fuel consumption and associated CO2 emissions of older buses. Two areas that can make a big difference, with minimal investment, are eco-driving and smart vehicle pre-heating. Eco-driving helps drivers drive in a more sustainable manner, and smart vehicle pre-heating ensures that vehicles are ready for service according to their schedule with minimal pre-heating.
5. 5G is a lot more than fast – a need to see its full potential for public transport
To understand the full potential of 5G, we must look at its features. Sure, everybody knows 5G is fast. It delivers massive amounts of data with ultra-low latency. This provides the foundation of self-driving vehicles and autonomous public transport systems. But 5G also enables massive device density – supporting hundreds of thousands of devices per kilometre. This will be a key enabler for smart cities. And when everything’s connected, anything’s possible. Streetlights can monitor air quality. Roads report traffic density. Bus stops measure the number of people in line. When all those things start coming together – using standardized formats to enable the ecosystem – public transport can start to reach its full potential in making our cities better places to live.
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