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Using the IoT for more efficient transport systems

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article image By receiving real-time information from fixed and mobile assets, one can efficiently maximise asset use while minimising expenses

Contemporary transport networks generally rely on disparate and largely unconnected information technology systems covering everything from ticketing and electronic real-time route and timetable information displays for customers to central communications and operations and more. 

However, for various reasons, these technologies are unable to meet the customer’s expectation for almost instant availability of data from every facet of the system. Fear of cost overruns from previous projects being repeated and employee resistance to change are some of the reasons cited for the current state of affairs.

The growth of the Internet-of-Things concept and availability will ensure such networks can be dragged into the 21st century. Although there will be an expense in doing so, over time the efficiencies gained with more and relevant information along with customer satisfaction through empowerment via knowledge will repay the expense over many times.

There are many changes, such as the following examples that can be introduced to find greater efficiencies and information relevance in the transport network.

For example, using a combination of IoT network technologies such as cellular and Wi-Fi in combination with traditional copper-wire networks, it is possible to have network connectivity between all trains, buses and trams, their central control centres, the stations and stops, where commuters are provided with timely information updates via electronic displays, and Internet-based customer information services that are provided via the web or smartphone applications. 

It is also possible to keep maintenance contractors, security staff or emergency services in the loop as a part of this network of data, which is largely generated automatically by sensors, GPS receivers and user-interfaces across the network. This means that staff can be quickly and efficiently dispatched where and when attention is required, providing the greatest level of reliable maintenance or security where it is needed, in a highly efficient fashion with reduced labour intensity and cost.

Vehicles such as trams can use on-board GPS receivers to report their position in real time to the central command centre via the tram’s data link to the network. This allows breakdowns or delays due to traffic disruption to be quickly identified. Real-time timetable updates can then be made available to passengers via intelligent displays at tram stops, or directly to commuters via apps on Internet-connected smart phones. This gives external customers a much greater satisfaction as they are in control of their transport plans.

With a variety of sensors one can consider trains and other vehicles recording and reporting information from the vehicle’s embedded electronics about faults and maintenance issues that require attention by operators, such as problems with HVAC systems or doors, as well as maintenance issues that require regularly scheduled attention after a certain numbers of hours or kilometres of operation. 

Useful information can be derived from correlating data from multiple sources. For example, customer fare payment data can be used to identify the most popular (and most congested) parts of the public transport network, or parts of the network that are experiencing a growth in consumer demand. Additional vehicles and more frequent services can then be assigned to the areas where they are most needed, or where they are likely to be most needed in the near future. Such predictions can also help with planning for future capital expenditure.

While these examples may relate to public transport systems, the solutions are applicable to any fleet-based transport system of almost any size. By receiving real-time information from fixed and mobile assets, instead of manually checking at periodic intervals, one can intelligently and efficiently maximise asset use while minimising expenses.

Creating such systems or modifying existing isolated devices can be a challenge. However by choosing the right partner to work with, one can realise the desired efficiencies and savings. Clients seeking a reliable implementation can partner with LX Group, which is equipped to create or tailor just about anything from a wireless temperature sensor to a complete Internet-enabled system within the required timeframe and budget. 

An award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia, LX Group specialises in embedded systems design and wireless technologies.

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