Think about a journey you made on public transport ten years ago.

Now think about that journey today.

In 2009, you were still likely to have had a paper ticket or token, your phone stayed in your pocket as there was little else to use it for except call or text, you checked your onward journey by looking at a display or asking a transport officer, and if you were unhappy with any aspect of your journey you sent your complaint to someone at a postal address. If you needed a taxi at the end of your journey, you’d stand out on the street and attempt to wave one down.

Today, you tap your way through the barrier, your phone is your means of getting a head start on the day’s emails, watching a video or playing a game with friends, an app warns you about any impending delays or safety incidents, and any ire can be directed to the transport operator immediately via the web. At the other end, your on-demand ride service is ready to take you to your next destination.

There is much more to this change than technology’s contribution to convenience. Transport, as we know it, is in a period of significant change that is delivering important benefits for commuters and society, and transforming our cities.

This is a neat example of how the Fourth Industrial Revolution has advanced technology and made it smart. It has given us smart devices, systems, homes, workplaces, and our first smart cities.

According to Professor Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is “characterised by a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenging ideas about what it means to be human.”

World-class cities need innovative transport systems

With digital technology transforming our world, digital connections are increasingly pervading our daily lives. Connectivity is no longer solely the domain of work and study. Connecting virtually and physically is easier than it has ever been.

Global transit communications and broadcasting infrastructure leader, BAI Communications, recently conducted an international study of more than 2,500 commuters in Hong Kong, London, New York, Sydney and Toronto to test its hypothesis that continuous connectivity enriches citizens and cities, and to understand how citizens believe a digitally connected public transport system can impact their lives and expectations of their city.

The resulting Continuous connectivity report reveals that digital connectivity is indeed changing our idea of what a city can offer its citizens.

The study revealed that: innovative transport systems are a defining feature of smart, world-class cities; commuters require continuous connectivity to realise the benefits of living in a smart city; and therefore, continuous connectivity transforms cities, helping citizens to be happier and more productive, and organisations to be more innovative and prosperous.

For more and more people, public transport is the link between home, work, school, and entertainment venues. There are many reasons for this, among them include cost of maintaining a car, parking limitations, restricted access in city centres, road congestion, and despite the benefits of ride sharing, it’s still only suitable for people who can afford it and is not immune to traffic.

What becomes obvious reading the report, is that passengers’ expectations are evolving with technology and their onboard experience matters more than ever before. To travel is to connect, and connectivity while travelling is expected.

A new generation of connected travellers

  • 99% expect public transport to do more than just get them from A to B
  • 96% believe transport innovation is an important part of modern cities
  • 95% deem technological advancements that improve public transport and connectivity, help ease traffic, and improve the environment to be important
  • 94% believe rail networks should offer digital connectivity (and 84% believe reception blackspots are unacceptable in 2019)
  • 92% would benefit and better enjoy their journey if the rail network of the future evolved.

The new generation of connected travellers is more socially conscious as well as more attuned to getting real-time information than any in the past. As such, they are increasingly demanding constant and consistent data connectivity throughout their journeys on public transport.

A halo of benefits

According to the Moovit Public Transit Index, the average weekday commute exceeds 80 minutes in New York, Sydney, and London. So, it’s no surprise that commuters want to make the most of this otherwise idle time.

Other than getting more work done and being contactable, around half of respondents see work-related benefits of connected travel as providing an opportunity to change working hours and job location, as well as career improvement.

It’s particularly interesting how many respondents see continuous connectivity on trains as more than work-related. More than half said they would benefit by arriving at their destination relaxed and happy, and nearly a quarter said they would work on self-improvement courses or furthering their education.

Something as simple as being able to work and study or pay bills and watch videos on the train can lead to a more enriched life.

The defining role of continuous connectivity

The research findings tell us that connected public transport helps us get more done, get home before our children are asleep, be able to get to that yoga class or dinner with friends, and move out of the city to get that house with a garden.

In short, a connected and evolved transport network will improve our productivity and contribute to work-life balance.

While the Fourth Industrial Revolution has been about technology development and convergence, the Fifth Industrial Revolution is said to be taking up the human-centred opportunities to make the world better. As we become more reliant on technology and connectivity, we are changing the way we live, work, and travel.

While long-term predictions are difficult to make, by extrapolating the survey data we see that continuous connectivity will have a defining role in reshaping the workforce, public transport, and cities.

This report offers a profound example of how a city’s smart transport infrastructure is now key to making it world-class – in a world where it is increasingly cities, rather than nations, competing for trade, investment, and reputation.

Read the report in detail to learn more about the perceptions of what makes a city world-class and how transport in your city could be improving your life in the not-so-distant future.

Source: This article originally appeared on SmartRail World

BAI Communications is a platinum sponsor of SmartTransit 2019. Join us, and many other industry experts and decision-makers, at the event taking place in Los Angeles from 28-30th of October.